Strategy Session Recap: Defining Your Corporate Culture

By Scott Axelrod and Andrew Hard

Session Recap: Defining Your Corporate Culture

ISSUE #1

How to work with a large client around a culture issue? One executive works with a client who is at 150 employees, culture is a major issue and the executive feels his CEO and COO are not engaged. The executive seeks to engage the services of his company or another consultant that will help them move forward.

Why It’s Important

The estimated financial value is: $80,000.

Clarifying Questions (Background/Understanding)

  • How long have you worked with this client and how must trust have you built up with the CEO and COO?
  • How much do you trust this CEO? Does the COO see the same issues you see and what happened the last time the COO raised these issues to the CEO?
  • How would you feel if you had to walk away from the relationship right now?
  • Did the CEO hire you, and was the COO on board with your hiring?

Suggestions (Solutions)

  • Address how fixing these issues will benefit the CEO’s business and you’ll be able to breakthrough and address the issues – and possibly then be able to recommend that the CEO needs to bring someone else in to assist with some of these issues.
  • Confront this. The CEO will appreciate you telling them where the problems are.
  • Approach the CEO about what you are there to do and the roadblocks in place that are preventing you to do what you want to do. If the CEO wants a successful business, he should embrace change and move to fix the problems.

Action Plan

The executive resolved to choose between: 1) Focusing on what he sees that is preventing him from developing leaders and creating discussion around THAT — and getting the CEO and COO discuss potential solutions, or 2) Put the focus on the topics that are inhibiting the leadership program and bring to the attention of the CEO/COO.

ISSUE #2

This executive wants to know how to keep a healthy culture and grow aggressively? He’s working on developing a new budget to more than double the company’s sales (including possible doubling the company’s workforce. What are the pitfalls and culture changes to be on the lookout for for an aggressive growth strategy like this?

Why It’s Important

The estimated financial value is: $20,000,000.

Clarifying Questions (Background/Understanding)

  • Why are you considering bringing in another outside sales person?
  • What is holding you back from making a decision right now on which option to take?
  • Is your culture sabotaging this effort (hiring outside salespeople) from working?
  • Is the merger opportunity viable? Attractive or just an option if hiring a sales manager doesn’t work out?

Suggestions (Solutions)

  • Get involved with Top Grading for hiring – recommend that book.
  • Hire a C-Level person and that person might help you work through a merger and show you reasons why you should not merge.
  • Explore what it would take to get a 5-year exclusive deal and not a 3-year deal. This would afford opportunity for error as the exec targets larger accounts.
  • Sales Manager/C-level executive should be separate – two positions will give you the bandwidth to grow faster.
  • Review the sales process, tie it to metrics so that you can gauge how well things are going if you hire a sales manager.
  • Take slow steps and be cautious (Crawl, Walk, Run).

Action Plan

The exec decides to consider separating sales/C-Level people — and also to: Crawl. Walk. Run. He resolves to make sure the consultant can deliver.

ISSUE #3

How to define/establish healthy culture? How can an executive bring someone in from the outside and have them mesh well with the culture on the inside, and also draw up a plan to help build a healthy culture with the management team?

Why It’s Important

Transitioning out of day to day work in the business.

Clarifying Questions (Background/Understanding)

  • Do you have your values documented? When were they last updated to describe the current environment?
  • Can you share a little bit about your hiring process?
  • Where do you feel the business is failing?
  • Do you want the culture to stay as you have it now or could the culture possible evolve for the better?

Suggestions (Solutions)

  • “The baby comes first and the business should support that” is a great place to start the company culture.
  • If you have the higher vision set and you are happy with it, you are likely where you need to be – stick with it.
  • Though not documented, your values are clear. Find ways to deliver those values through video, workshops involving current employees, and 1-to-1’s.
  • Get comfortable with the fact the culture might change. That does not have to be a bad thing. If you have seen people on your team carry that torch for you you have nothing to fear.

Action Plan

Buck up and get used to the fact that things WILL change. Find cultural mentors and find different ways to reinforce the company culture.
Session date: Mar 8, 2012
Originally published: Mar 14, 2012

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