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The resignation of a valued, long-time employee convinced Cheri Perry that her leadership approach wasn’t working.
Previously a “command and control” leader, Perry became more communicative and employee-centric. She reached out to fellow business leaders for advice. She implemented a clear mission statement and a set of core values that her employees strive toward every day.
“It hurt me so much to think this man and his family that meant so much to me didn’t see a future with us,” says Perry, who cofounded Vancouver-based credit card processing business Total Merchant Concepts Inc. with her husband, Dean, in 1996. “I thought I better do something different.”
Total Merchant Concepts, which employs 25 and is growing, received the highest score of any company on Seattle Business magazine’s annual 100 Best Companies To Work For list in 2020. Perry advises fellow business leaders to “see what’s working in your company and decide what are the things you can fix that would have the biggest impact.”
For Perry, that revolved around creating a culture that rewards and recognizes employees for performance while emphasizing external customer service. The company recognizes big wins every day through its “Pass the Star” program and sends customers “love letters” every Friday.
The approach clearly resonates with employees. More than a dozen heaped praise on Perry and the company culture in anonymous comments on the 100 Best Companies survey.
“I can work independently without being micromanaged. I always get any help I need. We work as a team, not individuals,” wrote one. Another recognized the progress the company had made over the years: “I have worked for TMC for almost nine years and this has grown from a very good company to a great company. Our leadership has implemented so many opportunities for the team to grow personally, professionally and financially.”
Protecting that culture means making hard decisions. Perry had to fire two employees a few years ago, and another left shortly afterward. It was difficult, but employees responded positively.
“They knew I was serious about protecting our work environment,” Perry says. “Even if you have an intentional focus on culture, if you let up for any length of time, you run the risk of going back to business as usual. I feel like this is my second baby.”