Why Great Leaders Value Reputation Before Revenue

How to Put Principles Into Practice

Reputation

In 1996, I walked away from my first million-dollar client. Anyone looking at my company’s profit and loss statements would have questioned my sanity.

We were less than a year old at the time, and this was by far our highest-profile customer. I made this seemingly crazy decision because I value my company’s reputation over its revenue.

Making Business Decisions

Many leaders rely on Excel spreadsheets to drive their decision-making. They think something is only worth doing if the numbers add up and the price is right. My company, on the other hand, uses a set of five core principles to gauge every business decision it makes:

  • Employees come first, always.
  • Work as a team; win as a team.
  • Reputation comes before revenue.
  • Commit to safety.
  • Make it happen!

Our big client didn’t share any of these values with us. Further, he was overly harsh with my team members and set unrealistic expectations. Our weekly status meetings with him became sources of dread because it didn’t matter how well the previous week went; it was never good enough.

The entire office’s morale suffered, and I had to make a decision:

Do I put my principles first, or do I put my revenue first?

I quickly realized that if I put revenue first, there didn’t seem to be much of a point in having principles. If I sacrificed our core values in the name of profit, how could my team ever respect me or our values again?

The decision became easy — we walked away.

Money is Fleeting. Reputation is Forever

As leaders, we’re often tempted to compromise things — be it ethics, principles, or happiness — to maximize short-term profits. While compromise might immediately boost our portfolios, it doesn’t necessarily help build our reputations.

I’d argue that a company’s reputation is all that really matters, and having a good one is the only way to ensure long-term success. It’s the reason my company has so many great clients today, and it’s the reason they constantly refer new business to us.

This is a philosophy that was instilled in me during my youth in the Midwest. We had a folksier way to sum it up, though:

Pigs get fat, and hogs get slaughtered.”

Everyone has a right to a living, but greed yields guaranteed downfalls — and I’m not interested in being a hog.

Staying on Course

The benefits of this approach aren’t just lasting. By removing immediate profits as sole drivers of business decisions, you’ll no longer be tempted to veer your company off course to accommodate difficult clients with deep pockets. This will solidify your brand as a stable, upstanding, and moral institution — and that reputation alone will drive your growth today and tomorrow.

The great corporate scandals of the world (think Enron) typically involve companies that value short-term revenues over all other considerations. And what does that earn them? Bankruptcy, bad press, and prison time.

Putting Principles Into Practice

Having personal principles is one thing, but having company-wide shared principles that guide every level of decision-making — from the corner office to the reception desk — is something that requires practice, patience, and communication.

Here are a few tips to help you instill this reputation-centric mindset into your company:

  • Provide mentorship and coaching. Look for opportunities to mentor, coach, and train your employees to make sure they have clear understandings of your company’s core values. Show them what it looks like, and feels like, to do the best quality work in your industry while maximizing your company’s reputation.
  • Ask great questions. There’s a management style called “inspect what you expect” that involves asking your employees quality questions to ensure the things you want completed are, in fact, being completed. It’s a low-impact form of oversight that’s more trusting and less stressful than full-on micromanagement — and it will help you determine what’s going on outside the walls of your office.
  • Align expectations. Meet with every employee and client to make sure they understand what your company is all about and how you got to where you are. Also provide them with a list of your core values, as well as specific examples of those values in action. This will give everyone a clear understanding of what to expect, and it will also show employees how to exceed expectations.
  • Make happiness your success metric. Don’t look at your bottom line to assess whether your company had a good year. Instead, look at the quality of your work, the happiness of your employees, the contentment of your clients, and the state of your recurring

Don’t let that one difficult, deep-pocketed client turn your business into something it isn’t. If you stay true to the values near and dear to your heart, the right clients will find you.

So, do you have a client or supplier that has dramatically different values than your organization? If so, would you give them up despite the cost to save your reputation? How important is your reputation you? I would love to hear your thoughts!

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Steve Randazzo is the founder and president of Pro Motion Inc
He builds deep emotional connections with consumers to create lifelong relationships
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On Leadership, Threats and Operational Security

Navigating Cyber Insurance for Your Small Business

Hacking Threats

A few years ago, a small business in San Diego was hit my malicious cyber attacks over the internet that were launched from local IP addresses.

As they were protected as much as they felt they could be, they contacted the national carrier to deal with the denial-of-service component of the problem.

Too Small to Service

After going through several levels of management, the answer that they heard was that the carrier gets about 10 million threats per day on their network and it is pretty difficult to assume that they would be given some kind of priority as a small business to have your problem explored.

Understanding that type of threat, which was simply a script being run through several zombie computers, can escalate to actual specialists trying to actively access your Internet information was enough to drive the owners towards looking at specialized business insurance that could keep them safe from liability.

What is Cyber Insurance?

The most common way for small businesses to get protection is to first ensure that they have as industry security compliance on their cloud presence as possible. After they have done so, they can look at cyber insurance. Cyber insurance is a form of insurance that covers almost any type of business attack from hacking to data breaches.

If you lose a client’s data or valuable data of your own, you can recover some of your losses or offset the liability with an insurance claim. Some forms of coverage also cover the loss of work time due to denial of service attacks.

Small companies are fortunate that almost 90 percent of the policies that are available provide coverage to companies inside the United States. Another nice feature is that the bulk of the policies can be priced by getting insurance quotes online.

Preparing to Get a Policy

As mentioned, upgrading or validating that you have industry standard security compliance is an important part of qualifying for cyber insurance. If you have an online e-commerce site, you should have encryption, a good hosting provider, and potentially a third-party service that verifies your site security.

The cost of preparing for cyber insurance can be a consideration for small businesses, so if you are just starting you might consider talking to cyber insurance representatives about the requirements that they have so that you can focus on meeting their criteria.

Another area that comes into play is knowing the type of coverage that you think you will need. If you store client credit cards online in a database, you will likely focus on a different type of coverage than if you are a company that uses a third-party payment processor’s site to process transactions for published material that carries copyrights.

Are They Really Out There?

A lot of smaller companies have not formerly had too many problems that they know of when it comes to the information that they keep online. Two trends are changing that picture. The first trend is one that has more businesses relying exclusively on computing in the cloud.

The second is that security researchers are finding pieces of data from every size company imaginable online in what is known as the Internet ‘dark’, or an area that people use to store information that may be for sale. Gone are the days when hackers were exclusively interested in finding ways to beat security or promoting a cause. With billions of people online, the focus has shifted to money and information.

New Operational Threats

As far as attacks are concerned, in addition to outright hacking and employee theft, there are a couple other types of attack that are growing in popularity.

  • One is stealing the anonymity from people and putting together a trail of behavior that can be used as business intelligence.
  • The other is creating boiler rooms that are information clearinghouses of stolen data that goes on the market to whichever organization or person that will pay for it.

The net result for small businesses is a competitive disadvantage for their online offerings unless they have adequate security- and potentially some insurance protection in place. For the small business owner who hasn’t recently checked their security arrangements, 2016 is a great time to start looking at turning a disadvantage into a sales advantage by validating the notion that your client and internal data is secure.

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Robert Cordray

Robert Cordray is a freelance writer with over 20 years of business experience
He does the occasional business consult to help increase employee morale
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On Leadership, Communication and the Personal Touch

Why Leaders Still Needs the Personal Touch In Today's Digital World

Electronic Communication

Digital channels like email, instant messaging, social media, and video conferencing can make communication within a business a lot easier easier.

It can allow leaders and teams to keep in touch with the office even if you are on the other side of the world.

However, it is important to realise that these methods cannot completely replace face-to-face conversation.

The Power of Person

Indeed, speaking to someone directly offers several benefits that cannot be recreated digitally. Personal communication remains the best method for delivering crucial information. If you need to get an important point across, inspire your workforce, handle a sensitive issue, or move people to action, face-to-face remains the best way to effective communicate.

This is why leadership training should still contain a strong direct communication element.

This article looks at some of the reasons why a good leader in the digital world still needs the personal touch.

The Personal Touch

Personal Relationships

Despite the obvious convenience aspect of modern digital communication methods, a significant part of leadership involves forming personal relationships with the people you are leading.

This is much easier to do when you are in the same room as them, talking to them directly.

Furthermore, direct conversations allow you to give people your undivided attention. If you are on a video call, or using an online messaging system, you may become distracted by an email or by having multiple communication channels open at once.

Talking to someone on a one-to-one basis lets them know that you value them enough to drop everything else and allows more authentic, individual connections to form.

The importance of forming meaningful connections with your employees is often emphasised in management skills training and it is significantly more difficult, if not impossible, to do that through an electronic device.

Clarity and Nuance

One of the primary advantages of digital communication is said to be speed. And indeed, when it comes to simply getting a message to someone else, it can be extremely quick. However, that speed can be counter-balanced by a lack of clarity, ultimately making it less efficient than face-to-face conversation.

Mina Chang, CEO of Linking The World explains it this way:

It’s easy to misinterpret a text or email. For sensitive or otherwise important communication, having tone and body language for context makes a difference.”

Research shows that effective communication relies on non-verbal cues. Generally, digital communication removes these, along with nuance, increasing the chance of misinterpretation. Tone, for instance, cannot be conveyed through email or text messaging, while even video communication impacts upon the ability to read body language.

Sensitivity

Throughout their leadership career, people will encounter a number of serious or sensitive issues, which need to be dealt with carefully. For example, they may need to address an employee’s personal appearance, deal with a complaint about workplace bullying, or give a staff member a strong verbal warning about their conduct.

Dealing with such issues face-to-face demonstrates your personal commitment to reaching the best possible outcome. It helps to foster a greater level of trust between you and the employee in question and it is the best way to ensure that their dignity is preserved and your message is clear.

Reactions and Feedback

Finally, leadership often relies upon feedback and the ability to gauge reactions accurately, which can be done more easily through direct communication. You may notice hesitations or changes in facial expressions, which can act as a cue for you to develop points further or ask for opinions.

This ability is inevitably lost through digital communication channels.

Employees like to feel as though they are valued and their contributions to discussions matter. Once again, it is easier for them to make contributions during face-to-face conversations, which allow for interruptions or deviations.

Moreover, people pay closer attention and participate more actively in conversations if the person they are speaking to is actually present. This is partly because they are also aware that that person can pick up on their reactions.

So, what can you do to make your communications more effective by making them more personal? How can you create environments that make it easier for all team members to communicate confidently with personal tones and calm body language? What steps can you take to evaluate how you come across to others? I would love to hear your thoughts!

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Alison Brattle

Alison Brattle is a marketing manager at Uk Based Company AchieveGlobal
She specialises in providing Exceptional Leadership Management Courses
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Employee Development: Who Should Take Responsibility?

Training Development

Having been on both sides of the manager-employee equation, I sometimes wonder who should take responsibility of an employee’s growth and development.

This because I am a firm believer of self-awareness and constant growth of an individual.

Finding the Way

The process of identifying a development area and then working on it is now ingrained in me and I consciously work on it. However, some aspects of an individual are harder to identify and work on, than others. Some habits if not identified and worked on in the nascent stage can become an annoying trait.

These annoying traits can come back to bite an individual in the most crucial times.

I believe that in addition to an employee taking responsibility for their growth, managers should also take the time to give timely and appropriate feedback.

On Strengths and Weaknesses

Of all of my personality traits I have worked on over the years, some were easily identifiable by me. However, there were a couple of weaknesses that if not pointed out by my manager, I would never have identified the root cause and possibly never worked on them.

From my experience, each and every aspect of an individual can be worked on by carefully identifying the root of the problem and then coming up with appropriate steps to correct it. Having an understanding mentor or coach is the key to this process especially for those problems that are harder to work on.

Sometimes a couple of different solutions may have to be tried before one can completely fix a problem but the key is to keep trying.

Performance Reviews

What I have often seen is that most managers (if not all) dread when the time comes to giving performance evaluations to their employees.

This begs the question why?

  • Evaluating an employee’s performance should not be such a fearful process.
  • After all aren’t managers are also supposed to be coaches for their direct reports?
  • Isn’t annual review the time for employee growth and development?
  • Shouldn’t performance evaluation be the time where managers can be proud of their coaching skills?

Well, there is only one explanation of why this happens. These managers don’t give direct feedback to the employees all-year-round and wait for the yearly performance evaluation cycle. Some companies conduct mid-year evaluations. Even if companies don’t mandate a mid-year performance evaluation, managers should make it a habit to give feedback to their employees throughout the course of the working year.

Be Wise, No Surprise

Another important aspect of the review process is that any feedback should not come as a surprise to the employee at the performance evaluation time. If the feedback is a surprise, it would certainly make the process difficult and dreadful.

Coaching employees is one of the most rewarding skills for a manager and they should make it work to everyone’s advantage.

I would urge all managers to not let any annoying habit fester in an employee. Help them identify the root cause and work with them to correct it. It is quite possible that they may not be fully aware of the issue and simply need an empathetic guidance.

So how are you doing at identifying your personal and professional needs for growth? And better yet, how well are you doing this same thing for the people that you lead? What can you start doing TODAY to provide the helpful feedback your people need to help them learn, grow, and develop better performance? I would love to hear your thoughts!

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Aditi Chopra
Aditi Chopra is an experienced leader in the software industry
She is a consultant, writer and a leader
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Leading Individuals for Organizational Health

Help Your Employees Navigate Healthcare

Healthcare Costs

Today, employees need quite a bit of help staying and keeping healthy in order to live a good life and keep your organization healthy.

But with seismic shifts in the landscape of healthcare costs and options, many employees can get lost in all the confusion.

Costs and Care

The Affordable Care Act has made remarkable strides toward improving Americans’ access to care. Since its 2010 debut, about 16.4 million previously uninsured Americans have obtained coverage. Those gains stem from healthcare marketplace purchases and young adults receiving coverage through parents’ plans until age 26.

According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, while the law has reduced America’s uninsured rate from a little more than 16 percent in 2013 to barely 10 percent today, it hasn’t been so effective at reducing costs — affordable care is still out of reach for many Americans.

A Families USA report found a quarter of insured adults skipped necessary care to avoid costs. The Kaiser Family Foundation cited 48 percent of uninsured adults said care is unaffordable, even though more than 70 percent had at least one full-time worker in their households.

And because so many Americans receive employer-sponsored coverage, businesses are feeling the hurt, too. With the average annual premium for employer-sponsored family coverage reaching $17, 545 in 2015, company leaders are struggling to provide workers with reasonably priced coverage.

Without proper care, workers are less reliable and less productive.

Fortunately, there’s a solution that can significantly diminish the burdens of care for employers and low-income working Americans.

Healthy Options

Medicaid for American Families and Businesses

The ACA expanded Medicaid to those with incomes below 138 percent of the federal poverty level, but it remains underutilized by working families.

Medicaid provides comprehensive coverage comparable to or better than most private plans. Enrollees enjoy minimal to no premiums, deductibles, copays, or pharmacy costs, as well as benefits like vision and dental care, non-emergency transportation, and substance abuse treatment.

When a parent enrolls, their children and spouse are also covered. Unsurprisingly, Medicaid recipients are just as satisfied, or more satisfied, than those with private coverage.

Medicaid expansion has also brought opportunity to business owners. Employers in the 31 Medicaid expansion states can transition eligible employees off of company-sponsored plans and onto Medicaid, freeing up thousands of dollars in premium costs per year.

Get Employees Covered

Business leaders can assist in transitioning eligible employees to Medicaid by following a few simple steps:

1. Arm employees with facts.

Medicaid is sometimes stigmatized as being only for poor, unemployed individuals. However, this attitude is based on misinformation; millions of hard-working, employed Americans receive Medicaid. Clear up misconceptions by providing employees with reputable information:

  • Display comparisons between Medicaid’s costs and the costs of the company plan. For a family on a budget, these costs speak for themselves.
  • Explain that family coverage comes without additional dependent costs; outline Medicaid’s benefits for children.
  • Avoid stigmatizing terms like “welfare” or “charity care,” and answer employees’ questions calmly and factually.
  • Send or summarize studies explaining Medicaid’s benefits to skeptical employees; encourage them to do their own research.

2. Begin with new hires, then expand.

Rather than transitioning all eligible, interested employees at once, have HR first discuss Medicaid with new hires. It’s the perfect opportunity to get happy, compliant workers. Just don’t coerce employees to opt out of the company plan — it’s illegal.

Then, have HR set up one-on-one meetings to help other employees determine eligibility based on income information. If this proves too cumbersome for HR, consider contracting with a third-party enrollment service.

3. Cross the T’s and dot the I’s.

Make sure you, HR, or your third-party vendor follow up with employees after the process has begun.

Offer employees time and resources to complete their application at work — a time when they are much more likely to give their full attention, rather than during off hours. Have HR check that enrollees received mailed Medicaid cards; this part is crucial to maximizing the company’s savings.

4. Assist with annual renewal.

Many Medicaid enrollees don’t realize they need to renew coverage on a yearly basis, and this process leads to significant attrition. This could mean employees end up right back on company plans — an unnecessary financial burden for the employee and the company.

Keep employees covered by alerting them when the renewal period is approaching. Remind them to bring renewal forms to work for assistance from HR or your third-party vendor.

Health insurance enrollment is open until Jan. 31, so now is the perfect time for business leaders to introduce employees to the Medicaid option. Medicaid isn’t something to be ashamed of — it could be your team’s path to better health.

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Benjamin Geyerhahn

Benjamin Geyerhahn is the founder and CEO of BeneStream
Benestream guides employers and employees through the Medicaid process
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Leaders: You Do Not Need to Be Nice to Be Kind

Chess Move

Kindness is not softness, it is not weakness, and it doesn’t always have to be nice.

In fact, sometimes kindness requires you to be tough and direct. I have seen the misinterpretation of this word negatively impact many organizations.

Leadership Mistakes

Leaders, in an attempt to be kind, move under-performing employees from position to position in the hopes that they will finally succeed or at least survive. Others allow deadlines to pass without repercussion or avoid having that fierce conversation that is needed in order to drive improvement and productivity.

Many of these leaders have adopted this style of kindness out of a reaction from working with or for a tyrannical ruler. They have witnessed how ineffective fear is in motivating people and driving an organization forward.

However, in an effort to be the antithesis of what they witnessed, they too have become ineffective.

Some are just new to their leadership role and worry about being liked. They lack the self-confidence needed and therefore, spend much of their time trying to please who that work for them.

But, neither of these is true kindness.

Leadership Wisdom

People need to understand where they stand, how they need to improve and what is at risk if they don’t.

Kindness requires empathy, honesty and trust. It means that at times you must be a mirror, reflecting back to a person the impact of their habits and behaviors.

Feedback, constructive criticism and accountability are all forms of kindness. People need to understand where they stand, how they need to improve and what is at risk if they don’t.

Leadership Looking Glass

It means that at times you must be a mirror, reflecting back to a person the impact of their habits and behaviors.

It may be counterintuitive, but letting someone go from their job could be a great act of kindness. For that individual, it very well may be that you are releasing them from the pain of being in the wrong job, giving them the freedom to finally pursue one that better fits their skills.

It could also be that difficult but teachable moment, where someone with a sense of entitlement finally realizes in fact they are not. Although no longer employed by you, they are now much better prepared for their next employment opportunity.

Maybe most importantly, it is an act of kindness to the rest of the organization.

It can be so demoralizing to be hard-working, a driven performer and not see those who aren’t be held accountable for their lack of performance.

Leadership Courage

When we care about others, we don’t want to be the cause of any pain or suffering.

No one relishes having difficult conversations or enjoys taking tough action. When we care about others, we don’t want to be the cause of any pain or suffering. But, avoiding those conversations and failing to take the needed action can be far more damaging in the long run.

Not only damaging to that individual, but also, to the efficacy of your own leadership and to the organization as a whole. Kindness requires that you push past your own discomfort and insecurity to take the needed action that best serves the interest of the company you help to lead.

You do not need to be nice to be kind. But, you must make people feel heard, cared for, valued and respected.

It is also essential that you always act with integrity and honesty and, that you have the conversations and take the action needed to best serve the organization you represent.

If you do all that, you are in fact a kind leader.

Remember: You do not need to be nice to be kind.

Thanks for reading.

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Elliot Begoun

Elliot Begoun is the Principal Consultant of The Intertwine Group, LLC.
He works with companies to Deliver Tools that Enable Growth
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8 Quick Tips Every Startup Should Know

Success and Failure

According to the United States Small Business Association, there are over 28 million small businesses operating in the US. These small businesses are responsible for 54 percent of domestic market share.

If you are launching a startup and want to make sure you’re putting your best foot forward, here are eight tips you’ll want to keep in mind.

8 Quick Tips Every Startup Should Know

1. Carefully Consider the Competition

No matter what type of business you’re launching, you need to be aware of the competition and the industry standards. For example, you may feel it’s reasonable to charge by the hour only to discover others are charging piecework or by project.

Learn about standard deposits, pricing, turnaround times, promotions and accepted unwritten rules before you embarrass yourself or drive away potential clients.

2. Define the Scope of Your Business

New businesses often struggle to define their parameters at the start, especially if clients are asking for services you may not have considered. If you launch a venture that offers printing for brochures, business cards, and training materials, clients may also start asking about billboards, banners, graphic design services and other related products.

Know where your scope ends and where to direct clients if you can’t meet all of their needs. Resist the urge to say yes to every requested job or you may find yourself mired in projects you are wholly unprepared to handle.

3. Enumerate What Makes Your Venture Attractive to Prospective Employees

The Wall Street Journal lists broad job categories, a customized position, more flexibility, opportunities for growth, and better employee treatment as ways to lure quality talent away from huge corporations. New startups often make the mistake of only worrying about attracting clients, but you also need to think long and hard about how to entice the best employees to your door.

Put together a list of potential benefits you’re willing to negotiate. Some, like flexible hours, may cost you nothing at all. Others, like offering quality health insurance and short-term disability insurance, may be worth the cost if they get you top talent.

4. Define Short and Long-Term Goals

Entrepreneur Magazine recommends setting goals of varying time frames so you are able to judge your progress with your own yardstick. For example, if you simply want to run a small side business from your home with perhaps one part-time employee to help you during the holiday season, there’s little sense comparing yourself to a startup venture where the owners are pushing to go public in five years. Know where you are going and where you want to be.

5. Organize Your Finances

Your startup may not make a profit for a while and you may also want to reinvest any profit back into the business. Make sure you have an adequate emergency fund and startup capital so you won’t be juggling your office lease with your mortgage.

If you will be doing your own bookkeeping, learn the software before you go live to avoid costly and time-consuming errors.

6. Know Where to Find Assistance, if You Need it

If you have an accident, get sick or need surgery, having someone you can trust to step in for a while can save your business. You also need to consider if you’ve networked enough to get professional assistance when you need it, especially if you anticipate large projects in the future.

Consider the “what if” scenarios now before they happen.

7. Keep a Reasonable Schedule

Launching a business can easily eat up your every waking hour. Exercise, time with loved ones, meals and even sleep can start to take a back seat to the demands of your startup. From the beginning, define your schedule and keep to it as much as possible. If you want to shut off your business phone at five each evening, do it. If you won’t respond to emails on weekends, make that clear from the beginning. Don’t allow your ambition to overrun all other facets of your life.

8. Make Certain You’re Properly Insured

The Small Business Association enumerates the various types of business insurance available, and the options are broad indeed. General liability insurance can cover everything from slip-and-fall accidents at your shop to legal fees for libel or slander.

If you produce a consumable product, you may want to consider product liability insurance. Meet with your insurance agent early to discuss your venture’s details before a situation arises where you should have already been insured. A single lawsuit could put you out of business, so it pays to explore all options.

Launching your own business is an exciting time. By keeping these tips in mind, you’ll be better prepared for the process and can avoid costly, frustrating errors.

Do you have any other additional tips on how to be successful in a startup business? I would love to hear your thoughts!

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Robert Cordray

Robert Cordray is a freelance writer with over 20 years of business experience
He does the occasional business consult to help increase employee morale
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Company Culture Key to Surviving Success

How to Prioritize Organizational Values Above Growth

Company Culture 2

There is a contradiction within most organizations that usually goes overlooked: success can be hazardous to culture.

We tend to overlook this fact because it is so counter-intuitive. If things are going well, we might ask, then how can that be a hazard to anything?

Losing Sight of Cultural Values

Unfortunately, larger or growing organizations can easily lose sight and influence over the importance of their culture. Consequently, this makes refocusing on cultural values a more complicated prospect after they have been ignored or neglected.

David Hassell, CEO of the Silicon Valley-based startup 15Five explains it this way:

Generally, the trend has been you go from small and nimble to large and bureaucratic. I don’t know that that’s the way it has to be, but that’s the trend.”

Hassell’s company works with organizations facing cultural dilemmas; that confusing state when a company has grown, but its culture hasn’t grown and adapted along with it. Business is good, because culture is commonly neglected, even in successful organizations.

Row in the Same Direction

One of the first things [an organization needs to do] is ask: who are the early, founding members?” Hassell says. “Why did this group come together—what is their common vision, their shared values, their world view?”

Hassell’s advice echoes a popular sports analog from the crew world that implores teams to “row in the same direction.” This is fine advice, if your only goal is to move the boat in an inflexible path forward.

But when teams exist as an organization, whether it is a business, a corporation, or even a department, the goal is rarely as simple as just rowing in the same direction. More likely, the team’s goal is to both move the boat and to simultaneously grow it.

This requires things like:

  • Developing talent
  • Investing in technology
  • Growing the team and each team member
  • Taking on more ambitious projects
  • And so on…

We Need a Bigger Boat

This is where maintaining culture, preserving foundational values, gets complicated. The boat is getting bigger, and in time, rowers are replaced with motors and engines. Suddenly you find yourself shouting over a massive, powerful machine for everyone to “Row in the same direction!”

But nobody is rowing. They are all specialized, siloed, and focused on all sorts of segmented goals, driven by whatever motivations they happen to respond to.

Your boat—your organization—may not sink immediately, but neither will it be as maneuverable, as responsive to change, or as resilient in the face of obstacles because it is no longer held together by a healthy culture.

The Culture of Growing-Up

Company CultureOf course, aligning values is easier when an organization is small. But something happens during the scaling process. It feels a lot like success. Or even outright victory.

This is because the things that got you started are paying off. The team is growing, revenues are increasing, and you suddenly have demand for things you didn’t need before.

These are things like:

  • An HR department
  • Employee handbooks
  • Benefits
  • Insurance

As well as justification for investing in others that you’ve always wanted:

  • Specialists
  • An-house design team
  • Remote sales reps
  • Marketing department

The mistake that many organizations and leaders make that lead to the sort of bureaucratic growth on which Hassell laments is to think that a good strategy can overcome any organizational ailment.

Culture Trumps Strategy

Implementing yet another top-down solution doesn’t restore intimacy in communication, repair trust in leadership, or fill any of the voids that a keep a culture healthy and resilient.

Everybody knows that culture trumps strategy every day of the week,” says Michael Crow, President of Arizona State University.

Crow, understands the challenges of taking on a neglected, discordant culture. As part of his role at the university, he decided not just to transform his organization (the school), but to take on something much bigger: the culture of an entire country.

His strategy? The same as Hassell’s advice for startups and young companies: seek out like-minded thinkers and work to attract more people who are a good cultural fit.

Start at the Beginning

I’m not arguing that we need to go in and ‘change culture’ or drive cultural changes across people; what we have to do is find ways to understand our cultural heritages better,” says Crow.

To achieve this, Crow helped facilitate a partnership between ASU Online and the Mayo Medical School, in part to change how future doctors and nurses are trained in medicine.

The ultimate goal? To change how America thinks about health, wellness, and medical care.

But he is tackling this outsized goal the same way that small, start-up companies approach their niche goals. He is doing with a strategic partnership, rooted in a common vision.

Recruit With Wisdom

All the key challenges of leadership such as motivating, innovating, and empowering are directly impacted by the recruitment decisions being made, and the cultural values that inform and dictate how recruiting occurs.

Small organizations have it easier because they are at the beginning of the cultural evolution and they can put the focus on hiring for culture right from the start. But as Crow’s initiative demonstrates, rebuilding an unhealthy culture can start the same way.

Conversations about values, goals, and motives are the building blocks of company culture. It is never too late to initiate these conversations—but it is a lot easier to start having them early on.

So how important is a healthy, strong, and growing culture at your organization? As a leader, what steps can you take to get a clear picture of your corporate values structure and continue to improve them for a better culture? I would love to hear your thoughts!

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Learn, Grow & Develop Other Leaders
——————–

Edgar Wilson is a Writer, Consultant, and Analyst
He follows trends in Education, Healthcare, and Public Policy
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Image Sources: enterrasolutions.com, blogging4jobs.com

 

It’s Not Rocket Science: Leading, Inspiring and Motivating Your Team To Be Their Best (Difference Press, 2015)

Have you ever wondered what sets the great leaders apart from the “also-rans?”

Are you an overwhelmed leader who wants a magic formula to get your people to follow you anywhere?

Do you wonder why you can’t seem to get your employees motivated?

You can be “the boss” people follow because they want to–and motivate them to be their best. It shows you how to be leader who inspires the best effort from the people in your business or organization.

The book tells you what works, what doesn’t, and how to get it all done in a day’s work.

More About The Author Here

 

People Before Profits: 5 Ways to Lead Your Company and Brand

Lead With Heart to Boost Your Business

People or Money

My company sells wine, changes lives, and is growing rapidly. As a CFO-turned-CEO, my business philosophy is simple: Put people first, and the profits will follow.

I am in business to expand job opportunities and awareness for the nearly 57 million Americans who live with disabilities — including my son, Matt. Although my company, 100 Percent Wine, donates all profits to organizations helping people with disabilities find jobs, I’ve seen revenue grow and my brand expand.

The trust and loyalty, generated by brand alignment with a cause, is a powerful differentiator.”

Building Trust

In fact, 90 percent of consumers are more likely to trust a company that supports social or environmental initiatives. Similarly, nine in 10 consumers say they’d switch brands to support a good cause, given a similar price and quality.

As a businessman, I know shareholders want the company to turn a profit. Fortunately, shareholder gains and social responsibility can do more than coexist — they can actually further one another. For instance, the 2014 Global Economics of Disability report proves that companies that support people living with disabilities actually produce higher long-term returns for shareholders.

My Son, My Business

My son was the inspiration for my company. As a father, it pained me to watch Matt face the stigma and assumption that he couldn’t do things I knew he was fully capable of doing. And throughout his life, Matt will have to work hard for job opportunities.

Just 17.1 percent of people with disabilities are employed, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

I took my business background and set out to change that. While my company is still young, its mission has generated a healthy buzz around the wine and the brand. Considering that 100 million Americans have a friend or family member living with a disability, who doesn’t want to expand opportunities for this community?

Socially Responsible Leadership Strategies

If you want to help the world, cultivate goodwill toward your brand, and boost sales, it’s time for you to employ a “people before profits” philosophy at your company.

Here’s how to do it:

1. Authentically Share Your Story

Authenticity is a critical component of a people-first business strategy. Customers are too smart for greenwashing, and they can see through half-hearted giving. FIFA has no shortage of environmental and social initiatives, but that has done little to improve the organization’s public image.

Instead, tell customers what inspired you to show that you’re serious about improving society. Although I hesitated to share Matt’s story, I quickly realized that customers needed to know why I had dedicated myself to this cause. Now, people understand why I’m doing this and empathize with my mission to improve the world for people with disabilities.

2. Donate Wisely and Expect Results

Customers want to see you give charitably, not just talk about it.

However, be sure you vet charities carefully to ensure your dollars do as much good as possible.”

I searched long and hard to ensure 100 Percent Wine’s profits go to the most innovative, creative organizations working to provide jobs for people with disabilities.

We gave our first grant to UCP Heartland because it helps businesses find qualified staff from this community, and we’ll measure our impact by the number of jobs created through our donations.

3. Get Involved

While financial support is important to fixing any of our world’s ills, doing volunteer work for the cause shows customers you’re willing to work in the trenches.

100 Percent Wine seeks to partner with both nonprofit and for-profit organizations that create jobs for people living with disabilities. Sure, I could just write a check every month, but actually working to create sustainable jobs for people with disabilities is so much more valuable. Show your customers why you care by volunteering, working directly with nonprofits, and advocating.

4. Engage the Entire Organization

This can’t just be a CEO initiative; the whole company should care about your cause. Hold rallies to pump up employees, and look for empathy and dedication when hiring new team members.

I’ve made sure every member of my company cares about helping people with disabilities just as much as I do. I hired my talent scout Chuck Blossom to make sure we had the right people on board. Chuck was previously CEO of Boone Center Inc. in St. Charles, Missouri, which employs hundreds of people with cognitive and physical disabilities. He is the right guy for his role.

Additionally, more than one-third of our team consists of people living with disabilities. As we expand further, I’ll continue to vet people not just on their skills, but also on their dedication to helping individuals with disabilities.

5. Think Long-Term

A mission to improve lives can’t be a short campaign. When considering a socially responsible brand strategy, ensure your company’s leaders are on board for the long haul.

To effect change and build loyalty, your brand must be committed to a cause for years to come.”

Newman’s Own has given $450 million to thousands of charities since its inception in 1982. The brand has built a following around the fact that it donates 100 percent of profits to charity, and people everywhere associate the name with charitable giving.

In fact, Newman’s Own inspired my pledge to give 100 percent of my company’s profits to organizations helping the community of people with disabilities.

Leading Lifelong Decisions

Even before my son Matt was born, I knew business should do more than make a profit. But the experience of fatherhood has influenced me to spend my days working to benefit Matt and everybody living with disabilities.

The decision hasn’t just given me a strong business — it’s creating a better world for people living with disabilities.

So what can you and your business do to put people before profits and make the world a better place? What sort of organizing and leadership will it take from your organization to get things moving in a better direction? I would love to hear your thoughts!

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Never miss an issue of Linked 2 Leadership, subscribe today here!
Learn, Grow & Develop Other Leaders
——————–
Scott Monette

Scott Monette is the founder of 100 Percent Wines, a premium winery.
He donates all profits to nonprofits helping people with disabilities
Email | LinkedIn | Web

Image Sources: miteshkhatri.com