The ice on my neighbourhood skating rink is good, but it's not great, and that is totally my fault.
There have been years where the ice has been fantastic and people from all over the city would come and skate on the rink. It even got nominated for best outside ice rink in the city one year.
But we won't win any awards this year. For the past 14 years I have looked after the ice with my neighbour Byron, and this year we got off to a late start. I wasn't motivated, I felt tired and I didn't put in the effort it takes to make it good. As a result, while kids are skating throughout the city on other skating rinks, ours has barely been skated on.
We have probably all seen the same thing happen with businesses. For years you support a business and it's thriving, there are new products and services, there is a buzz about the place, but then after years of success, things start to slip. It's hard to put a finger on what the reason for the decline is, but you know that it's struggling.
You see it in the faces of the employees, the products or services seem stale, and the leadership appears really fatigued. The business might still be good, but it's definitely not great.
So, what is the cause of business decline and what do we need to do to fix it?
When I used to work on the floor of my health food stores serving people who came in because they were mentally fatigued, had no energy and were physically in decline, they all wanted to know the same thing. How do I fix it? What is the magic pill that is going to make it all better again?
The truth is that there is no easy fix for healing a business or a body. However, when we get ourselves in alignment with our true purpose, suddenly there seems to be much more energy to get those things done that will make the biggest differences.
In a struggling business, we need to get to the core of our existence. We need to understand what it is we do that really adds value to our customers even if that moves us away from our historic roots.
In 1971, Darwin Smith became the CEO of Kimberly Clark, a paper company that had its own paper mills. Within months, he made the decision to close down its mills and use that money to buy Kleenex and Higgins. There were people who thought he was crazy, but Smith knew that the path that the company had been following for decades was doomed to mediocrity. What had worked in the past doesn't always work in the future. The result was that while his competitors continued to struggle, Kimberly Clark thrived.
Jim Collins, in his classic book Good to Great, found after five years of research that companies able to make the shift from good to great had several key characteristics.
They had leadership that was down to earth and more concerned about the company than their own success. They got the right people on the team first and then decided what needed to be done to be successful. Just like Kimberly Clark, the companies that became great didn't hold on to core businesses that didn't have a bright future.
Companies that move from good to great have a culture of entrepreneurship and discipline. They are not afraid to say no to opportunities that don't fit their core business. Technology is not the driving factor in their success and they keep working towards the goals of the company when times get tough.
It takes great leadership to keep a company on task and on track and turn it around. It also takes great leaders with guts to make the tough decisions to eliminate the functions, people, and business that doesn't work anymore within an organization. However, when leaders can work through those pain points and create a vision for the future that inspires their team to get onboard, companies that have been struggling can indeed thrive again.
The ice on my neighbourhood rink will be good soon and hopefully even great if we are disciplined and keep working towards that goal. However, in all honesty, the effort Byron and I put in to making a great ice rink is nothing compared to the effort required in turning a company around. When you make the decision to take your organization to the next level, your leadership and belief in the vision is paramount to your success.
Turning companies around is possible. I have seen it happen and the outcomes are stunning for the leaders and the team.
Do you have what it takes to get your organization from good to great?
Dave Fuller, MBA, is an award-winning
business coach and the author of the book Profit Yourself Healthy. Email your "from good to great" business challenge to firstname.lastname@example.org.