Growth Starts with a Management Commitment to Change!
There can be no growth without change, and there can’t be change without management commitment to do so.
Over my more than 35+ years, turning around, running, advising, and mentoring small businesses, the biggest thing that I’ve learned is that growth starts right at the top. Management drives the growth bus by not only enabling but demanding change. What you did yesterday, or even what you’re doing today, won’t get you the same results tomorrow. And that message has to resonate throughout the organization for change, and then real growth, to happen.
Over time, I’ve learned there are five fundamental steps to make this happen. However, like all fundamentals, they are simple to describe; not so simple to execute. They each require a commitment on the CEO or owner's part but can drive change in both short- and long-term growth for the organization for years to come.
A Commitment to Create A Culture That Is Employee-Centric and Customer-Focused.
Employees are the foundation of change and, therefore, growth. Embrace the belief that employees will treat customers exactly the way they are treated. Then create a relationship with your employees built on respect, honesty, accountability, trust, and growth. Treat them as professionals, not children. No deceit; no surprises. Just honest interactions. Hold them accountable by defining their job responsibilities and then giving them the authority to carry them out. Trust their judgment in making decisions, and even when they make a mistake, make it a teachable moment. Finally, provide the foundation for their professional growth with either internal or external career education opportunities.
A Commitment to Always Hire for Culture Fit First; Job Fit Second.
Once you’ve created the culture, change the way you hire. Make sure the person you’re hiring fits the culture before they fit the job. It’s easy to get the position filled, but not so easy to get the team filled. Prospective employees have to both embrace and agree with the culture BEFORE you hire them. Have other team members from different functions or departments be part of the interviewing process to see if they fit more than just the job spec. This will probably be a significant change in the way you have previously hired. But change begets growth.
A Commitment, As A Company, To Treat All Customers Like They Are Your Only Customer.
Commit to change the way the company treats its customers. The business exists because of the customers, not the products, not the marketing, not even the people. Customers, effectively, pay some portion of everyone’s salary. And while higher revenue/profit customers will always get your attention, no matter how large or small a customer is, in terms of revenue and profit, they should always feel like they are important. In fact, whether they reach out for information, get a question answered, or lodge a complaint, they should feel like they are your “only customer.”
A Commitment to Listen to Both Employees and Customers and Never Being Satisfied With Status Quo.
Commit continually to change the status quo. This requires you to develop a commitment to listen. It’s critical to keeping the lines of communication open and “an ear to the ground” regarding both employees and customers. With employees, you can do this with periodic, confidential “one-on-one’s” always asking questions, looking for ways for the company to do things better. I learned more about my company from these meetings than almost anything I did.
For customers, keep asking questions with regular, confidential surveys by a third party, allowing the customer to be honest without any repercussions. But listening is a two-edged sword. If you allow them to complain, suggest something new, or keep asking a question that never seems to get answered, you will turn them off; both the employees and the customers alike. So, the corollary to the commitment to listen carries forward the commitment to change. Some of the best changes I ever implemented in companies I ran, came from both employees and customers, often unsolicited. So, commit to listening…and then acting on what you hear. Then tell them you made the change...based on their input!
A Commitment That You and The Team Live That Culture…Everyday!
You have to “walk the talk” of commitment to both the culture and to change. That’s how real growth happens. It’s built on an ongoing commitment to living the culture and continually evolving. It’s not just value statements hanging on the wall or cards in employees’ wallets. It’s believing and living the words and not being afraid to tweak or modify them when it makes sense as you grow. It’s allowing employees and customers alike to be critical because they are like family. A family that tells it like it is, so you can all be better.
Growth cannot happen without change. Change cannot happen without management commitment. These five fundamentals form the foundation of that commitment. While they can’t drive growth by themselves, but they can drive change as long as management remains committed and, of course, that drives growth.
"The Entrepreneur's Yoda" knows these things. He's been there. May success be with you!