Stepping Up

How Leaders Are Rising to the Occasion

Throughout the Small Giants Community and beyond, leaders are doing what’s right when it matters most. These are their stories.

How to Engage Employees in Tracking and Achieving Goals

MITCH THOBE | Choice One Engineering

Choice One Engineering is a civil engineering, surveying, and landscape architecture firm with the vision to change what people expect from businesses.

Is everyone on your team working towards the same organizational goals right now? Does every person know how their daily contributions impact those goals? Does everyone have a clear picture of the current and forecasted financial state of the company?

In truly great cultures, employees know that the work they do matters, they can see the impact they are having, and they are recognized and rewarded for it. In a culture of performance, clear performance measurement systems work together to give everyone the information necessary to drive success. By engaging employees in tracking and achieving goals, you position everyone for a successful future.

Especially in times of uncertainty, putting systems around individual and organizational performance takes the guesswork out of performance management and predicting outcomes. In this latest installment of Stepping Up, you’ll meet four leaders who are seeing the hard work of building a culture of performance pay off — and they’re sharing the systems and tools they use to propel their organizations forward.

Here’s how to set goals, share financials, and manage performance like a Small Giant.


“People want to know what’s going on.”

Choice One has fully utilized open-book management for six years now, and it’s made transparent communication much easier on their team during this time.

“Though there are so many unknowns today, open-book management takes away that financial unknown of how the company is doing,” says Chief Production Officer Mitch Thobe. “Employees at other companies may not have the same chance at understanding that information. It is just one less story that people can create in their head.”

Everyone at Choice One has gone through financial training, which means everyone understands how a business works and what it needs to survive. Now, company leadership has full confidence that the team truly understands the numbers that impact their decisions — like what they’re forecasting for potential future revenue, cash flow, and aging, and how that affects both the business and them personally.

Choice One runs their huddles every Monday morning at 7:00am, with team members joining virtually from their own computers via Zoom.

“We go over our next three months’ forecasted revenue and then look at the current month’s forecasted income statement based on that month’s forecasted revenues and expenses,” says Thobe. “This allows everyone to know where the workload stands each week and allows people to make adjustments to their schedules accordingly. There are around 40 people involved each week in forecasting either a revenue or expense number.”

The way Thobe sees it, the more that people know, the more tools they have to improve the situation. Transparent communication also provides a sense of stability for their people — with so much uncertainty in all of our personal lives, financial transparency is a way to provide empowerment.


What are the most important numbers for your team to watch right now? The answer may be different than it was pre-pandemic — at Choice One, their goal right now is to strengthen client relationships by checking in more frequently and having deeper conversations. To that end, the number of client touchpoints is now a lead measure they’re tracking every week.

“We feel that the more meaningful conversations we can have with current and potential clients will directly relate to the lag measure of number and dollar amount of proposals sent out,” says Chief Production Officer Mitch Thobe. “That is then directly tied to the lag measure of revenue.”

The other number they are watching closely is the number and dollar amount of proposals sent out, which links directly to the revenue they can expect in future months. Thobe is also keeping a close eye on cash — he advises leaders to remember that you can be a very profitable company and still be broke. If you don’t have cash on hand, you can’t pay your liabilities, which means you could be out of business soon.

“Along the same lines of cash, we also watch our aging closely,” says Thobe. “In a down economy, many people are holding onto their money tighter and longer. We continuously keep an eye on outstanding invoices and use that to help our project managers to stay on top of clients with outstanding invoices over 30 days.”

Ultimately, keeping close tabs on these numbers offers confirmation of what leaders like Thobe already know: they’re making the right moves with the right people, and their culture of transparency is paying off.

“We have a great group of employees and clients who have remained focused on the goals we set out to achieve pre-COVID,” says Thobe. “Our success speaks to our team’s determination and commitment to finding new ways of working within a situation that nobody planned for.”

A culture of performance creates trust and a strong foundation for your team, all while systematizing the things that matter most to your company. Without clear metrics at the organizational and individual levels, your employees are prone to feel misaligned, unmotivated, and unsure of how to achieve what’s expected of them.

Maybe your leaders are great at running their departments, but you wish they’d think about the bigger picture. Or maybe you’re interested in financial transparency, but you don’t think your employees will care about (or even understand) business finances.

Your emerging leaders have untapped potential, they just haven’t found the right training program yet. The Small Giants Leadership Academy guides your emerging leaders through a year of learning and connecting, introducing them to the systems, tools, and people to take their leadership — and your organization — to the next level.

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What do these leaders have in common?

These leaders are part of Small Giants companies — companies that prioritize their purpose and culture and invest in their emerging leaders.

One way Small Giants companies invest in their next generation of leaders is by enrolling them in the Small Giants Leadership Academy. This robust one-year certification program consists of virtual learning sessions with expert leaders and coaches, an extensive resource library, on-the-ground meetups with your cohort, a leadership assessment, and your event ticket to two Small Giants gatherings.

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