I have a confession to make: I’ve never bought a can of BEHR® Paint.
It’s a brand name we all know, thanks to a very prominent partnership with Home Depot. Their Behr and KILZ® product lines are among the most successful consumer paints in the world. They’re big players on a big field—yet the business is all about the people. I spent an afternoon with Richard Maus, from Behr’s People Services team for the Orange County based company. Richard and I met while speaking on a panel for the OC Register about what companies are doing to become a Top Workplace in their area. Behr Paint is celebrating their 6th year in a row on the list! They have huge banners hanging outside several of their facilities. The banners are bigger than the company signs; gotta love that! They have a compelling history; you can read about it here.
As part of my quest to be an ever-evolving member of the entrepreneurial community, I asked Richard if he would show me around Behr’s plant in Santa Ana. One thing was apparent right away: the people at Behr Paint love working at Behr Paint.
From Anabel, the genuinely friendly woman who greeted me when I arrived at the front desk, to the office staff and the people I saw on the warehouse floor, smiles everywhere. On everyone. It was so consistent that it’s still my lasting impression of the company.
Manufacturing and distribution warehouses haven’t exactly been known as hotbeds of morale innovation. Behr Paint blows that out of the water and proves, like many others in today’s economy, that it can be done. You can make a profit and build a great culture, make a community connection, and offer great customer service. I asked Richard how they do it at Behr Paint, and he shared with me some of their recipe for success.
Behr’s leadership understands that communication is key to success. And few things are harder than consistently delivering good communication in a growing company. Behr does a lot to ensure that their leaders are building healthy relationships with their employees. They have Town Hall Meetings with the president and executive team at each location in the company. They offer quarterly training and career development courses. Supervisors cook for their teams a few times a year, and they have lots and lots of video calls.
The employees know they’re valued. A big way Behr makes this happen is partnering with the University of LaVerne to offer degree completion programs to their employees—free of charge. They are improving not only their team members’ todays, but also their tomorrows. Investing in your people’s future is good business.
Perhaps the biggest bang for the buck—the effort that ties the employee to the bottom line—is a bonus program designed to make every dollar matter to every employee. When an employee reaches six months of employment, they begin to earn points in the system which maxes out at three years. Those points payout in quarterly bonuses driven by percent of gross profit. No matter your position, from the floor to the front office, if you’ve been at Behr for three years, you’ll make the same bonus as everyone else.
Does it work?
Many of Behr’s facilities have gone years without a lost-time injury, they have a turnover rate of only 7%, and they are ranked in the top 10 architectural paint companies globally.
I’d say it works like a champ.
Behr Cares is the company’s community outreach program. Through Behr Cares, the company offers consistent support each year to City of Hope and Habitat for Humanity and donates paint to many charities. Each branch location also gives time and resources to their own local nonprofit organizations.
The company also gives its employees numerous opportunities to give back on a personal level. Behr offers one paid day off per year to employees who want to volunteer at a charity. Teams have annual service days, and the company offers a program to automatically donate a portion of their pay to nonprofits of their choosing.
And here’s the program that really lit me up: Behr allows employees to cash in their PTO and convert it to charitable donations to the 501(c)(3) they choose. Over the past years, employees have donated hundreds of thousands of dollars to charity. Very cool idea.
Behr has an interesting business model, in that their product is sold primarily through retailers, which means that Behr doesn’t have access to the customer at the point of sale. So they focus their energy on training the in-store associates at the retailer. See for yourself the next time you’re in a Home Depot; the paint department is the group who consistently delivers value to the customer.
Behr uses social media and a 75+ person call center to connect to their customers before and after the sale. From Q&A to helping people solve their DIY projects when things don’t go as planned, Behr fields hundreds of thousands of multi-lingual calls, emails, and messages every year. The scientists at Behr, including the Director of Color, publish a blog with tips on color matching, current styles, and new paint options. They want each customer’s project to be a dream come true—and they put their money where their mouth is. A more informed customer is a more successful customer. This has made Behr the DIY leader in American paint companies. They are consistently ranked #1 by a leading consumer study.
While I was there, Richard and project leader Cecilia showed me I3: Ideas, Inspiration, Innovation, Behr’s online suggestion-box, which was scheduled to beta-launch the next day. With over 2,400 employees, Behr recognizes that it has a wealth of human ingenuity at its fingertips—they just need to tap into it. The online tool is a place for employees to give ideas, raise concerns, offer commentary, and praise fellow employees and initiatives. Their goal is to one day enable I3 for mobile devices and use it as a two-way communication platform for staying in touch with the members of the whole team.
I’m eager to see how it works for them, because this is one of the things we are currently struggling with at Zumasys. How do we ensure that every employee has a voice as we grow? There are great ideas in every mind we hire, and we don’t want to miss out! Will Behr’s employees take the initiative to use it? Does it empower them? Does it make the company more successful? If Richard and his leadership team have their way, this will be another great chapter in an already impressive history of good decisions made by a company that knows how valuable their people truly are.
Really I’m only sharing with you a handful of the great ideas Richard shared with me. But this is a blog, not a book, so we’ll stick to the highlight reel. I’m indebted to Richard for agreeing to be my guinea pig, and for being such a gracious host. I am inspired, encouraged and excited to start off this way, with such a perfect example of what I’ve come to believe corporate success really looks like: That when it’s done right, everyone gets to win; that when it’s done right, there don’t have to be any losers.
The next time I buy paint, you can be sure it’ll be BEHR® Paint.
> > > Stay tuned! In the next blog, Dave visits The Nerdery
We are excited to be just one of many of companies who are passionate about being profitable and being good corporate citizens, and we’re proud to introduce you to some of these visionaries through this blog. If you know someone we should feature in this series, please email Dave McCary at [email protected] If you want to know more about Zumasys’ culture and community focus, please explore our About pages or give us a call at 866-ZUMASYS.