It surprises many clients that, when I am helping them to become more profitable, I spend a lot of time diagnosing, then supporting, the company’s organization. They say, “Why are you wasting your time on how we’re organized? We want financial improvements!”
Turns out, the finance department has less to do with getting financial improvements than the marketing and operations sides of the business. And the culture of marketing and operations—inside the four walls of the company, as well as through interactions with the outside—determines how fast and effectively you can begin to prosper again.
Consider two recent clients, both in fiendishly competitive markets. One came to me to help restore profitability. The other, with the mission of doubling revenues in 18 months. Both important goals and in many ways, similar.
Company one: There were process manuals on the wall, but the real company ran by personality. Fear, intimidation, sniping and recrimination. The staff ended each day emotionally drained.
When I suggested critical improvements, the CEO objected, saying he couldn’t get good people and the changes would be costly in dollar terms. My vision eventually won over the staff, and the company is now doing much better. But I wonder what will happen in a couple of years, as an evident reluctance to value people wears down the goodwill.
The second company–the one with the incredible growth objective—had a different view, which was never stated but which I recognized immediately. Valuing staff, practicing coordination, subscribing to basic business formalities and courtesies. Each staff member had a personal growth objective, which included training and valued professional designations. Each—from lowest to highest—had a say in staff meetings.
And each had gleam in their eye and an evident attitude of warmth and eagerness.
The growth plan for this company includes doubling down on this incredible culture, to ensure that all customers see and understand it in tangible ways.
The lesson to me is simple: a great corporate culture is not a wasted dollar cost. Rather, it is an invaluable asset.
And I will go further: it seems to me that part of the deal of dramatically improving the wealth of a company should include dramatically improving the wealth of the people who work there. That means investing in their careers and well-being. In a sense it is a kind of profit-sharing. But in another sense, when the economic objectives are realized, it’s really free.
February 22, 2016