How Simms Fishing Engages Their Employees

By Patrick Thean

We are proud to announce that Retail TouchPoints recently featured two of our long-time clients, Simmsgazelles-1 Fishing Products, and luxury watchmaker, Frederique Constant, in a report discussing the biggest challenge in the retail industry today: engaging employees. According to the 2013 State of the American Workplace report by Gallup, 70% of employees are not engaged. 

This statistic continues to shock business owners and CEOs everyday. Whenever I ask the crowd at a speaking event or one of my clients if they think their employees are engaged, everyone in the room raises their hand. How can everyone be so misled? I suggest to my clients that they use Gallup's 12 Questions to Gauge Employee Engagement survey. Typically, after they take the survey they find that their employees are less engaged than they thought.

So, how do our clients like Simms Fishing and Frederique Constant do it? Today, I’m going to give you the inside scoop on Simms Fishing, and tomorrow look out for another blog on Frederique Constant.

Simms Fishing is the number one brand for fly fishing. They manufacture fishing gear and apparel for professional guides. They sell their products online, as well as through retailers worldwide. Founded in 1980, the company has grown in the past 35 years to currently over 100 employees. Through these growth stages they’ve maintained engagement by sending a consistent message to their entire team. They’ve focused on having team and individual goals that connect to a larger goal or vision, instead of teams and individuals working toward their own objectives.

To do this they’ve implemented Rhythm, a strategic planning process that combines software and consulting, and results in a strong 13-Week Race execution plan. They’ve also reduced their quarterly priorities from 10 to 5. When setting your quarterly priorities, follow the old saying, less is more. Narrowing your focus will allow you to actually concentrate and complete your planned priorities for the quarter. In order to effectively communicate these quarterly priorities to the entire company, Simms holds an off-site quarterly planning session every 90 days with their executive team to get clarity and alignment so that they can communicate the plan well to the rest of the company.

Having fewer goals or priorities is only the first step to achieving and maintaining employee engagement. Connecting the dots between your strategy and your employees’ daily work is the next and most important step. If your employees understand why they are doing something,  they are three times more likely to be engaged. As I discussed in the recent Huffington Post article, this is especially true for the Millennial workforce. Millennials need to know they matter and that their work has purpose. 

Before connecting the dots, you need to make sure you have a clear strategy. You need to build the framework before you start running the electricity. A clear strategy consists of a clear purpose, a clear long-term goal and a clear core customer. Once you have this strategy in place, all of your company-wide goals and priorities should connect back to this strategy. For example, professional guides are Simms' core customer, so they focus on developing high end durable gear. If they made a less expensive product for the everyday fisherman, it would not be connected back to their strategy. And, if it doesn’t connect back to your strategy, you probably shouldn’t be doing it.

Next, you would have departmental goals that achieve your company goals, which drive your strategy. Then individual goals connect to the departmental goals and everything links back to your strategy, but vertical alignment only gets you part of the way. You also need horizontal alignment. You also need to connect the dots between departments so people understand the work being done across the company and what role they play. When you connect the dots between departments, it encourages having cross-functional teams. Reducing departmental walls and silos is a positive side effect of cross-functional teams. Engagement and productivity go up as the whole company begins to be moving in the same direction. 

Simms has been using Rhythm over the past 4 years to plan priorities and goals every quarter for the company, as well as for every department. They educate each department on how their work helps Simms achieve the company plan for the quarter and thus for the year and for their growth strategies. They encourage their people to collaborate by providing ideas and comments on each other’s priorities (a function in the Rhythm software), promoting cross-functional work and speeding up solving problems that arise.

Aligning to the company's strategic goals and collaborating with teams in other departments remind the Simms Fishing team that they are integral to each other's success. They know that they matter! And knowing that they matter keeps them passionately engaged.  They know how to align employees with company goals.


Download Accountability Assessment

Want more information on Team Accountability? Check out these additional resources:

The Five C's of Team Accountability

Team Accountability Begins with Personal Accountability

Building Team Accountability: Job Scorecards

10 Signs of an Accountable Culture [Infographic]

Growing Accountability in Your Organization

Quick Tips for Building Accountability

5 Steps to Having an Accountability Discussion [Video]

Patrick Thean


Photo Credit: iStock by Getty Images