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StrategyDriven Strategic Planning Article

Green Your Business: A Sustainable Vision or Money-Making Fad?

To be an environmentally-friendly business seems to be the way to go, lately. They say it’s good for both your company and the planet; by encouraging this kind of vision, you’ll show the market your most holistic and educated side, they say – and the market will thank you for it. It’s true that a lot of good will come from a business that’s going both green and paperless at once.

StrategyDriven Strategic Planning Article
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It’s healthy for the community, the employees, and your company’s finances at the same time, and seems almost too good to be true.

Beware of coloring your company in this new shade, however, if your heart isn’t in the right place – at the end of the day, the market might end up punishing you for putting on a show. We found the steps to success for your business so that both you and the planet can benefit from it without any backlashes.

Saving money or the environment?

Although you probably nibbled at the thought of becoming more eco-friendly when you heard that it’s great for PR, you need to focus on the right aspects of it. This is particularly relevant when communicating the new green vision to your employees; is it a vision of saving money on energy or is it to create a healthier community for your consumers? Your employees needs something to work towards – a mission if you will, and you need to take the lead in creating the right kind of company culture.

Start by encouraging opinions and ideas on how you can go green together. You’re likely to receive various tips, and these should be taken into consideration so that everyone is included in the new vision. Otherwise, you risk looking like these eco-friendly measures are just for show.

Swap the food in the cafeteria for organic versions, make use of any meatless Monday suggestions and use natural cleaning detergents over potentially harmful types. There is a lot you can do to include the entire company and create a vision where everyone feels included.

Set an example

As the leader, you need to be the one to take the first step. Nobody will give you a smile of approval if you preach eco-friendliness but drive to work every day. The same goes for any other behavior in the office; encourage your team to always shut off their computers at the end of the day, make sure no taps are dripping, and welcome further suggestions on other changes you should make.

StrategyDriven Strategic Planning Article
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It’s great to be able to make a profit out of being eco-friendly – for those willing to invest a bit in the beginning, it’s also a reality. It’s easy to recognize the once doing it for the PR and those who are in it for the right reasons; just keep an eye out for that sour expression when they need to spend money on something they wanted to profit on.

The truth is that we sometimes need to spend a bit to make a difference. Consider replacing your old electronic appliances for newer models that save energy, have a look at a commercial tint for your office windows, and transfer to a cloud-based system to reduce the number of hard copies you produce.

The great news in all of these changes is that it will save you a lot of money in the long-run. Many of our more harmful habits are tied to overconsumption and a general waste of resources; cut down on these, and the resources will stay put. Read more about ways to maximize your business’ profits at Michael Banks or have a look at this excellent article to cut down on the expenses.

Reach out

Your goal is to make a difference in the community, so reach out to other businesses with the same green mindset – you can do more together, you know. Plus, it sends a clear signal to your community that you’re going green for more reasons than financial ones. Sustainable visions that hope to benefit more than just the company’s wallet tends to encourage innovation; by teaming up with similar companies, you drive the innovation further.

Throw events together and find ways of making business more effective in order to save both time and money.

A robust and honest business vision is able to benefit your entire company for many years to come. It works by unifying your employees, investing in their health and happiness, and ensuring that they have a safe and healthy environment to work in. Jump on board the green wagon because everybody else is doing it, and you risk being punished by both your employees and the market you’re in.

S. Chris Edmonds

Your Most Important Business Strategy Is Culture

How healthy is the quality of your business culture? Does your work environment ensure every player – leader, team member, customer, even supplier – is treated with trust, respect, and dignity in every interaction?

When I engage business leaders in discussion about their culture, most shrug their shoulders. “Our culture is OK,” most of them say. The reality is that most leaders don’t pay attention to the quality of their culture.

Deloitte’s recent Global Human Capital Trends report, found that “few factors contribute more to business success than culture.” 87 percent of business leaders who responded to their survey believe that culture is important. 54 percent believe culture is very important.

If that’s the case, why don’t leaders make culture a priority? They don’t know how. They’ve never been asked to manage culture. Deloitte’s study found that only 28 percent of respondents believe they understand their current culture well. Only 19 percent believe they have the “right” culture.

This data shows that most leaders don’t know what to look for. Few leaders know what to do if they discover their culture isn’t healthy.

What leaders do know is managing results. They invest more time, energy, and attention in results than they do in their business culture, yet culture drives everything that happens in their organization – for better or worse.

Don’t get me wrong – results are definitely important. But they’re not the only important thing. In fact, managing results is exactly HALF the leader’s job.

The other half? Managing the quality of their work culture.

Those leaders that invest time and energy in the quality of their culture reap tremendous benefits. A purposeful, positive, productive culture boosts employee engagement by 40 percent, customer service by 40 percent, and results and profits by 35 percent. I can prove it.

How can leaders create a healthy work culture? By making values – the way people treat each other – as important as results.

Just as leaders create clear performance expectations then hold people accountable for delivering those expectations, leaders must create clear values expectations and hold people – including themselves – accountable for acting in alignment with those values, every day.

To make values observable, tangible, and measurable requires that values – ideas like “integrity” or “teamwork” – be defined in behavioral terms. Why? Behaviors are measurable.

If you define your integrity value with a measurable behavior like “I keep my promises” or “I do what I say I will do,” everyone will know how they’re expected to behave to ensure they’re demonstrating that value, daily.

By formalizing values in behavioral terms, then requiring all leaders to model those behaviors themselves, you build credibility for your values. You build credibility in your leaders. And you model the purposeful, positive, productive culture you want.

In the absence of formalized values, your culture is one of default rather than one of design. Don’t leave the quality of your work culture to chance.

Make culture one of your critical business strategies – and implement valued behaviors as a means to creating a purposeful, positive, productive culture.


About the Author

S. Chris EdmondsS. Chris Edmonds is a sought-after speaker, author of the Amazon best seller The Culture Engine, an executive consultant and founder and CEO of The Purposeful Culture Group. Named one of Inc. Magazine’s 100 Great Leadership Speakers and a featured presenter at SXSW 2015, Chris’ blog, podcasts, research, and videos are enjoyed by thousands at Driving Results Through Culture. Check out his daily quotes on organizational culture, servant leadership, and workplace inspiration on Twitter at @scedmonds.

Harbir Singh

The Strategic Leader’s Roadmap

The financial situation for Japanese automaker Nissan Motor Company could not have been more dismal in 1998. The company had chalked up losses in seven of the past eight years, and it was now paying a billion dollars annually just to service its $19-billion debt.

Not that Nissan’s management had not been trying to make the right decisions to staunch the losses. It had earlier set an ambitious target of taking a quarter of Japan’s auto market, but to achieve that, the chief executive had said that the old way of making and selling cars would no longer suffice. A new strategy was required.

The CEO called for a redoubled effort to resurrect its ailing American arm, a market where customers had been flocking to sports utility vehicles. The company, the Nissan chief had urged, must also focus more on earnings than sales, slash its car “platforms,” and close its least profitable models. In short, he had warned, the company could never recover if it continued doing business the same old way. And his new way seemed the right way – providing he could deliver on it. But so far he had not. Nissan’s market share in Japan had stalled at just 16 percent, it was faring little better abroad, and losses were mounting everywhere.

Nissan sought an international partner, finally hooking up with France’s Renault. Renault agreed to infuse $5.4 billion into Nissan, but in return it required more than 36 percent of the company’s ownership and a commitment from Nissan to appoint Renault executive Carlos Ghosn as Nissan’s chief operating officer. With that, Renault inserted a very different kind of leader into the top ranks of Nissan – more confident, more determined, and more resolute.

Carlos Ghosn make clear that he had come to Japan “not for the good of Renault but for the good of Nissan,” and that would entail a new combination of not only a more aggressive execution of the company’s strategy but also a more demanding manager in charge of it. Under his leadership, Ghosn said, the struggling automaker would return to profitability in a year and halve its debt a year later. The company would close three assembly plants in Japan, increase factory utilization from 53 to 77 percent, cut suppliers by nearly half, eliminate 14 percent of the workforce, and reduce administrative costs by 20 percent.

Fifteen years later, Nissan under Ghosn’s strategy and leadership was indeed back on its feet. It had more than recovered to now outperform its industry in Japan, China, Europe, and even North America.

Nissan’s experience reminds us that firms with good strategy but weak leadership can remain rudderless. We also know that firms with good leadership but weak strategy can lurch directionless. Neither a restructuring strategy nor a turnaround leader alone could have engineered Nissan’s historic rebound. It required an individual who could both think and act strategically, a person who brought a strong sense for strategy and a personal capacity to lead its execution.

Becoming a strategic leader is an acquired capacity that can, in our view, be mastered by managers at all levels. As a prerequisite, it is important for aspirants to first appreciate the separate principles of strategy and leadership and then to combine them. We provide a six-step checklist for doing so:

The Strategic Leader’s Checklist

  • Integrate Strategy and Leadership. Master the elements of strategy and leadership both separately as a combined whole.
  • Learn to Lead Strategically. Pursue directed learning, one-on-one coaching, and instructive experience to develop an integrated understanding of strategy and leadership.
  • Ensure Strategic Fit. Arrange a strong match between the strategic challenges of a managerial position and the individual with the leadership skills to fill it.
  • Convey Strategic Intent. Communicate strategic intent throughout the organization and empower others to implement the strategy.
  • Layer Leadership. Ensure that leaders at every level are capable of appreciating strategic intent and implementing it.
  • Decide Deliberatively. Focus on both short- and long-term objectives, press for disciplined analysis, and bring the future into the present.

Adapted from The Strategic Leader’s Roadmap: 6 Steps for Integrating Leadership and Strategy, by Michael Useem and Harbir Singh, copyright 2016. Reprinted by permission of Wharton Digital Press.


About the Authors

Harbir SinghHarbir Singh is Professor of Management, Co-Director of the Mack Institute for Innovation Management, and Vice Dean of Global Initiatives at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania.

Michael UseemMichael Useem is Professor of Management, Director of the Leadership Center, and Faculty Director of the McNulty Leadership Program at the Wharton School.

CJ Stafford

Don’t Forget to Connect Customer Service Week with Strategy

This week, thousands of organizations around the world are recognizing Customer Service Week. It’s encouraging to see companies across all types of industries make an effort to celebrate their commitment to customer satisfaction. However, many leaders are doing their organizations a disservice by not using Customer Service Week to its fullest potential as a platform for employee engagement that fosters a deeper culture of service.

There’s not a single customer service professional I know who wouldn’t agree that employee engagement is critically important to the service a company ultimately delivers to its customers. As reaffirmed in Gartner’s 2015 report, How to Get Your Customer Service Employees to Care About the Customer, research shows “high levels of employee engagement contribute to higher levels of customer satisfaction.” Yet, Customer Service Week – a time so clearly and publicly dedicated to recognizing customer care – is far too often overlooked as a critical opportunity to strengthen an organization’s relationship with and among its employees. It’s often swept aside as a ‘check-the-box’ activity fulfilled by simply giving staff members branded chotskies. Or it might be five days riddled with a host of activities that have been carefully planned but focus more on the fun than the functional. In many cases, Customer Service Week falls flat on strategy.

As you celebrate Customer Service Week at your organization, ask yourself these three questions to help ensure your initiatives are connected with a larger strategy. Use these considerations as a guide … and you may discover enhancements you can make on the fly to make this important week even more meaningful.

Are your planned activities fun and functional?

Of course, Customer Service Week calls for celebration. But the festivities should go beyond being simply fun and simultaneously serve a purpose that benefits the business. This doesn’t mean you have to cut your creativity short or make what should be lighter, enjoyable activities feel like they’re work. It does, however, require dedicated thought about how to make surface-level initiatives more impactful.

For example, consider a ‘Superhero Showcase’ dress-up day – a nod to the heroic feats customer service representatives are known for pulling off. Beyond building camaraderie by having staff members sport their favorite costumes or t-shirts on a designated day, use the opportunity to have each person share how the traits of their assumed characters relate to providing extraordinary service. This sharing will open up a meaningful discussion about what it means to embody service in its various forms and challenge professionals to think beyond traditional notions of customer service.

Do the activities engage other parts of the company?

The importance of service is hardly limited to the customer service department – and Customer Service Week activities shouldn’t be either. There’s no better time to educate others within the organization about how customer service impacts the business, so use this week (and the weeks that follow) to connect with colleagues in other departments.

One way to do this is by providing employees with a “passport” and including an insert with different missions – such as spending time with peers across the organization – that need to be completed. During those visits, employees can learn about each other’s job functions and how they deliver service to their customers, then report back to their respective teams for broader knowledge sharing. Not only does this exposure enhance employees’ perspectives and further their professional development, it also helps to fortify a consistent company-wide culture of service.

What’s next?

The spotlight on customer service recognition during these five days shouldn’t just be a moment in time. Rather, look at it as a jump-start for longer-term or ongoing initiatives for engaging employees and strengthening the service culture. Use this week as a learning opportunity to determine which approaches and tactics were most successful as well as those that weren’t as well-received … and plan for the future from there.

Did the team have a blast with the superheroes? Keep their enthusiasm going by creating a ‘Superhero Shout-out’ bulletin board in a high-traffic area where they can publicly post and share kudos for their colleagues. Were the passports a hit? That’s your cue to organize more frequent peer-to-peer exchanges among different departments.

Regardless of your approach, keep strategy central to your Customer Service Week celebrations to make them count. For more ideas or to learn more about how you can deliver outstanding care to your customers, visit www.staffcom.com.


About the Author

CJ StaffordCJ Stafford is president of Stafford Communications Group Inc., a boutique company with three distinct, yet complementary, lines of business: outsourced call center services, customer care consulting and marketing services. Stafford works with pharmaceutical, healthcare, food, consumer packaged goods and beauty care companies – ensuring their customer service initiatives are aligned to their marketing programs so they intrinsically support each other.

Sean Ammirati

Four Questions to Ask Before Scaling Your Business

“Things are either growing or dying” is a famous quip. While it’s unclear who said it first, it’s been used regularly at business conferences to fire up audiences over the last few decades. The speaker often follows it up with a list of suggestions like “five tips to start scaling your sales”. However, it turns out one of the most dangerous things you can do is to prematurely start to focus on scaling.

This may seem like an odd statement coming from a entrepreneur turned venture capitalist and professor who has spent the last few years in my role at Carnegie Mellon studying scaling startups and teaching a popular graduate course titled The Science of Growth that was recently turned in as a book.

I’m a big fan of scaling up innovative ideas and making sure they have as much impact as possible. In our research, to try and understand the critical success factors of scaling a startup, we followed the journeys of 10 well-known companies, ranging from modern marvels like Tesla, Facebook, YouTube and LinkedIn all the way back to the retail juggernaut McDonalds – and then contrasts each story with that of a lesser-known startup that was created at about the same time, with a similar product, targeting the same market.

From these cases, we came to appreciate that there were a set of four what we call ‘prerequisites’ that startups needed to focus on BEFORE growth. Just as you can’t take calculus before basic arithmetic, these are the essential foundational elements of any startup before the entrepreneurs turn their attention to growth.


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About the Author

Sean AmmiratiSean Ammirati is a partner at Birchmere Ventures, an early-stage venture capital firm based in Pittsburgh, PA, and Palo Alto, CA, and is an Adjunct Professor of Entrepreneurship at Carnegie Mellon University. Before that, he was the COO of ReadWriteWeb, one of the most influential sites about the future of technology and innovation. Sean was previously co-founder and CEO of mSpoke, a big data SaaS company that was the first acquisition of LinkedIn.