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Thursday, July 24, 2008

A truly great day

This image from the page "How to Change the Corporate Culture" at is on a site dedicated to lean manufacturing, which may have different requirements than most AEC businesses. But the observations are still useful.

Some days in business, things work just the way they should. And, as I prepare to turn the computer off tonight, I sense that dynamic in our organization and truly am grateful. Tim Klabunde, in an excellent posting in his CofeBuz blog, describes Four Steps to Changing Corporate Culture. His approach is much better than what I went through as this business contracted through three painful years of decline and dissension -- and hit bottom in November 2006, about eight months after we began implementing the necessary cultural changes with the guidance of consultant Bill Caswell.

The reason I'm really happy today is the amazing idea generation and initiative shown by our employees, along with co-operation, sharing, and respect. Best of all, new people want to join the business and are ready to go through our rather stringent pre-hiring procedures to qualify to join the team. All of this, of course, is translating to respect for our clients and this is creating the marketer's dream -- repeat inquiries and business.

I realize now that a great business needs some key structures and controls, but the biggest thing you can give employees is freedom. Therefore, in our case, the most important operating system is our hiring policies. The employees who join this organization must have the ability to thrive in an environment of limited supervision -- and that includes respecting and working well with each other. (This is why it is so important for prospective employees to work with us long enough for the current employees to decide and 'vote' on whether the potential employee fits in.)
I've noted several times in this blog -- and cannot understate it -- that your employees are your marketing department. Yes, in some cases, especially where there is a skills shortage, you may have to hire less-than-perfect people to get the job done. In these cases, you need to find a way to keep these employees away from your clients! But I would argue your business will be stronger in the long run if you slow down your hiring, and only accept people who really are great at what they do, and great at working with each other.

I can't share all the good news today -- no one in their right mind broadcasts every internal business development in a public blog! But I'm truly impressed with the quality of the emerging corporate culture.

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