About the interviewee
Lorraine Walston is the President/CEO of Woodrow Wear, LLC, and the inventor of Power Paws™ indoor/outdoor traction socks for dogs. She holds an MBA in Global Management, and spent 30 years marketing high tech businesses (hardware, software, and networking). She moved into the pet products world when her 15 year old Rottweiler named Woodrow couldn’t get up on slick hardwood and tile floors. Watching him struggle was her motivation for inventing the product. His mobility and quality of life (with the socks on) were her motivation for sharing the product with the world. Woodrow Wear was born in 2009, and has been giving dogs “the power to stand. The power to stop. And the power to GO!” ever since.
Tell me about your firm (number of employees, location, type of companies you work with, etc.).
Currently, there are 4 part-time people working for Woodrow Wear in San Jose, California. We work with consumers, pet retailers, and vets on a daily basis to get the product out to the pets who need help and the people who love them.
Tell us how you show your employees that you care?
We do team activities every other month or so. This is frequently a group lunch, but it can be a trip to the movies, or a walk to the local ice cream parlor, or a drive to the park for a “remote team meeting”.
I give my people flexibility. I do not hold them to rigid schedules or regular days or hours. They appreciate being able to do personal tasks when it’s convenient without having to apply for time off.
I always thank them for a good day’s work, or the completion of a big task, or for taking tasks off my plate so I can focus on other items
I give my people individual attention. Each day starts with a brief chat (or a long one when needed). I am their sounding board, their friend, their confidant, etc. I provide ideas, an objective opinion, and more. They are as important as anything else in my day.
I give each of my people a path to grow. That path is usually a combination of their skills and their interests. As they learn and grow, they are motivated and able to do more, and my business will benefit! They are happier, more engaged, and more productive.
I randomly give them little gifts or do things for them. I’ve given them things like a balloon bouquet, cookies and a cool drink in the afternoon, or fun holiday decorations/candy, etc.
I make it clear to my people that they’ll be brought along to bigger titles and more responsibility as the company grows. I’ll groom them, teach them, and actually depend on them to take on bigger roles. For many, that potential growth is a big motivator.
What mistake do businesses when it comes to cultivating a strong relationship with your employees?
In general, businesses treat people as a commodity. They pay them reasonably, and believe that is enough. I believe there is a whole package that must be dealt with. Pay is a part of what matters to people, but just a part! Their work/life balance is key, as is their motivation, their personal growth, and their overall happiness and comfort with the company and the team they spend their days with. It all matters! Strength in a relationship between myself and my people comes from caring for all of that, not just providing a paycheck with more zeros on it.
Why is it important for your firm to make employees feel valued?
I can’t pay my people a very high wage right now. That’s particularly troubling for me because here in the Silicon Valley, the cost of living is very high. People need a good salary to survive! I have been successful hiring good people at low wages because I care. I provide them with comfort, guidance, growth, and more. I have built a company that cares too, and people naturally want to be a part of that. My employees feel valued when they do well. I work hard to keep them succeeding and learning. I add to that by making a habit of finding non-salary ways to show them how valuable they are to me. My small company is growing because of the team I put in place, and the unified drive and effort put forth by all.