decisions fasterBuild meaning,
Make better decisions faster
A serial entrepreneur approached Plantes Company to help him, and his three principal leaders (of finance/IT, merchandising/creative, and operations), better align their efforts to grow their online catalog company’s revenue and profitably. The CEO recognized that the company needed to add a retail store channel and that making this large change would not be successful if the leaders did not work more closely as a team to better align their teams’ actions.
Kay interviewed leaders and their direct reports to assess areas where the company’s departments were and were not aligned and barriers to alignment. A carefully designed retreat with the CEO and his three leaders led to agreements on the business model, competencies the firm needed to make to build a sustainably differentiated offering, and a shared organizational vision. They developed 3-year shared goals and action plans for each team to guide resource deployments. Leaders left the meeting understanding that their current and continued alignment would be a primary factor in future success.
At the close of the retreat, the CEO commented, “I’d never before gotten so much good work done in so little time. We gained consensus around so many decisions we would not have achieved without Kay’s facilitation.” And the strategic plan led the leadership team to place more emphasis on creating hard-to-copy differentiators, the key to its longer-term success. Kay continued to work with the company facilitating annual planning for the following two years.
The company successfully added one store, then more stores, and continues to create a compelling line of differentiated products. The company recently went public to raise money to build out more “brand destination” stores. The CEO honored Kay’s contributions by inviting her to invest pre-IPO as a “family and friends” investor.
Build meaning, profitably
In today’s marketplace, the focus on social responsibility is gaining prominence. Non-profits want to become more profitable so they can expand their mission; for-profit businesses seek to weave an element of social responsibility into their business model to attract and retain talent and customers.
Kay has worked with many non-profits to build earned income streams, as this type of income is far more scalable than relying on donations. She has also helped for-profits carve out social-responsibility agendas that are synergistic with their core business, and, therefore, beneficial to shareholders and the community-at-large. Here are two examples.
Non-profit: A hospital had established a leading non-profit center for the study and treatment of abused children. The Center had strong Intellectual Property that could help state and local child welfare agencies. The Center had created and sold some training products, but higher priority demands on hospital investment funds constrained The Center from making any substantial investments to grow their earned income stream.
A University of Chicago group shared the deeper mission of the non-profit and had competencies that could leverage The Center’s IP. Together, they could better serve more child welfare agencies. Kay designed and facilitated a one-day retreat with the two institutions’ leaders, where they identified areas of collaboration that could lead to new products that leveraged both centers talents and resources. The teams left with a detailed game plan for moving forward when all they had expected out of the meeting was a decision to work together. Kay’s intelligent agenda design, assigned homework, and creative facilitation supported the rapid progress. A new product was introduced early in 2016, just months after the work started.
For-profit: A leading medical equipment company was facing intense competition from a new entrant offering higher-end technology. Following her market research, Kay identified patient safety as a core issue facing hospitals. She helped the company realize that it could both gain market advantage and improve patient results (a social agenda) by rebranding itself from “assured reliability” to “advancing patient safety.”
To fulfill the safety aspect of the new brand, the offering was transformed to include more machine and patient monitors. Also, the sales force was deployed to work with hospital risk management officers and CFOs, as well as the core anesthesiology department customers, to identify safety gaps in older equipment and plan for their replacement.
The company also worked with others in the industry to create an Institute that advanced anesthesia patient safety. The effort started with a national symposium on patient safety that Kay organized with leading anesthesiologists, sponsored by the company.
The replacement rate for machines increased significantly as did their selling prices, leading to record revenue and market share gains for the company. The US National Institutes of Health also recognized the industry’s work as a model for improving the quality of care in a medical specialty.
Strengthen strategic leadership
The co-owner and CEO of a human resource services company approached Plantes Company to help his company create a growth and differentiation strategy. National and global firms like Manpower were moving into his market, and he worried about the sustainability of his business in light of stiffer competition.
Kay conducted internal and external research. Her first advice to the CEO was to get more serious about his business. The risks were high, and the company would require far more dedication than he currently provided, as he was very active in other endeavors. He agreed to the change.
The CEO had run the company as five separate businesses, each serving a different kind of worker and service. Kay advised a strategy whereby the company identify its strategic clients and assist them holistically with bundled solutions, with Human Resource consultants in the lead. The value promise would be “better talent and talent strategies because we know you so well.” The Human Resource consultants would get to know the culture and ambitions of their clients and craft strategies (e.g., whether and when to use temporary workers) to achieve these goals.
Kay convinced the CEO that national competitors could better serve large national company clients, and he should concentrate far more on locally owned regional and mid-size companies. Profits and revenue increased significantly and the company built (and expanded through acquisitions) a very successful firm. Throughout the transformation, Kay worked with the leadership team to improve alignment across the formerly siloed divisions.
Success enabled the CEO, on Kay’s recommendation, to hire a COO/President to manage day-to-day activities. He was then able to return to his many activities outside the company and spend more time engaged in outreach to clients.