Five Steps to Shape Business Culture

Business CultureWas there a time in your life when you hated to go to work? The business culture was uncomfortable. Rather than finding your work and association with colleagues engaging, you were looking for the way out.

A few years ago the co-founder of Whole Foods, John Mackey and global business professor-founder Raj Sisodia released a study on the performance of companies that sought to work for values, not just profit.

In that study 28 companies labeled as practicing “conscious capitalism”, outperformed the S&P 500 by 14 times during the period from 1998 – 2012. Is there a message here today about culture?

Brad Brezinski, Founder and Chief Strategist at Strategy2Action, shared with me a personal experience and a definitive series of steps leaders should take to shape or turn around its business culture.

See if you agree with Brad’s recommendation. Because culture can have a significant impact on business performance, they’re worth noting.

WHAT YOU’LL LEARN FROM BRAD BREZINSKI, FOUNDER & CHIEF STRATEGIST – STRATEGY TO ACTION

WHAT ARE THE CHARACTERISTICS OF COMPANIES THAT HAVE A STRONG BUSINESS CULTURE? (2:27in)

In Brad’s words – An organization that communicates better, that’s going to innovate better, they’re going to problem solve better, and they’re probably going to have lower turnover.

Insight – Ask the question, how engaged are my employees? Chances are that if they are fully engaged, they have a clear understanding of the charge given by leadership.

HOW IMPORTANT IS THE CEO IN SHAPING THE CULTURE? (3:50 in)

In Brad’s words – Ultimately the CEO has full responsibility for the culture. The exhibited values of the leadership team are what shape the behavioral norms, are what shape the decisions that guide the culture.

Insight – Think about your decision making processes, how decisions are made, who makes them, who is recognized for the decisions made and how are people held responsible for decisions.

HOW IMPORTANT IS CULTURE TO A START UP COMPANY? (6:57 in)

In Brad’s words – Don’t think in terms of culture, think in terms of your values. Roy Disney said when your values are clear to you, making decisions becomes easy.

Insight – In hiring, make sure that your values, the values you want the organization to hold and those of the people you’re seeking to hire are aligned.

WHAT UNDERMINES BUSINESS CULTURE? (8:56 in)

In Brad’s words – The first one is hollow values. These one word ideas (in wall art displaying the word – teamwork, for example) that no one can wrap their hands around. The second quite simply is weak leadership. It’s the responsibility of leadership to exhibit (values) day in and day out.

Insight – Back up values with actions and behaviors that are applied daily.

HOW HARD IS IT TO TURN AROUND THE CULTURE OF AN ORGANIZATION? (13:52 in)

In Brad’s words – I don’t think it’s hard if leadership will commit to doing it. The pace of change is four levers – articulate, communicate, demonstrate, and tolerate.

Insight – Articulate the kind of culture you want. Communicate this to everyone in your organization. Walk the talk. Don’t tolerate actions at any level of the organization that are inconsistent with the culture and values you’re working to establish.

WHAT DO YOU NEED TO BE AWARE OF IN A MERGER OF TWO CULTURES? (20:10 in)

In Brad’s words – You can’t really assess culture but you can articulate the values. Then you’re looking for what values are incongruent with one another.

Insight – Determine if the values of both companies are aligned or not as it relates to its handling of employees, how it treats customers, what is its risk tolerance, etc.

 

Strategic Planning is Effective When…..

Strategic Planning

When you hear the phrase “strategic planning”, does your mind light up or does it give you a headache? There is clearly a right and a wrong way to initiate and carry out the process.

In my conversation with John Handelsman, CEO of Present Values, I realized that my previous employers approached this all wrong.

See if you agree with John on what components of leadership, teamwork, data and process are necessary to make the strategic planning exercise pay off.

WHAT YOU’LL LEARN FROM JOHN HANDELSMAN, CEO OF PRESENT VALUES:

WHAT’S THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN A BUSINESS PLAN AND STRATEGIC PLAN?  (1:46 in)

In John’s words – Strategy is all about choices and planning is all about execution. A strategic plan is typically much longer term. A business plan is much more operational in nature.

Insight – Think of the business plan as how are you going to execute to achieve your high level strategic goals.

HOW SHOULD A COMPANY DEVELOP A STRATEGIC PLAN? (3:05 in)

In John’s words – It’s very important that the leader believes in the process. There needs to be data. The leader must learn to delegate responsibility. The responsibility and ownership of each part of it is shared.

Insight – Consider conducting a strategic planning “SWOT” analysis of your strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats. Data is needed from an analysis of the company internally and the competitive environment externally.

CAN YOU CLEAR UP ANY CONFUSION BETWEEN STRATEGIES AND TACTICS? (5:45 in)

In John’s words – Strategies are high level choices relative to direction for growth and management of risk. Underneath are initiatives, projects or programs that support strategies. Tactics are activities (of initiatives) that support strategies.     

Insight – Strategies are directives intended to achieve your objectives and material goals.

HOW MANY STRATEGIES SHOULD A COMPANY HAVE? (7:24 in)

In John’s words – The number depends upon what’s going on in your business and what is your team capable of executing well.

Insight – Keep the list to a minimum but don’t miss any opportunities. Data is critical.

WHAT CAUSES A STRATEGIC PLAN TO FAIL? (8:26 in)

In John’s words – One of the things most companies miss is, they don’t put in place a performance management tool.

Insight – To achieve your strategic goals, it’s necessary to keep a scorecard of the progress or lack of that is being made on a regular basis.

HOW OFTEN SHOULD YOUR STRATEGIES BE REVIEWED? (14:11 in)

In John’s words – The strategies should always be reviewed. However, the strategies should not always be changed or shouldn’t quit.

Insight – Giving up on a strategy too early is often caused by failing to discover and make an adjustment. Patience is required.

 

How Does a Pro Buy a Business?

Buy a BusinessHave you dreamed about buying a company or perhaps you’re thinking about making an acquisition to strengthen your existing business? Mackenzie and Company, a corporate strategy and finance consulting firm, believes that to buy a business you should be able to execute one or more of five strategies.

Find out what they are and what a seasoned pro does to buy a business on this episode of What Works for Biz.

WHAT YOU’LL LEARN FROM CHIP NIELSEN, PRESIDENT/CEO OF DOSCHER’S CANDIES?

WHAT ARE SOME PRINCIPLES THAT GUIDE Y0U IN LOOKING AT A BUSINESS OPPORTUNITY?  (2:01 in)

In Chip’s words –  A strategic reason and an opportunistic opportunity. Increase your size or volume, geographic expansion, lessen competition, acquire key new people. It might be fun, interesting or challenging.

Tip – Consider whether your staff is ready to take on more responsibilities or new challenges.

WHAT KIND OF RESEARCH DO YOU DO TO EVALUATE PROSPECTS?  (4:02 in)

In Chip’s words – Once I’ve picked an industry or business, the research in my case goes to friends, relatives, acquaintances, who might I know and who might connect me to someone in that industry. Read trade journals in that field. Get the word out I’m looking.

Tip – The type of research you do depends a lot on what you’re looking to buy, what your capabilities are, where’s your passion, and how large or small in scope the company footprint is.

IS IT IMPORTANT TO HAVE A THOROUGH UNDERSTANDING OF THE BUSINESS YOU’RE LOOKING TO ACQUIRE?  (8:10 in)

In Chip’s words –  You’re naturally going to succeed at it faster. Those in an acquisition mode should play to your strengths. Look at the things they are passionate about. Overlay businesses they might be interested in, involved in and be able to learn fairly rapidly.

Tip – Pursuing businesses that don’t complement your skill set and background is too big a risk.

HOW IMPORTANT IS PAST PERFORMANCE VERSUS FUTURE PROPECTS OF A BUSINESS?  (11:44 in)

In Chip’s words –  (Past) It’s the best predictor of the future.

Tip – Judging the future is very important if you are already in the business and the acquisition is an add on or you’re looking to close down the business and just buy a customer list.

HOW DO YOU LOOK AT YOUR ROLE IN THAT ACQUISITION?  (14:21 in)

In Chip’s words –  You should be doing it with the purpose of building the business. I’m definitely more of the builder than the operator.

Tip – Develop a clear strategy that can be communicated effectively to those you’re relying on to execute it.

WHAT ATTRACTED YOU TO DOSCHER’S CANDIES?  (15:20 in)

In Chip’s words –  I grew up in a family business environment. We worked that list of contacts in town. There happened to be a couple of small business brokers. It was a family business sold to Greg Clark. In meeting him we fell in love with this quaint candy business.

Tip – Consider giving a previous owner equity in the new business if the person is going to stay on and help you run the business.

SHOULD A BUSINESS BUYER HAVE AN EXIT STRATEGY IN MIND WHEN PURCHASING?  (19:49 in)

In Chip’s words –  In my estimation it’s going to be a lot more situational.

Tip – If you buy a business that you’re just getting started in, formulating an exit strategy upfront is likely not as important as it is to the business owner that seeks to turn it over in three years.

How a Business Turnaround Happens

Business TurnaroundPerhaps the only thing constant in business today is change. As a famous inventor reminds us – “when you’re finished changing, you’re finished.” Ironically this prophetic statement comes from Ben Franklin, not someone in need of a business turnaround today.

Change has impacted the printing industry dramatically. Yet Corporate Document Solutions has grown its business despite the hurricane going on around it. Listen to what Mary Percy, the company’s president says about the business turnaround it made. She offers some recommendations to others who face similar issues in their industries.

WHAT YOU’LL LEARN FROM MARY PERCY, PRESIDENT OF CORPORATE DOCUMENT SOLUTIONS.

IS IT TRUE THAT YOUR CUSTOMERS ARE LOOKING FOR YOU TO FULFILL THEIR NEEDS DIFFERENTLY?  (5:06 in)

In Mary’s words –   They need a very efficient way to process orders. They have to have storefronts where multiple employees can go online and order.

Tip – Examine your customer’s needs from their perspective. Seek to make it easier and better to do business with you.

HAS YOUR VISION OF THE BUSINESS CHANGED?  (7:06 in)

In Mary’s words –   We’ve clarified our mission over the years as our strengths have been revealed through experience.

Tip – Achieve clarity by understanding what the customer wants and what you can deliver.

HOW HAS CLARITY OF VISION AFFECTED THE WAY YOU OPERATE?  (7:44 in)

In Mary’s words –   We’ve invested in system management software.

Tip – Evaluate whether updated technology can improve productivity and increase profitability.

HOW HAVE THESE CHANGES AFFECTED THE WAY YOU SELL?  (10:08 in)

In Mary’s words –   We analyzed which industries were continuing to need print products for legal, technical, or logistical reasons and focused on selling to those markets.

Tip – Target sales where the opportunity exists. Accounts are won by reducing costs and improving processes.

WHAT HAVE BEEN SOME OF YOUR TOUGHEST CHALLENGES?  (14:57 in)

In Mary’s words –   We had to streamline efficiencies.

Tip – The quicker you can satisfy your customer’s needs, the stronger your relationship will be.

WHAT ADVICE DO YOU HAVE FOR OTHER BUSINESSES EXPERIENCING DRAMATIC CHANGE?  (16:30 in)

In Mary’s words –   Have a proactive mindset. Analyze trends and rates of consumption. Seek out new business opportunities in that business industry. Ask your customers what they want.

Tip – By examining objectively the totality of the business process from beginning to end, clarity is possible to move forward instead of backward.

 

How to Make a Family Business Last

Family Business
Tina & Dale Engdahl of Exciting Windows by Apollo

Family business is the bedrock of the American economy. More than half of the national GDP comes from them. However, when the reins are transferred from the first generation to the second, 70% of them perish. How do you make a family business last?

WHAT YOU’LL LEARN FROM DALE & TINA ENGDAHL, OWNERS OF THE FAMILY BUSINESS EXCITING WINDOWS BY APOLLO

WHAT MAKES YOUR BUSINESS WORK WELL?  (2:38 in)

In Dale’s words –   We treat our customers in the way we want to be treated. We do what we say and say what we’re going to do.

Tips – Have a clear division of responsibility. Have a definite plan for paying yourself and employees. Make sure all bases from client contact to project completion are being executed reliably and on time.

AS A HUSBAND – WIFE TEAM, HOW DO YOU HANDLE COMMUNICATION ABOUT THE BUSINESS IN RELATION TO YOUR PERSONAL LIFE? (4:34 in)

In Tina’s words – We talk about it until one or the other says, I’ve had enough. Because we’re so different we don’t think alike. A lot of thinking takes place before anything is accomplished.

Tip – Respect and understand each other’s position. Seek common ground.

WHAT ARE THE TOUGHEST BUSINESS DECISIONS? (9:12 in)

In Tina’s words – During a recession when you have to decide what you can’t spend money on anymore. In Dale’s words – on a personal level and a business level.

Tip – Saving ahead to withstand tough times is very important.

DO YOU TAKE VACATIONS SEPARATELY OR TOGETHER? (10:45 in)

In Tina’s words – It’s important to get away alone and together.

Tip – Take a break to stay strong!

HOW DO YOU RETAIN EMPLOYEES? (12:32 in)

In Dale’s words – Listen to them. Be flexible with their schedule. Pay them well. Treat them the way I would want to be treated.

Tip – Praise employees for a job well done.

HOW DO YOU INVOLVE & MANAGE OTHER FAMILY MEMBERS IN THE BUSINESS? (13:40 in)

Tip – Let your kids decide whether they want to be involved in the business. If they participate, teach them to assume the responsibilities as if they were just employees.

WHAT SHOULD YOU REMEMBER TO SUCCEED IN BUSINESS? (16:00 in)

In Tina’s words – Your client will always be your boss.

Tip – Realize that while you have the freedom to re-arrange your schedule for personal reasons, time away from work will have to be made up.

 

005 – What’s Missing in Business Management?

Business ManagementFrom an executive coach, mentor and peer to peer adviser we hear about where business owners, managers and entrepreneurs should focus their energy in business management. Pick up a tip on how to determine priorities and manage time better. Then ponder what is the best thing you can do for your employees and yourself.

WHAT YOU’LL LEARN FROM DAVID HABISCH, EXECUTIVE COACH, VISTAGE PEER ADVISORY GROUP CHAIR AND MENTOR

WHY DO SOME BUSINESS OWNERS/MANAGERS SUCCEED WHILE OTHERS FAIL?  (2:47 in)

In David’s words –   Those that get on top of the business are generally much more successful. Work on the business instead of in the business.

Tip – Have a vision, be able to revise that vision when necessary. Be comfortable in stepping outside of day to day activities to move the business forward.

WHAT SHOULD AN ENTREPRENUER HAVE IN STARTING A BUSINESS? (3:43 in)

In David’s words – Set down 1 and 5 year goals. Lay out a plan. You have to have a low risk tolerance because you’re willing to put it all on the line.

Tip – Have plenty of capital to start. Be fully committed. Seek advice in running a business if you haven’t done it before.

IS THERE A BETTER WAY FOR CEO’S, MANAGERS TO ORGANIZE THEIR LIFE? (8:15 in)

In David’s words – Do a to do list the night before you go back to the job the next day. Don’t open your email (first in the morning). Be proactive rather than reactive.

Tip –  Give first priority to handling those things that are important to grow the business.

WHAT BUSINESS MANAGEMENT STYLE IS MORE EFFECTIVE WITH TODAY’S WORKFORCE? (9:30 in)

In David’s words – I believe in the participatory oligarchy. 

Tip –  Don’t let fondness for your employees get in the way of making hard decisions when they need to be made.

WHAT DON’T MANAGERS / OWNERS DO WELL? (10:53 in)

In David’s words – We don’t fire the right people.  

Tip –  Firing underperformers will make you and your employees happy. In the long run it will help the person being let go as well.

 

WHAT SKILL IS MANAGEMENT NOT PAYING ENOUGH ATTENTION TO TODAY? (15:49 IN)

In David’s words – Leadership. You need to be knowledgeable about how to lead $15 an hour employees as well as a $100,000 employee.  

Tip –  Determine and define what leadership means to you.

HOW IMPORTANT IS A MANAGER’S PERSONAL LIFE IN ACHIEVING BUSINESS SUCCESS? (17:54 IN)

In David’s words – Take the vacation. You will think more clearly.  

Tip –  Don’t end your business life in regret for not spending enough time with your family.

003-A Reluctant Franchisee’s Success Story

Franchisee Success Story

Owning your own business is an intoxicating goal for many. Making your own decisions and setting your own hours is appealing. For the hundreds of thousands of franchisees, dreams and results are not always the same. Listen to the story of an unlikely franchisee, Katie Fitzgerald of Floor Coverings International. Hear what she has learned along the way that made her sales double in the last year.

WHY YOU CONSIDERED OWNING A FRANCHISE?  (3:39 in)

In Katie’s words –  I got myself connected to a franchise broker. I didn’t need to feel that I had to go into this business knowing everything about the business in order to make it successful.

Tip – Look for a business you have a passion for and understand what role the franchisor will play in making you successful.

WHY ARE YOU SUCCEEDING? (5:10 in)

In Katie’s words – I enjoy helping people improve their home. Provide a high level of quality at a fair value and treat our customers with respect and run our business in a very ethical way.

Tip – Always do the right thing. Help people improve their lives.

WHAT’S THE VALUE IN BEING A FRANCHISEE? (6:13 in)

In Katie’s words – The brand experience I bring to my client’s is the same as it in California, or Oregon or New Jersey is trying to bring to their clients as well.

WHAT DEGREE OF INDEPENDENCE DO YOU HAVE? (7:40 in)

In Katie’s words – I have a lot of leeway in terms of which vendors do I use; select my own installers; handle my own marketing.

Tip – Check to see if the franchisor has the procedures and processes in place for you to flourish independently.

WHERE DOES THE FRANCHISOR HELP THE MOST? (8:00 in)

In Katie’s words – They have really strong relationships with flooring manufacturers. Their sales process is so well laid out and defined you’re successful. My close rate has increased 21 points.

Tip – Sales training and in depth practice sessions are valuable.

WHAT’S FRUSTRATING IN THIS BUSINESS? (11:28 in)

In Katie’s words – In the beginning I felt like I was spending an awful lot of marketing money for very little return.

Tip – It takes investment and hard work to build a brand.

WHAT QUESTIONS SHOULD YOU CONSIDER IN BUYING INTO A FRANCHISE? (15:37 in)

In Katie’s words – You’re going to have to be running and working that business for some period of time and build the business up before you can let your staff run it. Balance the line between working in the business and on the business.

Tip – Know that you’ll feel comfortable in your selected business. Talk to franchisees about the investments they have made and the length of time it’s taken for them to earn a good return. Assess the level of support you’ll get from the franchisor.