Helping Good Companies Grow

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An answer to “why good companies need” help

I was talking to Sammie Johnson, the marketing director for Montana’s award winning newspaper, the Flathead Beacon and account executive at the Beacon’s sister company, Flathead Beacon Creative. She is helping with our website updates and in the process has asked me some question.

Actually, Sammi asks a lot of questions. She’s like that. It helps her understand our firm; who we are and what we do. We went back and forth using questionnaires, emails and phone calls. Soon are ideas were coming together and when they did, she asked another one of her questions: “Why would a good company – a healthy company – need help?”

Why indeed.

The Illusion of Health.

In his best-selling book, In Search of Excellence, Tom Peters highlighted several “excellent” companies and the principles that made them great. Thirty years later many of his examples are no longer around. And those that are could hardly be called, “excellent.”

I thought of this when I told Sammi that a “good” company may not be as healthy as it appears. If a business has stopped improving or relies on its previous success it has already started to decline. This is true even when revenues and profits appear to be strong.

Not long ago I was engaged as the interim-CEO of large service company. Though a leader in its market area, the signs of trouble were evident. Employee-engagement was down. Employee-turnover was up. Sales had started to go down. Costs per unit had gone up. Revenue per customers had started to fall. Even so, outwardly at least, things looked fine.

By all appearances this was a “good” company. From my view, however, it would soon be in trouble.

Constant Review. Constant Improvement.

“Whether working with a ‘good company’ or with a troubled one,” I told Sammi, “you have to begin by making an immediate, positive impact.”
Regaining momentum, would be another way to say this. The service company, like so many others, had slowed down. And like a car that had lost its power while climbing a hill, it was in danger of losing ground. After reviewing its situation, we set four critical objectives to help this good company grow:

1. Increase gross revenues by 20%;
2. Increase our customer base by 1,000 new customers;
3. Increase our revenue per customer by 5%;
4. Create a positive, exciting place to work.

We succeeded. And while doing so we re-structured the company, improving its operations to support the new services and growth the business was now experiencing.

A “good company.” I’ve learned, can have an “excellent” reputation. But if it has stopped improving, it runs the risk of becoming another footnote in the history of businesses that once mattered.

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