Some good dedicated people. Great product line.
Owner/CEO is incapable of running this or any company
I worked at Sunstream full-time (Less than a year)
Great Products and some very good dedicated people
CEO is the Poster Boy for The E-Myth.
Advice to Management
Leave the business!
There are a lot of good employees and some managers at Sunstream. For whatever reason there are a lot of smart, nice people who work there. Plus, there are the typical benefits of a small company (progressive environment, flexibility, and good balance between home life and work life). The best (and maybe only) perk of working there is the week off between Christmas and New Years.
Dealing with management can be extremely frustrating. The owner gets involved in every facet of the business, many times preventing the (very competent) employees from even doing their job. It would be easier to swallow if the owner made decisions that seem to be good for the company - many times these decisions seem to be impulsive and poorly thought out. If you're proud of what you do, like to think for yourself, or have an ego this is not the place for you to work! Recently a pretty good top level manager was hired to lead a project but not given any authority to hold anyone to the schedule. This person was quickly (4mos employment) fired for the project falling behind. Hmm!
The other major con of working there is that no one in the entire company has been given a raise in years. In the meantime, the owner continues to hire and fire big salary positions and buy toys for himself. Whereas it is indeed his company, it is hard for employees to keep a good morale when years go by and the company is profitable and no one gets anything.
One of the typical cons of working at a small company is little to no room for advancement and it is no different at Sunstream. The organizational chart, if there was one, would be totally flat with one person directly managing all employees. And you can't be promoted to 'owner'. Period.
Advice to Management
1. Let your employees do their job. Your involvment should be limited to high-level decisions and a general course of progress.
2. Give your employees generous raises; you can afford it. The cost of living has increased DRAMATICALLY in the last few years.
3. Give people financial recognition. If a successful employee reaches his 10 year mark, give him a bonus. If a huge gov't project comes through successfully, give a bonus to key people.
They pay well, exciting industry and great products, Ken is brilliant during interviews and during your "honeymoon" he will be your best promoter and cheerleader. There are great "marine savvy" people on staff and on the board with a large dealer base. With great marine insight and innovation skills Sunstream comes up with many great new ideas. Owners are devoted and critical of all company issues and objectives. They have assembled a fantastic board of directors.
Expectations after you start can be 5 to 7 pages long, into silly minutia. At times, you may be pushed into situations that may unnecessarily damage or threaten supplier relationships, customers (warranty issues), or if outcome is not in company favor there is no problem managing by job security. Since Sunstream is an engineering run company, if a product is ready or not they may still sell it. (i.e.: Latest example of "great idea-turned into-customer and company nightmare" is the original SunPort. It was driven into production after known issues had surfaced and were revealed to all. A better approach would have been to test locally longer, and then open distribution carefully to manage issues better.) Some dealers stay long term but but if things were right a higher percentage would be loyal. Basic team management skills are needed at the top.
Advice to Management
There is seemingly no insulation from the big leader but CYA works fairly well as a backup. Your first job is to insulate your employees form the top to keep them motivated. Taking risks is encouraged but try to have the idea co-created with the top, or be 100% certain it will work at margin. Be sure to incorporate any clues of advice from the top for later buy-in. In my experience if you bring good reasons to go a direction they will be thought on objectively, but the decisions may not seem like a good company choice. In the end it’s clear that those decisions aren’t yours to make. The better you get at sensing when you have control of (what should be) your decisions, and letting go of “mandates”, the more you will sleep at night. Discouraging employees from bashing management is a good idea in any company, but thinking of rational support for some ideas takes energy and creativity at times.
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