Culture: What a difference it makes!
worked for several prominent retail organizations I have seen the impact
of both positive and negative cultures on the workforce, the customers
and, of course, the success of the business. Have no doubt whatsoever,
the head of the organization dictates, through words and
the culture will be. I want to tell you about the incredible culture
created by a CEO, and a gentleman, Iíll call Sam.
three years, I had the opportunity to work for the company that this man
headed up before he decided to sell his
successful enterprise to a large, old school retailer. We were all very
happy for him. This sale was going to mean a lot more time for
he and his wife to travel and generally enjoy
life after a lot of years of hard work and dedication to their business.
We were saddened to be losing such a great leader but we knew he
deserved the rest and we wished him well.
three years were perhaps the most rewarding and educational years of my
entire career, one that spans over twenty years. The company was managed
in such a way that you had no choice but to
feel like an important part of it. No employee was ever treated like a
number, unworthy of receiving up to date communication on what was
happening within the company. The executive were always aware of the
impact their actions would have on store personnel and customers. In
this company everyone understood where, and by whom, sales were made and
every effort was made to include input from the field whenever important
decisions were being made that would affect employees or customers.
I speak of did not always have a successful company on his hands. At one
time, as I understand, the company had been on the brink of failure.
He, and his loyal employees managed to save
it. It was quite a feat, requiring dedication, a new direction and a new
way of being. Sam did many, many things to move his company in the right
direction. To detail all of them would require a book, which I hope he
will write some day, and a lot more information than I have available to
me. I did not know this man as well as some of my colleagues did but I
know, for certain, that he is a man with integrity. If he says it, you
can take it to the bank.
time I came on board the company was doing very well. A brand new
culture had been built. Thatís rightÖbuilt. Culture is something you
build with every word you say and every action you take. A positive
culture does not come about by accident. It takes a lot of soul
searching and checking with people and just when you think you have it
all figured out you have to check again. It takes the ability and the
willingness to know and admit that you donít know everything and you
donít have all the answers. It takes a desire to get input and feedback
from the people affected by a given situation. It takes the guts to take
action to fix something thatís not working. It takes coaching
loyalty and lending a hand to those who need it. It takes understanding
that people donít make mistakes because they want to. It takes a firm,
but kind, word to someone who messes up. It takes the ability to foster
a feeling of belonging among those who are in your business family. Sam
certainly did all of these things and he worked tirelessly to ensure his
executive and management teams did also.
Managers were invited, and expected, to have an impact on the whole
organization and not just their own store. If she made a request there
were only two acceptable outcomes. 1) The request was granted and a date
for completion was to be given or 2) The request was not granted and the
reasons were explained. It did not stop there if the Store Manager was
not satisfied with the outcome. She was never expected to settle for an
answer that did not satisfy her. The process that ensued was one of open
and on-going dialogue until either the Store Manager became convinced
and was satisfied with the reason that her request could not be granted
or she managed to convince her Manager that the request should be
granted. It wasnít over just because someone said it was over.
company flourished. Following the news of the sale of the company, most
field management stayed in place for some time. Unfortunately, as with
all good things, the culture we had come to know and love ended. It was
like a period of mourning. Executive and management moved on to new
challenges and the business went straight down, at least for the short
owners will never understand what happened. There will be reasons and
excuses but they all amount to nothing. The truth, that they probably do
not even realize, is that the great culture was run out of town;
obviously deemed unnecessary and not worth saving. Itís that simple and
itís such a shame.
of us who lived in Samís environment clearly understand what happened
when he and his carefully chosen team were no longer at the helm.
to sustaining a successful business is to RESPECT the culture Ė after
all, the business is secretly thriving on it; OBSERVE carefully, for a
time, and then ACT appropriately.
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