Last month we compared companies to people in terms of being winners and losers. We also noted that companies—like people—tend to live up or down to their self-image. When a company has a positive self-image it succeeds because people live up to that self-image. You will hear athletes say, “I feel like a winner when I put on that Yankee uniform.”
They are not winners because they win; they win because they are winners.
We also talked about each company having a collective personality. Here again, you can have a healthy, proactive, hard-working, mutually respectful collective personality or an unhealthy, hostile one. Healthy companies make money. Toxic ones do not.
Level of Maturity
Like people, some companies are immature. Often run by excitables, they are impulsive, wasteful, reckless, and make uninformed, emotionally-driven choices. Conversely, some are just old. Whether they have been in existence for a year or a century, they are doddering, slow-moving remnants of the past, ready for all the challenges of the 16th century. You can feel their weighty, inertia before you have consumed your first cup of coffee in the waiting area.
The best companies are healthy, strong, mature companies. They are forward-moving, but not reckless. They make decisions based on responsible discussion and appropriate research. They are efficient, but not compulsive. They, like good parents, are role models of success and maturity in the industry.
Immature companies often generate sales, but fritter their greenbacks away through irresponsible overspending or failure to honor their claims to their customers. Geriatric ones are usually strong in production and craftsmanship, but clueless with respect to the dynamics of today’s market. They conserve their coins, but alas, don’t generate many new coins. Mature companies balance sales, administration, and production. They make money.
Last month I encouraged you to look at your company from the standpoint of its self-image and collective personality.
Take an area, say customer service, and rate it by level: Excellent, good, average, marginal, or poor. But I suggest you push into the psychological arena a bit and try to find a single word that typifies the department. Or you could simply list adjectives—positive, upbeat, winning, ordinary, static, negative, losing—that best describe that sector.
If you have the stuff, include others’ assessments. If your company is large, gather your management/supervisory team and have them join you in rating the company in each area of operation.
Rate every area of the company, including upper management, and do everything short of taking a court oath to assure them that you want them to be honest and candid. Lack of candor is worse than no assessment at all. If your operation is small, do this with your entire workforce, or at least the key people.
In any case, leave plenty of time to discuss their impressions. Celebrate the good feedback—and surely there will be some if you are still in business—and focus on what you can do about the soft spots.
Looking at the soft spots, put together an action plan with dates of delivery in it, and start moving forward.
Remember, change and growth are a process not an event. The winners did not emerge from their mothers’ wombs that way. They did the power-lifting necessary to ring up the victories. The strengthening of your company will also be incremental. But there will be a harvest if you plant the seeds and cultivate the burgeoning crop.
It begins, however, at assessment. I know some of you are saying, “Hey, Dr. David, I know we aren’t going to get all A’s if we do this, so I don’t really know if I want to hear the results.”
Do it. And act on the results. Remember, no news is not necessarily good news in our industry. It can be bad news ignored. You get 10 points from me for just looking head-on at how you are doing. Why? Because it is the first and, possibly, most important step in moving your company toward becoming all it can be. Once you see the truth, it is hard to avoid action.
We spend nearly half of our waking lives wrestling with the challenges of the executive suite. Why leave any stones unturned in making that suite and everything around it as healthy and vigorous as it possibly can be?
Dr. David Claerbaut is a consultant to the graphic arts industry. Contact him at 702-354-7000 for more free business insights.