Creating the Alford Experience: Operations Management

Creating the Alford Experience: Operations Management

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When employees become a part of the Alford family, they quickly learn that we are invested in their success. No matter what position they’re hired for, they’re a valued and empowered member of the team from day one. As Richard Branson, CEO & Founder of Virgin Group, said, “Clients do not come first. Employees come first. If you take care of your employees, they will take care of your clients.” That has always been Alford’s approach to superior service and engaged employees.

In a 2017 study by Salesforce called, The Impact of Equality and Values Driven Business, “Employees who feel their voice is heard are 4.6 times more likely to feel empowered to perform their best work.” Several years ago, some of our seasoned road technicians, led by Project Manager Pat Reed, saw a need in operations and started a hands-on training program called Spec Ops. This was a grass roots program created and led by employees who wanted to make a difference. There are various training aspects to Spec Ops, including one in which the operations team works side-by-side with our road technicians to set up a mock event. We then throw in real life challenges to demonstrate how everything’s put together from start to finish, and how to make decisions quickly in an ever-changing environment.

We understand that training our technicians on new technologies on a regular basis is essential to their career development. While we do a Spec Ops event only a few times a year, we have a classroom version that we like to offer every other month. The specific subjects can come from leadership or at the recommendation of Operations or Roadies. “We bring a Roadie in and they go over gear specific things, like how you set up an intercom, how you set up a console, how you tune a PA, etc. We want them to understand why that pin is important, why that shackle size is important”, said Matthew Dietzler, Operations Manager. Not only does this allow a training opportunity for Operations, but it also allows our road staff a part in developing their future techs by setting the burgundy standard.

To learn more about the methods we use to empower and develop our people, we’ve spoken to Billy King, Alford’s Director of Operations, and Matthew Dietzler, Alford’s Operations Manager.

Billy KingBilly King spent his teens and 20’s touring all over the Midwest and East Coast as a guitarist for several different bands. He was introduced to the event tech industry by fellow musician and friend, Craig Taylor, and began as a local truck driver for Alford in 1996. Within a year and a half, he was promoted to Assistant Operations Manager, quickly making himself indispensable. Over the years, Billy’s had a big influence in establishing and growing the Operations and Support departments. Today, as Director of Operations, he oversees a variety of staff, shows, and projects while remaining a resource to the warehouse crew, and anyone else seeking his insight. When he’s not working hard in Operations, you can find Billy playing his guitar, cooking, and helping his wife in their garden.

One of the many ways that Alford works to strengthen engagement in our Operations department is through our ongoing encouragement to learn skills beyond their specific job responsibilities. According to Gallup’s 2014 research, only 13 percent of all employees are “highly engaged,” and 26 percent are “actively disengaged.” Alford’s department specialists seek to train their team beyond just the job description by identifying the details that will allow our warehouse technicians to make informed decisions. While most warehouse operations wouldn’t expect their employees to do much more than pull gear, here at Alford, you’re expected to know what’s inside each case and what that gear does. This allows them to be an integral part of the collaborative and empowered culture we promote. If they think something does not look right, no matter their tenure or position, we want them to bring it up. Our ultimate goal is to have a great work environment and superior product, and that takes a true team.

For Billy, the most rewarding aspect of his role is getting to watch his people succeed at what they love to do. He mentions a very large show out in LA that had only allotted one day for load-in, leaving no room for error. Operations worked together quickly to provide a seamless show pull and truck pack that our people were able to pull off effortlessly. “Operations is here to provide a product for our clients. Our client is the road staff, and for me that’s the most rewarding thing, when they have a great show,” said Billy.

Matthew Dietzler got his first taste of audio engineering when he was in high school and his band was able to record their music in a professional studio. After doing a semester of business classes at the University of North Dakota, Matthew decided to fully pursue his music passions and transferred to Minnesota State University Morehead. The university had a music industry program where Matthew earned his BA in Music & Audio Production. After graduation, he was hired by Alford and moved to Dallas, working in the warehouse as an Audio Quality Control Technician for about a year. He then decided to move back to Minnesota for a time, returning to Alford’s warehouse in the spring of 2015, and was then promoted to Roadie in 2017. After spending a year on the road as an Audio Engineer, Matthew was promoted to Operations Manager. Outside of the warehouse, you can find him playing music, golfing, walking his dog, and going on mini adventures with his girlfriend.

Matthew is a great example of the way that Alford promotes their people from within, not looking at employees’ tenure but their performance, drive and accomplishments. When he worked in Operations, Matthew quickly set himself apart with his work ethic, becoming the Audio Operations Specialist, taking the lead and training new crew members. Very quickly after going on the road, Matthew had opportunities to lead the audio department and fellow technicians on events of all sizes. He would answer any questions, direct where the gear should be placed, and be there for any of the dozens of techs that look to him for guidance. While he loved the technical aspect of his job, he began to enjoy and thrive in the leadership aspect as well. It was his work ethic, willingness to go above and beyond, and his experience in Operations and on the road that led to his promotion to Operations Manager.

With new employees, we like to show them early on that Alford is a company that takes pride in our familial culture that seeks to promote and engage. Data released by the Society for Human Resources Management (SHRM) states that, “Companies with an engaging on-boarding process retain 91% of their first-year workers.” One of the most effective aspects of our on-boarding process is to send our operations technicians to our show site within their first month. There are numerous benefits to this as they get to experience first-hand what our product is, and how their role is a vital piece to our success. They also get to work with and get to know our Roadies early on, so it creates a trust and strengthens that relationship. For many, the road is their ultimate career path, so this is a chance to see if that truly is a career path they want to aspire to.

When anyone at Alford is working hard and exemplifying our burgundy values, we notice their efforts and make sure that they’re recognized for them. Often, that’s with a Service Spotlight mention in the newsletter, an award for Employee of the Year, and ultimately, a promotion. As Matthew said, “Our goal is not to have lifetime warehouse workers, our goal is to give them tools to be successful in their next position.”



Alford Media