Rising Above the Storm: Using Your Assets to Break Through Growth Barriers
Competition is nibbling away at your market share.
An already lean staff is feeling stretched and overworked, with retention issues in your business and industry playing out daily.
Customers are increasing their demands, weighing in on your service model with alternative opinions and options for where they take their business.
The economy is volatile and showing signs of vulnerability, giving investors the jitters, thereby squeezing your resources, and making the management of them, more and more challenging.
Sound familiar? What do you do?
Conventional wisdom might say:
- Promote leaders who are extremely good at trimming waste, controlling efficient processes, and relying heavily on technology to inform their data-driven decision making.
- Keep employees excelling in their swim lanes and make sure they have the persistence and tools to execute their part of the business well.
- Mirror the competition and try to sell nuances of difference.
- Construct a “transformation team and program” to examine and change all the inefficiencies and problems that make you feel like you are treading water.
Ironically, these conventional wisdom strategies are creating 4 barriers to growth in a business climate that presents amazing opportunities to leap ahead of the crowd, and out of a business-as-usual culture.
How do you use your current assets, and a tight situation, to break through barriers to growth and catapult from surviving and thriving?
Jack, and his team at a national insurance company, did just that.
Growth Barrier #1
Promote efficient, cost-trimming, technology reliant leaders.
Jack was given a few weeks to assess this failing division of his company. When he went to the CEO with the faith it could be turned around, he was given 6 months to do it and the promise he could have any leaders he wanted, from throughout the company, to help him. Jack handed the CEO a list of twelve names that kept coming up whenever he would ask colleagues, “If you were going to start your own company, which twelve people from the corporation would you want on your team?” Their functional specialties were not as important as enthusiasm for learning and for innovating the culture as well as the business model.
These are just four strategies conventional wisdom says to use when your business is operating under tight constraints that are actual barriers to growth. What about using the hunger to innovate and change as a positive, and throw new light on assets, opportunities and new ways of working that cause business growth and develop people and customers at a whole new level of loyalty and performance?
Growth Barrier #2
Keep employees excelling in their swim lanes and make sure they have the persistence and tools to execute their part of the business well.
Some of the teams Jack inherited thought they were doing great, based on prior performance feedback and their technical excellence in their part of the business. The problem was, they were only looking at their part of the business and assumed the downward slope of the company was due to other factors, outside of their control.
Jack required them to start networking with their customers and gave them cross-functional problems to solve that helped them understand the whole of the business and how their collaboration and customer service, no matter what function they held, could improve the whole.
Growth Barrier #3
Mirror the competition and try to sell nuances of difference.
One of the first things Jack and his new team did was get rid of products that habitually yielded little to no value, even if they were being sold by the competition. Instead of just slashing them, he held company-wide meetings and business fairs. Employees learned how and why to make these kinds of business decisions and grew to understand why some products were discontinued.
There was also an opportunistic event that gave the company, in the throes of a turnaround, a chance to outshine the competition – a hurricane. Hurricanes would usually be bad news for an insurance company. Jack and team used it as an opportunity to go out and meet and serve their customers and agents face to face. They also used it as a way to challenge themselves to improve their claims systems, and they settled claims at least twice as fast as the next competitor.
Growth Barrier #4
Construct a “transformation team and program” to examine and change all the inefficiencies and problems that make you feel like you are treading water.
Jack had a new team and a visual model to show the entire company 12 planks of excellence and how good they were going to be. Some of his reports begged him for marching orders and mandates to just tell employees what to do by when, but Jack refused. Why? First, he knew from a past success that mandating some arbitrary dates for behaviors was not the way to bring about culture and performance change, and to grow the business. Second, he knew that the way to get the uptake on each of the 12 planks was to execute an excellent ground game.
In countless one-on-ones and small group sessions, Jack modeled and encouraged the behavior and results he wanted to see. Soon his direct reports began doing the same, and this new way of doing business naturally rippled through the company. Jack used an interesting metric: “When you hear them using your language and they think it is their own, you know that plank has stuck and it is time to move on to the next one.”
The outcome? In less than six months, the company turned around, becoming the corporation's most profitable entity within a year. This success story underscores the power of innovative thinking and a people-centric approach to overcome growth barriers and thrive in challenging times.