THE RIGHT CULTURE MAKES OR BREAKS
AN ORGANIZATION’S SUCCESS.
By Jason Richmond, CEO and Chief Culture Officer at Ideal Outcomes, Inc.
Juggernauts like Oracle continue to innovate and achieve stunning heights of success, while lesser companies stagnate. During my twenty years of experience working with companies ranging from startups to Fortune 100 entities, I’ve identified five challenges that cause growth to stagnate.
Kodak actually invented digital photography but ignored this technology because, as a company, it was wedded to its film-based business. Result: bankruptcy. Hostess, manufacturer of the iconic junk food Twinkie, failed to keep up with changing consumer tastes. Result: bankruptcy. Blockbuster, the nation’s largest video rental chain (which itself was once a disruptive upstart), was steamrolled by Netflix. Result: bankruptcy. Sears, formerly America’s top retailer, couldn’t keep up with the low-price competition of supply-chain savvy Walmart and then the rise of online, one-stop shopping. Result: Experts say the company is on the verge of bankruptcy.
Don’t take your success for granted. Instead of a complacent culture, seek to foster a courageous culture. Encourage executives to go against the grain and push back when something doesn’t feel right, even if it is wildly popular within your organization. Companies begin to fail when employees or leaders stop asking questions and become content.
DISCONNECTION TO VALUES AND DISCONNECTED VALUES
Inevitably, dysfunction and contention permeate the entire company. Leaders who have enjoyed long-term success often convince themselves that they have the Midas touch and become arrogant. They ask for input, but in reality, they just want to keep doing it their way. The best and brightest leave in frustration, seeking an environment where their voices are heard and where there is a greater sense of camaraderie.
Even more insidious is when a company develops policies that are not aligned with core values—policies that might negatively impact its lifeblood of customers or demonstrate a lack of trust in its essential frontline employees. The customer has to wait, and the employee feels a definite lack of trust. Processes can quickly become barriers to innovation; sometimes less is more. Fewer, more streamlined processes can translate to better ease of understanding and implementation for employees. Greater innovation is also enabled, and that makes for a more engaged workforce, which is vital for growth.
THE RESULT IS DISENGAGEMENT
When it comes to growing a small-to-medium business (SMB), the saying “Starting is easy, finishing is hard” has never rung truer. Automated marketing, crowdfunding, and other tools make it easier than ever to find customers and obtain enough financial backing to get a small business off the ground and continue to expand. However, I’ve found that organizations that have achieved exceptional success—reaching revenues between $100 million and $500 million— often hit a brick wall. Getting to the next level is more difficult than anticipated. Indeed, it takes something special to continue to knock through that wall. I’d argue that the “something special” is your culture. Here’s why.
According to the Small Business Administration (SBA), small businesses (classified as those with less than five hundred employees) make up 99.7 percent of all US firms, which, in turn, accounts for more than 64 percent of net new jobs. Wow! Small businesses are adding new jobs faster than their larger competitors, but their share of total employment remains steady. While they are a huge engine of growth, most will never make it out of the small business category. Why is it so hard for a small business to grow beyond the initial startup phase? Sometimes the market just isn’t there for their product or service, but more often, it’s a problem with their culture.