Business Growth Story
Peter had a thriving business. Sales were growing; products were moving. All indicators from the market said: “Peter, your business is doing well.” He was well connected and seen as an expert in his field, and yet something was simply not making sense. Products were moving as planned, operational costs were as expected, but the profits were simply not there.
Peter called us in to do a desktop audit of the business’s operational health. What we learned very quickly from our audit is something quite normal for medium sized businesses such as Peter’s with high growth and strong positioning in the market. Medium sized business owners focus on building and growing the business – conquering the market and creating a stable position for the business in the market. The basic infrastructure of the business was there and performed the essentials required to support the front-line people to delight customers with services and products. However, the internal momentum and drive of the business did not match the external velocity at all. In a nutshell, our findings were as follows:
→ Peter’s sales-force was incentivized for sales volume and was discounting like crazy to meet their targets. The outcome was noted on profitability.
→ There was no planned performance management for any of the employees. It was done very ad hoc and based on sales volumes.
→ There was no alignment between the business goals and employee goals. In fact, none of the employees knew what the vision and goals of the business were, long term or short term.
→ The employees were not unhappy, but certainly not engaged in the business. “ It is a job, it pays well, and I enjoy working in this line of business.” They seldom showed any initiative or creativity in solving problems. They believed that those functions were out of scope even it was very relevant to their duties.
→ Staff turnover was within the reasonable bounds of 8% per annum.
→ There were minimal processes and guidelines, an informal value system, and a flat organizational structure.
Peter felt frustrated and a bit overwhelmed at the findings. Our proposed solution involved both Executive Coaching and Consulting. As an Executive Coach I worked with Peter to develop balance in working in and on his business. As consultants we worked with Peter and his leadership team to establish a High-Performance Culture within the organization. When you have a business that has a strong market positioning and solid growth potential, you need the internal operations to match. A High- Performance Culture will give the business the internal momentum and drive to support growth and give the business owners more freedom to continue conquering the market.
With Peter’s business, we had to start with ground zero – a real vision and goals to match the vision that can be communicated with the employees. We then worked our three-point plan to develop and infuse the High-Performance Culture. The three point plan is focused on action – expectations, behaviours and metrics. It drives responsibility and accountability. The three-point plan focuses on defining the culture and the how it will be expressed in and outside the business; develop policies and processes align with the culture and the goals; develop a talent management framework to align with the operational structure
and business ambitions.
Peter’s employees, especially the sales team, were very appreciative of the clarity and direction the new plan gave them. The sales team and their supports had a clear picture of the desired profitability and the actions that drive it, and there were new boundaries around the amount of discount that can be given. The new culture was deeper than a mere sales focus – they moved towards customer experience, and a customer focused solutions. The new business culture brought about a value system that was agreed upon by the leadership team first and then the entire team. They preferred the latitude and informal nature of a flat structure and agreed to an operating model with minimal policies and processes, but a strong focus on individual accountability and responsibility.
The High-Performance Culture was cascaded and modeled from the owners first. You can compare culture to a chocolate fountain – if you get it right, wholesome goodness flows from the top throughout the organization. ( If you don’t get it right, it will still look the same, but it won’t be chocolate). An effective leader would never give lip service to anything; however it is even more imperative in a High-Performance Culture that the leader sets the tone. Peter was a champion at living the new culture and setting a strong example in his daily action and interactions. The new culture was well accepted in Peter’s business and brought new energy into the business. Within three months, profits exceeded budgets and cost of operations were reduced significantly. Customers commented on a “change in the air” of the business, it was positive and engaging.
1. It is tough to focus on working in and on your business, and keep the internal momentum in sync with the external velocity.
2. Creating a High-Performance Culture can create a business culture that will increase innovation, initiative, responsibility and accountability within your business that will make your business “engine” more responsive to the external environment, leaving you to lead (not so much manage) the organization.
3. Skillful executive coaching will help you develop the skills to balance “working in” and “working on”; support the development of a High-Performance Culture in your business.
4. A High-Performance Culture looks different in every business. However, the methodology to develop and embed a High-Performance Culture in any business is the same and has astounding results. It is however only for the bold executive that knows that the culture will start with him / her.
THE REST OF PETER’S STORY
Six months later we were asked to return to help them plan for a significant expansion. When your internal momentum matches the external velocity or capacity of the business, the results can be astounding.
For more information about High-Performance Culture, contact me:
Marderé Birkill, BA, MBL, CEC
CEO & Founder
Sage & Summit Consulting
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