This summer I worked at Aveus as a communications intern. The good thing about having such a broad title is that it meant I got to try out a little bit of everything going on around the office. Once I got over my (fairly short-lived) intimidation about working with people who have led some of the biggest organizations I’ve ever heard of, I jumped right in.
I started with the three in-house Aveus blogs.
The reality is that in any organization, three weeks before the end of some quarter, some line or another in your projected financial results will be off. Some executive (it might even be you) is going to stand up and declare that before the end of the quarter, this (whatever this is), needs to happen. To get there you will offer a special deal, or you’ll have to cut discretionary spending in a certain area, or maybe even across the board.
Sometimes and unfortunately, there is a huge difference between any of those actions, and your strategic intentions of how your organization should drive performance and deliver value to customers.
At Aveus we have the opportunity to listen to and work with a wide range of clients and prospects talking about operationalizing a decision they’ve already made, addressing the urgent requirements of a changing market, or introducing ideas that will change the world. The following story has elements of all three.
I learned about LifeWise Renovations and met the CEO Mike Dodd through his wife Kathy Dodd, a powerhouse in her own right as CEO of The Corridor Group. Mike has been in the construction business for more than 25 years and Kathy has built a nationwide consulting group for the home health care industry during that same time period. You will see why these two backgrounds matter in a minute.
Mike has owned a successful construction business in the Kansas City area for over 25 years. Over those years the company followed the typical construction model which tends to be very localized. As Mike explained, much of a local contractor’s business success is based upon having established networks for resources, talent, and critical market knowledge. It is very difficult to take a good construction business name in one market and transport it to another.
Compound that localized business model with the recession that hit the construction business as hard as any sector in the last few years. Mike estimates that as many as 60 – 70% of the construction businesses that were around prior to the start of the recession in 2007/8 no longer exist. And, the industry is not rebounding in the way it historically has recovered. Things are improving, but not as they have in the past.
Linda, Chris and I have just returned from an always-full, dynamic annual summit for the Women Business Leaders of the US Health Care Industry Foundation -- or WBL*, as its associates love to call it. In a session called “Leading Change that’s Worth It,” we had the privilege of facilitating this amazing group of executives in a conversation about just that kind of change – the kind where the juice is worth the squeeze.
Like many leaders we meet, most in this group stand readily when asked if they have been through or led a major change initiative. Yet far fewer say yes when asked if they believe their organizations do a good job of leading and managing change. Here, Chris shares that she’s been asking these questions for 20 years, and sadly, the results haven’t changed much.
We’ve found 10 common themes, or reasons organization change fails. The good news is that they work in reverse, too. Done well, these can be the 10 reasons change succeeds in your organization.
I’ve been thinking about Netflix recently. As a customer I was directly impacted by the company’s decision to change its pricing model. I watched as the company’s all-streaming offering was split off into a separate company called Quickster, and then watched as Quickster was shelved when customers revolted.
Henry Kissinger, once when addressing a group of reporters asked them, “Does anyone have any questions for my answers?” Funny, yes. And, ironically true. Leaders are expected to have answers. Often however, they don’t match or don’t appease whoever is asking the questions. As business leaders we encounter this all the time. Customer, shareholder, employee or other questions that all need context before the answers satisfy. Or, we feel ill-prepared to answer important questions that arrive at our desks and so we talk about what we want to discuss.
Once we’re engaged with a client, we like to haul out the tough questions. This doesn’t have to be the case. You can be prepared and create the context for any subject that comes your way. How? Believe it or not – by creating – and confirming - clear, specific responses to 5 questions that any business should be able to answer.
Logos and brands are part of the customer experience. They are intangible elements that customers associate with a business, and something they can grow quite attached to.
The Economist does a good job of explaining why a new logo can throw consumers into a tizzy.
“The debate about logos reveals something interesting about power as well as passion. Much of the rage in the blogosphere is driven by a sense that “they” (the corporate stiffs) have changed something without consulting “us” (the people who really matter). This partly reflects a hunch that consumers have more power in an increasingly crowded market for goods. But it also reflects the sense that brands belong to everyone, not just to the corporations that nominally control them.”
If you need further proof, just take a look at the passion stirred up when Starbucks announced a new logo. Opinions run the gamut. There are those, like Rick Thompson on Customer Think who calls removing the words ‘Starbucks Coffee’ and the circle around the iconic siren a “risky and unnecessary step.”
We were recently honored at a “Best Places to Work” awards luncheon hosted by the Minneapolis / St. Paul Business Journal. Each of the winners (including Aveus) was introduced and called to the stage. As the presenters worked their way through the fifty-five (55!) winners we heard lots of reasons why employees liked to work at the winning companies.
“Just the facts, ma’am” is the mantra for Jack Webb from the 1950’s TV program Dragnet. Today we say, “Show me the data.” And, therein lies a cautionary tale.