Jeb Sprecher started his career in the recruiting and pharmaceutical industries. Today, he is Vice President of Diplomat Demolition of West Chester, PA, one of the most recognized names in demolition, saw-cutting, core drilling and site work. Diplomat has grown from 10 to 80+ employees since 2007 and is a pioneer in debris recycling and commercial demolition. They are a long-time client of MRG.
Jeb shared his perspective on creating a great company culture, differentiating the business and what he looks for in employees.
Your role is to motivate the team and maintain the culture. What’s your secret to success?
When I was in the pharma and recruiting industries, I was losing the motivation to go to work and enjoy what I did. That feeling has stuck with me, so I’m determined that our employees enjoy their jobs so we can grow with the right people and cultivate an environment to ensure our employees are happy.
At the core of our culture is a family atmosphere. We truly care about our employees’ lives outside of work. We want to know how your family is doing, what’s on your mind: positive or negative, whether you need help, or have something out of the ordinary happening. Another principle is growing organically. We hire and promote from within and incentivize our employees to refer good people to work here.
Our culture is very collaborative. In fact, our core values didn’t come from the top down. We had a company meeting, opened it up for discussion and white boarded everyone’s ideas. Our values: safety, innovation, and—no surprise—collaboration.
Getting everyone’s input and buy-in is key to a successful enterprise. At Diplomat, it’s also a work hard, play hard attitude.
You’re known for generating positive outcomes. How do you ensure that?
Positive outcomes start with positive people. It’s about having the right mentality. It’s also about having the right goals, policies and processes in place to be successful.
For example, we created a simple daily report with a drop-down box questionnaire so the foreman can quickly communicate project status daily: the percentage of the job that’s complete, any problems experienced, the tools needed for tomorrow, what can the office and field management do to help? That way we make sure every project has the right resources and is set up for success every day.
We also have daily reporting for the office staff. It tracks five different measurables for each department and they meet weekly to review goals.
Everyone always knows where they stand and there are bonus incentives and competitions to keep it fun. This has separated us from the pack.
What do you look for in an employee?
It’s about finding the right person not the right credentials. We look for individuals who are eager, willing to learn and are going to ask questions. The biggest thing is trying to identify someone who fits our mold. We call it the ‘Diplomat Bus’ and we ask, ‘do we have a seat on the bus for that person?’
Sometimes we hire a good employee, but they wind up underperforming and we find they can be successful in a different role in the company. They just weren’t on the right seat on the bus, but they absolutely belong here.
Diplomat differentiates itself by recycling debris. How did that happen?
It was right around the start of the green initiative. We knew we wanted to do the right thing for the earth, for our children, for our grandchildren. And yes, we thought it would give us a competitive advantage. Instead of hauling everything to a landfill, we said “let’s look at this differently,” and we created a way to separate materials on site—concrete, debris, metal—and send it to different places for recycling. We kept track of our recycling rate and provided that on our proposals.
It’s been extremely instrumental in our growth. It gives general contractors a sense of how we’re helping the environment, and it helps owners get tax credits back. There are incentives across the board.
Our recycling percentage is close to 90% and it’s been that consistently over the last 7 to 8 years.
Safety is one of Diplomat’s core values. What do you do to make sure your people and assets are as safe as possible?
Demolition is a high-risk business—knocking buildings down, tearing out finishes in the interior. Safety is our number one core value.
It’s at the forefront of our daily routines. We send daily texts to remind foremen to be safe. There’s a sign on the door when you leave the office with how many days since the last injury. We have a safety committee and we meet each month to review performance.
We’re always asking ourselves what we can do to better promote safety.
This has been an unprecedented year. What must be done now to prepare for the next ‘new normal?’
Control what we can control. Stick together as a team and communicate on every topic. We’re in a different time but if you can focus on what you’ve been doing consistently, adapt as needed, and communicate, you will continue to be successful.