With the dog days of summer now behind us, I hope you had a chance to recharge, because the busy season for our industry has arrived. The back-to-school rush may be tapering off, but holiday orders are flowing, and you may even be working with clients on how to allocate their 2024 budgets.

This can be a stressful time each year. As leaders, our job is to make sure our companies accomplish all the things that need to get done without passing on any of that stress to our employees and customers. In this industry, we strive to make things easy on our clients, first and foremost. And the best way to accomplish that, I’ve found throughout my career, is to build teams that are capable, happy and motivated.

This should be a top priority no matter whether you are a one-person show looking to make your first hire, you oversee a small or mid-size team with hopes of growth, or if you’ve got hundreds of employees scattered across multiple states or continents.

Speaking alongside Jim Thomsen, our vice president of customer success at Showdown Displays, I recently discussed the importance of company culture during PPAI’s North American Leadership Conference. At Showdown, we believe that customer experience is a byproduct of our employee experience, and our success is rooted in our commitment to an employee-first mentality. To that end, our internal culture has led us to win numerous international honors for customer service that are the pride of our entire team.

At Showdown Displays, we engage employees in several ways. We make fun a priority throughout the workplace, recognize performance, incentivize progress, celebrate success and clearly define career paths for each of our team members. Each of these warrant consideration in your own organization if you don’t already.

But first things first, hire for culture fit. You can always train someone to follow a process. But you can’t train their character, personality or passion.

It might be surprising to learn that we’ve pursued a similar effort at PPAI with its own staffing. With support of the board, PPAI recently engaged a partner company to help the Association’s leaders and hiring managers construct models of the ideal personality fits for each position. This methodical approach provides staff with the guidance to make the right hire the first time. As we continue to build the organization to support the Association’s strategic plan, this approach will help us fine-tune the culture to best deliver on the needs of our member community.

Cultivating a positive culture is an investment – one of many PPAI has made internally – to ensure we deliver on our shared goals. Change is always challenging and at times uncertain. However, by prioritizing culture in this way, we will not only build a world-class organization, increasing employee retention and engagement, but most importantly, also deliver a positive, engaging and value- added experience for you, our PPAI members.

Walsh is PPAI Board chair.