The easiest way to improve profitability is to cut costs and that’s why it’s typically the first thing that happens when a new boss arrives.
I’ve always believed there is a better way.
Recent research shows that many of what I call “enlightened” CEOs, believe that improving your culture can improve your Operating Profit by as much as 20%. But it takes work and it takes time. Here is what some of what we have done and some of what it takes:
1. It takes a clear understanding of what your culture is, what you want it to be and a willingness to do whatever it takes to change it, because you believe that great culture and great results are synonymous.
2. It takes leadership. If you do not have strong leaders you are going to fail and even a great culture won’t save you. The people leading our groups need to believe it and be able to “transfer the belief”. They need to be fearless and be able to act with courage to do what is right. Easier said than done when the pressure is on.
3. Hire people that have the qualifications of course, but first and foremost, hire people that fit the culture.
a. Take pains to explain the culture during the interview process
b. Test their cultural fit and everything else in the interview process
c. Make sure they see lots of people and listen to your people if they think they might not fit
4. You need to put your people first. Always. Every decision needs to be about what is right for the people and believe that it will be returned 10-fold. Give them the benefit of the doubt.
5. Empower your people to be wrong and discuss it, not hide it. They need to know that it is all about succeeding as a team and everyone has a responsibility to help others succeed, not watch them fail.
6. Put team success ahead of individual success. This is one reason to carefully examine the type of person you hire. For example, at NRS Media I’ve never believed that we should hire people that fit true, driven “commission sales” profiles as Account Directors, because our team’s goals and the client’s goals must supersede any personal agenda.
7. It’s a no-brainer, but do everything you can to make your people successful in the field. Remove barriers, get them what they need to be successful and rally the rest of the company behind them.
8. Remove all negative motivation and introduce all positive motivators
a. Do not penalize your people (claw backs) unless it is something where they can control 100% of the outcome
b. Reward your people and let them catch up with their real lives, as often as possible. “Well Days”, vacation days and holidays are great tools. No one gains one minute of productivity by reducing our people’s time off. The opposite occurs
c. Remove the Tension between Business Development and Operations and F&A. All groups need to respectfully work as a team. They need to understand and appreciate the other group’s roles and responsibilities. No silos can exist
9. Have regular meetings to reinforce the culture but more importantly live it every day
a. Daily conversations to reinforce the importance with the team and confirm your support
b. Weekly team meetings which include management, operations and business units to share best practice
c. Monthly group meetings – we call them “Town Hall” meetings. We update the staff and have them update us. Use every opportunity to check the pulse of your culture.
10. Celebrate victories with vigour. Everyone needs to know that when we succeed we celebrate.
Larry Bleau is President of NRS Media Canada. Larry has an extensive background in marketing, advertising and media and regularly consults on business culture.