Growth vs Culture In A Time of “Full Employment”

I am currently re-reading “Built to Last” the great book by Jim Collins and Jerry Porras.  In Chapter 6, entitled “Cult-Like Cultures” the authors discuss their finding of almost religious adherence to a company’s culture within the companies they have labeled as visionary. Following a section describing one person’s experience at Nordstrom, they revealed that contrary to their initial expectation, they found that many of the visionary companies were not great places to work unless team members completely bought the company’s culture. “We learned that you don’t need to create a “soft” or “comfortable” environment to build a visionary company. We found that the visionary companies tend to be more demanding of their people than other companies, both in terms of performance and congruence with the ideology.”  ““VISIONARY,” we learned, does not mean soft and undisciplined. Quite the contrary. Because the visionary companies have such clarity about who they are, what they’re all about, and what they’re trying to achieve, they tend to not have much room for people unwilling or unsuited to their demanding standards.” My coaching clients have taught me that Mission, Vision and Culture (MVC) are extremely important toward consistently delivering long-term value and success, both to the community, the company and the team.  This brings me to a major set of questions:
  • If a demanding MVC reduces the number of people who will be happy working at your company, and if there is virtually full-employment in your area, how will you be able to bring value to a growing number of customers, clients, patients (CCPs) if you cannot recruit team members who will embrace your MVC? GROWTH
  • If due to a lack of viable candidates, you lower the bar and begin to hire team member who are not totally committed your MVC, will your business’ MVC deteriorate? Will you lose your competitive advantage?  CULTURE
  • Finally, does all of this remain completely relevant as the pool of candidates shifts toward millennials?
I admit to not having complete answers to these questions.  However, I do think that businesses that deliver value to the world will be much more attractive to potential team members, regardless of their age group, than companies that exist simply to make money.  What do you think?

2018 Business Excellence Forum – Blinding Flashes of the Obvious Part 1

For the third year in a row I must say, the Business Excellence Forum (BEF) gets better each year, and the 2018 event was no exception.  This year there were more than 700 business owners, executives, team members and business coaches in attendance in San Diego, California.  With that many attendees, there was an abundance of formal and informal exchanges of ideas, strategies, success stories and best practices. This year’s forum had an extensive list of keynote speakers whose presentations yielded many Blinding Flashes of the Obvious (BFOs) and new ways of looking at things.  The following are some of the BFOs that struck a chord with me, most of which will enhance the value I bring to my clients.  I am sure that some of these will have a similar effect on you. During the opening session, Brad Sugars, founder, and Chairman of ActionCOACH shared the following during a presentation of the 21 Biggest Mistakes in Marketing:
  • Mistake #4 – No Numbers / At ActionCOACH we have the concept of Measure & Test. For example, in creating marketing materials, such as advertisements, we coach our clients to test multiple headlines and measure the level of response, rather than simply using one headline.  After measuring response, our clients can hone in on an effective headline.  Brad suggested that Google or Facebook are perfect venues to test marketing headlines.
  • Mistake #9 – Going for 1 sale vs. 100 / The concept of marketing for multiple sales, rather than going for one sale. This involves targeting out-bound message, while calling for in-bound response.
  • Mistake #12 – Wrong Words/Pictures / Marketing materials must address your target’s values, not your company’s values. I will be blogging and tweeting more of the 21 Biggest Mistakes during the next few weeks.
Our first Keynote speaker was Elizabeth McCormick, an amazing lady.  Ms. McCormick was the first female helicopter pilot in the US Army.  In addition to teaching the entire audience how to fly a helicopter, she laid out many gems, here are a few:
  • “If you believe that something is hard, it will be hard. If you believe something is easy, it will be easy not as hard
  • She demonstrated the “Can you exercise.” She asked a volunteer to the stage.  The volunteer extended their arm out to the side with their thumb down.  Elizabeth then:
    • Pushed down on the volunteer’s arm while the subject was resisting to establish a benchmark of the amount of force needed to overcome the resistance
    • Next, she had the subject say “I can’t” three times. When she pushed the volunteer’s arm down this time she was able to easily overcome the resistance.
    • Finally, she had the subject say “I can” three times. This time she had to apply much more force to overcome the volunteer’s resistance. Just in case we thought she was faking, the entire audience paired off, did the exercise and came up with the same result.
    • The purpose was to move us from our comfort zone to our Potential Zone.
  • “We all have a responsibility to lead from where we are.”
Stay tuned for the next installment of BFOs from the 2018 BEF.

How Complex Is Your Business?

While working with one of my clients whose medical practice has been growing very rapidly, the subject of maintaining organizational focus and culture came up.  As our discussion progressed I was reminded of a few flip charts Brad Sugars, the founder and chairman of ActionCOACH, presented at one of our conferences.  Brad first drew a two person company with one direct connection between the people. That flip chart looked something like this:Two Connections The next flip chart showed a three person company that had three direct connections between the people, looking something like this:Three Connections His third flip chart was a four person company with six direct connections: Four Connections Brad’s final flip chart was of an eight person organization showing twenty eight direct connections. Eight Connections My client, with a stunned look on her face, saw this and said “No wonder I’ve had so many problems controlling the growth of my business.” Just to recap: connections table The simple formula for this is:

Direct Connections = ((Number of People * (Number of People – 1) / 2)

Using this formula it is easy to see that the level of complexity in a company grows at a much greater rate than the company’s growth rate. Is your business starting to look a little bit more complex than perhaps you realized? So how are we to grow our businesses, maintaining organizational focus and effectiveness?  There are four key things you must accomplish in order to grow in control:
  1. Have a clear company Mission, Vision and Culture (MVC) – A strong and clear MVC that is aligned and congruent with your company’s Unique Value Proposition (UVP) is the cornerstone of healthy consistent growth.
  2. Communicate and Educate – You must constantly communicate your MVC and UVP to your team, both internal and external, and to your customers, both existing and potential. You must educate new team members and potential customers about your MVC and UVP and the Why behind them (Read Simon Sinek’s book “Start With Why” for further insight).  And most importantly it is absolutely essential that you eat, sleep and breathe your MVC and UVP.
  3. Plan your organization – Although many like to promote flat organizational models, completely flat organizations quickly lose their effectiveness as they scale up. Thus it is vitally important to plan the organizational structure of your company.  At one end of the scale, completely flat will not allow for effective growth, at the other end of the scale, old fashion command and control will compromise creativity and nimbleness.
  4. Be Proactive – Most companies grow organically, without very much forethought or advanced planning. Too often companies reach the point of no return structurally and fail.  All of my clients have a vision of how their companies will be structured working backward from three to five years in the future.  You should do the same.
My ActionCOACH colleagues and I will be happy to assist you to develop your MVC, UVP and Organizational Structure, all of which will prepare your business for exceptional growth.

Would I Fire My Client If I Owned His Company?

During a coaching session the other day, one of my clients asked me a very interesting question.  To paraphrase his question –> given his shortcoming number one, and shortcoming number two, and etc., “if you (meaning me) owned my (meaning his) company and I was your employee, would you fire me?”  At first I was, I must admit, speechless.  After gathering my composure I realized a couple of things:
  • All of the shortcomings he mentioned represented areas that are outside of the ownership zone. They all focused on working IN the business rather than working ON the business. They revolved around tasks that he could, and should delegate.  My client owns a mid-sized manufacturing company with a front office team that has the theoretical capacity to accomplish most, if not all, of the items he mentioned.  On the other hand, his front office team may not be the right team to accomplish the items.  Which led me to my second realization …
  • Being an owner is very different from being an employee. An owner has several prime responsibilities, among them are:
    • To create and maintain a success environment for his team
    • To create, communicate and live the company’s Mission, Vision and Culture (M/V/C)
    • To design, build and lead the company and its team to ensure consistent delivery of the company’s M/V/C
So my answer to his question was that as an employee I might fire him.  As an owner however, he, as is the case for all of us, could improve.  I told him that it is time to build the kind of team to whom he could confidently delegate, not abdicate, those items that he shouldn’t be doing, is not good at or simply doesn’t like doing.  Effective and successful delegation will enable him to concentrate on working toward growing the business and fulfilling the company’s M/V/C, in other words, to grow as an owner.