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O’Keeffe to NFDA: Company Culture Is What People Do When No One Is Looking

O’Keeffe to NFDA: Company Culture Is What People Do When No One Is Looking
March 18
17:51 2021

What is your company’s “secret sauce”? Tim O’Keeffe asked the National Fastener Distributors Association.

O’Keeffe, of Kansas-based fastener manufacturer G.L. Huyett, cited Field Fastener as an example where the “secret sauce” is the company’s culture.

“Culture is the fire,” O’Keeffe declared. “It can create ‘missionaries’ within your organization.”

“It is no longer about management and leadership, it’s about the culture,” O’Keeffe said.

O’Keeffe listed signs of your company culture: “What do people do / how do people behave, when no one else is looking?  What is the degree of candor in the organization? Is the organization learning?”

Culture is “the instinctive and natural innate behaviors, encompassing language, customs, and free expression among a group of people with a common purpose.” Whether the culture is “good” or “bad” is a function of the value system. The value system is not a function of the culture.”

“Culture is the turbocharger of leadership and management,” O’Keeffe said. “Think of the culture as missionaries in the organization evangelizing the principles of leadership and management.”

O’Keeffe said “evidence of an effective culture” includes high standards, self regulation, joint and severable accountability – or “no blame games,” as well as “charity among the participants.”

In his presentation to the March 2021 NFDA virtual meeting, O’Keeffe cited statistics that 98% of managers need more training and 58% of managers say they didn’t receive management training.

“Management is a science that can be studied and learned,” O’Keeffe said.

O’Keeffe reached back to the 5th century BC Art of War writings by Sun Tzy.  

“You have to define victory,” he cited. “Warfare is divided into three levels: Strategy, operational and tactical. And “knowledge is power.”

“The purpose of a business is to create and keep a customer,” O’Keeffe quoted Peter Drucker.  “Are your systems for show, or are they used.”

O’Keeffe defined management as a “must,” leadership a “want” and culture as a “should.”

Leaders should influence, not boss, O’Keeffe advised.

“It is very important you have the human touch,” he said of managers.

A leader’s “A” time is spent “investing in adding value” to the company: Strategizing and mentoring, research, benchmarking, process improvement and management training. A leader should not be spending much “C” time of “day-to-day” functions, such as compliance, staff meetings and administration. Your team should not be dominated by “F” time of causing problems, discipline, fixing and performance improvement.

Among questions O’Keeffe offered to judge effective management: Are your systems for show, or are they used? Are results measured and is what you measure relevant? Processes are predictable – is predictability measured? Are processes dependent on the person? Do outcomes show patterns of continuous improvement?  

O’Keeffe’s “musts” for management require systems and processes that are defined and documented; work must be planned; work and outcomes must be measured; there must be accountability; and people must be coached.

“Hire slowly and fire quickly,” O’Keeffe advised. “Don’t be afraid to hire speculatively.”

The question in interviews is: “How is this dog going to run the race?”

O’Keeffe announced G.L. Huyett has instituted a $15 minimum wage in the company.

O’Keeffe was a business broker from 1985 until he acquired the Kansas-based fastener manufacturer in 1992. Web: and

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