A Feather-Light Touch

CEO Fred Bennink attributes much of his success to never micromanaging.

Zip Signs CEO Fred Bennink trusts his staff, and delegates astutely to achieve time-tested service success

When Zip Signs Ltd., one of the largest full-service digital-sign companies in Ontario, celebrates its 40-year anniversary this year, there’s no question that a round of applause and recognition will go to CEO Fred Bennink. He’s been at the helm for 30 years, and under his stewardship the company has grown from a handful of employees to its current roster of 80. Specifically, it’s his ability to unoppressively hone his staff’s sense of direction and purpose that has made Bennink such a successful leader and his company such a mature, popular service provider.

“There are executives who micromanage,” Bennink says, “but on the other hand, you must have faith in the company structure and your ability to hire the right people. Our employees have more skills and expertise than I do, so I establish the boundaries and then let them do their good work.” Employees who know how much they are valued as people and team members create a very strong peer-driven organization, the CEO explains, and micro­man­agement isn’t necessary when motivated employees clearly understand policies, goals, and job descriptions.

Constantly pursuing these objectives, Bennink sees himself as more of a company visionary, a client liaison—when necessary—and, on occasion, a bit of an in-house cheerleader. “We create an environment where people aren’t afraid to make a mistake,” he says. “But an important, and fun, part of my job is to recognize their good work and single it out—unlike micromanagers, who typically dwell on the opposite.”

By the Numbers

30
Number of years Zip Signs has shown a profit since Bennink bought the company

22
Number of years that Zip Signs has exceeded 25% compounded growth

1 million
Number of consecutive hours without lost employment time due to a workplace accident

54
Record number of consecutive months during which employees received profit-sharing checks

4
Number of nonprofit boards and committees that Bennink currently sits on

Bennink also conducts monthly “state of the company” meetings to establish the coming month’s goals, recognize outstanding work that led to the previous month’s goals being met, and go over some of the company’s generous employee-benefit programs. These include monthly profit sharing and a continuing employee education program, which Zip Signs helps underwrite.

While his project managers do the day-to-day managing, Bennink himself keeps in close touch with clients. This allows him to learn about his teams’ strengths and shortcomings directly, and he relays this information to his managers so that they can modify their processes and improve Zip Signs’ service delivery. “When clients tell me where we’re falling short, I’ve been in this business long enough to have a good understanding of what needs to be done to improve the service,” Bennink says. “It seldom takes more than a couple of minutes for me to explain the client feedback to the managers for them to understand—and not long after for them to make any necessary modifications to the rest of their team members. The process is well honed to a fine edge, and tangible improvement becomes apparent very quickly.”

With his company now consistently meeting its short-term goals, Bennink has begun setting his sights further into the future. “I’ve been here for 30 years, so I can see my days here winding down,” he says, quickly adding, “That won’t come anytime soon because I’m having too much fun. But, we visit and revisit our strategic and tactical term goals. My son and son-in-law are part of the business, so we are leisurely developing a management succession plan well in advance of the day it will actually occur. We’re also developing five-year plans surrounding service, sales, and staffing modifications to the organization. Just the technology of our business and how it can quickly change makes these a necessity. And it keeps us on the leading edge of success.”