A shift happens. What next?

Cole Harmonson

“If you can keep your head when all about you   

   Are losing theirs and blaming it on you…”

“If” by Rudyard Kipling

 

We had an exciting (read: nuts) year.

When we joined Advantage Business Capital last summer, it capped off a crazy, challenging, emotional year. It was the right decision, but an earth-shaking, world-shifting moment all the same.

Change happens to all of us. It will happen to you; it will happen to your business; it will happen to your family and your life. It may not be as dramatic as the changes we’ve gone through lately, but it will happen – and you, too, will have to prepare for it and wrest the metaphorical train back onto the tracks. I learned a lot about that in the last eight months, and I’m here to share three strategies that will keep your momentum going – and your team on board – after your world changes.

 

THE VALUES: Go back to what is important to you

 

Do you have core values? Do you have them written down?

Or better, are you, your management, your leadership, actually living by them?

During periods of change, everyone looks to the leaders. The tone they set – and the priorities they communicate – are key for moving your team forward. But it isn’t just about tone – you have to hire, and fire, by those values. Don’t let one bad actor drag everyone else down; don’t wait to make a change.

Values, in fact, are one reason we joined Advantage Business Capital – theirs matched ours incredibly well, and they loved the passion we bring to the table. (“Passion”, in fact, is one of our core values!) I think that consistency is one reason we were able to come through this with our team mostly intact; everyone knew what was important and where we were headed and why. And they knew we still had our heart.

During the transition, one of our employees left and went to Facebook. Sounds sexy, right? Cool, fun, internet company with great snacks (I’ve heard). And then, a couple of months later, they came back. They realized it sounded cool on the outside, but it wasn’t an intimate place. It wasn’t a place where people cared about the customer, or where management cared about their employees’ goals and successes.

 

THE DATA: Measure with your head

 

I like to talk about growth mindset a lot, about using failure as a chance to learn. I wouldn’t call last year a failure, exactly, but it certainly gave us opportunities to learn, adjust, and reprioritize. We took another look at our metrics – what were we tracking? How were we tracking it? And most importantly, how were we communicating about it?

Change is a good time to review metrics and KPIs like these. You don’t want to be making emotional decisions or allowing your biases to creep in; this is a time for rational decision making, for logic, for numbers. Ask yourself these questions:

    1. Are my metrics prioritized correctly? Which KPIs are the most critical for reducing risk and promoting optimal customer outcomes? Those should be on top. Your metrics should cut through noise and give you the signals you need most.
    2. Am I communicating our metrics – and their context – often enough? Having a reminder of what we call the NN6 (six non-negotiables) every week makes it a lot easier to keep everyone on the same page and spot problems before they snowball.  We can be proactive with our clients and portfolio because of this.
    3. Do I trust my data? Don’t let critical metrics depend on one person’s manual reporting. We hired an audit / spotchecker to do weekly checks on the integrity of our reporting; we don’t want to let human error – or fraud – add to our risk.

 

 

 

THE CULTURE: Listen, then do something. Publicly.

 

We’ve always believed in being a giver culture, in treating our team like you would a long-term partner. Just like a relationship, we know we’re interdependent; that we need mutual respect; and that communication can make or break everything. But change can rock that relationship to its core, and there will never be a more critical time to listen – and especially, to actually do something in result.

We’ve used Workify for several years as both a measuring stick for our values – are we really living up to that TEAM value?  – and a way to listen, to channel employee feedback into trackable action. Because of Workify’s surveys, we know our team’s overall satisfaction dipped a bit after the sale – it was still positive, but it definitely dropped. So we listened to the anonymous feedback, much of which pointed out that we simply weren’t communicating enough. We weren’t fostering cross TEAM collaboration; we weren’t being as open and transparent, as we could be.

And then we took action. Now 3 times a week we have a “meeting” in our communal area during lunch. It’s not mandatory, there’s no agenda, but I often just take my lunch and work there, and if someone wants to talk, or work out a problem they’re stuck on, they are welcome to join. It sounds so simple, and yet you can see the collaboration happening –  marketing has had a chance to collaborate with underwriting, project assignments are happening in public, and everyone can see how the sausage is being made.

It’s amazing. It feels like a new level of radical transparency. And not for nothing, but our Workify score is back up – to its highest level ever.

To quote Central Bank chairman Kim Wheless as he quotes design maestro & founder of Herman Miller, Max de Pree: “Momentum in a great company is palpable.” I can testify that it is. I feel it. My team feels it. And our new family at Advantage Business Capital feels it too.

So if you, too, are facing a change, or want to shake off complacency and find your momentum, review those three things above to be prepared for chaos and primed to move forward. I’ll recap:

  1. Go back to your core values. Reinforce them, live them, hire and fire by them.
  2. Review your business intelligence metrics and ensure they are guiding rational decisions. Are your metrics telling you what you most need to know? Are they appropriately, regularly communicated? Do you trust the integrity of the data?
  3. Are you practicing radical transparency? Do you have a way to listen to your team, anonymously, and actually do something about their feedback?

Thanks for listening. If you, too, have survived and thrived after big change in your professional world, I’d love to hear about it – and what you’d add to my “chaos prep” list.

“If you can dream—and not make dreams your master;   

   If you can think—and not make thoughts your aim;   

If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster

   And treat those two impostors just the same…

Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,   

   And—which is more—you’ll be a Man, my son!”

“If” by Rudyard Kipling

Cole Harmonson is the president of Far West Capital, a company that funds the goals of high-growth entrepreneurs. Know a great company in need of capital to unleash their potential? Send them here and we’ll give them a call.

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