THINGS TO KNOW

“That’s how it’s always been done”

In business, the most powerful question you can ask often comes down to one word: why?

 

Why do we do things this way? Why can’t we try it this way instead?

 

Try it sometime at your job or in your everyday life – when you come across a situation that doesn’t make sense to you, simply ask, “why?” and see where it gets you. You’ll often get an answer that will cause angst and frustration: “Because that’s how it’s always been done.”

 

As soon as you hear that, you know what you’re dealing with: complacency. And when you encounter complacency, you must prep for battle, because overcoming it can be one of the biggest challenges you face in business.

 

Complacency is what keeps people employed. Complacency is what keeps people from having to challenge themselves. Complacency is what allows people to spend their day planning their weekend, rather than setting risky, ambitious goals.

 

If your business needs to shake itself out of a sense of complacency, you’ve come to the right place.

 

Throughout my career working in marketing for McDonald’s I embraced challenging the status quo and trying to get people to think of new ideas or creative solutions to problems. Often in such a big corporation, when you’re in the midst of a growth cycle, it can be like being on a baseball team where your pitcher is throwing a no-hitter: no one mentions it in fear of being the one to mess it up.

 

That’s fine in baseball where the prospect of jinxing the pitcher is just mindless superstition, but it can be lethal in business. You can’t sit back and allow your business to keep cruising along because eventually, without change, your growth cycle will end, and everyone will sit there looking at each other in disbelief, wondering what happened to the good times.

 

That’s why I never accepted complacency in my teams. Even when we were riding high, I saw it as my responsibility to look a few years ahead and determine whether our current strategy would continue that growth cycle or peter out and leave us vulnerable to the competition.

 

When there is a growth cycle, people often don’t want to hear about change – after all, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it, right? It requires courage to suggest that changing course is necessary, and then, even more courage to see the change through. After all, if you’re going to be an agent of change, for better or worse, you own it. It's a risk all growth companies need to take.  If it works, you enjoy the spoils of victory. If it doesn’t, well, then there are hard questions coming your way.

 

It’s another reason why many people shy away from advocating change during a time of success: who wants to advocate for a new growth strategy or, test a new concept when times are good? It's so much easier to stay the course and play it safe.  Playing not to lose as opposed to playing to win.

 

But fear of failure is no way to effect change. At McDonald’s, I was able to gain success for my team, and ultimately the company at large, by initiating, testing and scaling new growth strategies designed to grow market share around an untapped consumer need. The company’s top leaders always appreciated my passion for not just sitting idle and accepting the status quo, but always trying to push the ceiling and challenge the system to cut through barriers to meet and exceed revenue and income targets.

 

There was a time during my career when brand trust in McDonald's had fallen precipitously, and consumers were losing faith in our product. After working closely with my team in California, it became clear to me that the most effective way to rebuild that trust was through ensuring the integrity of our Food Quality. Frustratingly, this is what we did through using the best suppliers, and safest procedures and processes, but consumers did not give us any credit for it. 

 

We knew we had to do a better job of telling our brand story, so we featured our premium suppliers and processes through farm-to-table stories in our packaging, digital media and advertising. Consumers had never previously thought of McDonald's as a farm-to-table restaurant, so we needed to build a campaign educating the public about our practices, which we did in our division.

 

At a worldwide convention, after getting my divisional president to become an advocate, I secured some time with our Global CMO and COO to share what we’d been doing in the west and to strongly encourage them to change our national, and global approach to Brand Trust.

 

This critical conversation, including many follow-up conversations and alignment of franchisees, led to new global packaging, store interior décor, PR and advertising campaigns that featured our “Farm-to- able” stories and our premium network of quality suppliers. Our U.S. brand trust scores went up and they’ve been on an upward trajectory ever since. Through new product innovation featuring premium ingredients, customization and quality packaging, McDonald's did a tremendous job of changing the narrative.

 

It wasn't easy to build a consensus on a radical departure from our usual marketing strategies, but I pushed hard to make it happen, and was recognized by upper management as a catalyst for an important change.

 

I never shied away from discussing change and continuous improvement even when it appeared we didn’t need any, and that's exactly what I’ll bring to you as your business growth coach.

 

Sometimes it takes an outsider’s perspective to gain fresh insights into your company, and if you’re starting to see signs of complacency in your business, I'll be the change agent you need to jump start new thinking.

 

Let’s start with a challenge: find processes in your business that you think can be improved and ask those responsible for them why they do it the way they do. If you get the dreaded, “because that’s how it’s always been done” answer, then you know it’s time for change, and I can bring my decades of experience to your company to get you started down that path.

 

Don't be stuck and left behind.  Let me guide you to the summit by embracing the changes you need to be an industry leader. 

For a free business growth consultation and assessment, contact me at kim@augustavointernational.com.           

Right People, Right Positions

If you play chess, there’s one universal truth: if you’re not looking 10 moves ahead, your opponent is, and the game won’t last very long. Chess isn’t about the move you’re making now, it’s about how that move will set you up down the line. It’s the ultimate exercise in using short-term decision-making to achieve long-term results.

 

The corporate world can be very similar – constantly balancing what you need to accomplish this week or this month while making sure the decisions you make today will lead to success in a year.

 

To that end, having the right people in the right positions is a vital element to making sure the company is on the path to growth.

 

In my corporate career, I spent a long time managing large teams of people, and in that position I was constantly evaluating the best fits for everyone under my purview. Like any good manager, my goal was to see my people thrive, and go on to great things either within the company or elsewhere if the opportunity arose.

 

And when the time would come for someone to move up, I always wanted to ensure there was someone ready and waiting to take on that position so the team could continue smoothly. In that way, it’s like being the general manager of a pro sports team – watching a player leave for greener pastures but making sure someone is there to take their spot without sacrificing the team’s larger goals.

 

I’m proud to look at how many people who started under me have gone on to achieve great things in their career.  Of course, it’s not always easy, and there are times where someone’s personal goals aren’t aligned with the team’s. When I think of situations like that, my mind immediately drifts to a former report whom for purposes of this blog I’ll call "John."

 

Years ago in my corporate career I was asked by upper management to bring John under my leadership and guide him. John was excellent at what I call “managing up” – ingratiating himself to the company’s higher-ups. Almost as soon as he came on board, things started to go south as John felt he was entitled to work on his own priorities and not the team’s priorities. He became difficult to manage and when I would discuss his behavior, he became very defensive. He was continually putting his own interests and agenda ahead of the divisional team.   

 

John quickly became a toxic presence, but his ability to form relationships with upper management kept them from seeing what a detriment he was to our group.

 

In Brad’s Smart’s book “Topgrading,” he posits that people can fall into A, B and C categories, and in that regard, John was a classic “C” player - he was not productive, and he violated our core values. It was especially difficult because I couldn’t get buy-in from management to make the move.    

 

What was particularly frustrating is that I had an “A” player ready to replace him, but I needed support from management to do so. I finally decided to invite my supervisor from management to join my team in an exercise from Pat Lencioni’s book “The Five Dysfunctions of a Team”. The team members rated each area on a scale of 1-10 and then discussed their ratings.

 

There was a robust discussion and when I asked the group if they felt everyone was committed to achieving our goals, one individual bravely spoke up and shared they did not think we would achieve them based on the lack of John’s commitment and support. This was an eye-opener to my boss and when others finally chimed in, he became convinced this was a big issue.

 

After several 1:1 meetings with each of my team members, there was no denying that John was not a team player and was not focused on achieving our goals. I was then able to have a critical conversation with John knowing I now had the support from management that I needed.

 

John left the company and I replaced him with the “A” player I had waiting on the bench. The team went on to not only meet the lofty goals of the division, but exceeded them and became recognized as the top-performing business unit in the entire company.

 

Your people are key to your growth, and having the right people in the right positions is vital to having your company run at its maximum potential. That’s where Augustavo International can come in. After several decades of rising through the corporate ranks of a Fortune 500 corporation, I learned how to quickly identify “A” players, and match people to positions that best suit their skillset, allowing them to flourish while the company reaps the benefits of their skills and passion.

 

If your business could use a fresh set of eyes to see if you’re putting your people in the best positions to succeed, contact me. Don’t get caught playing checkers while your competitors are playing chess. 

For a free business growth consultation and assessment, contact me at kim@augustavointernational.com.    

Agent of Change

“The world as we have created it is a process of our thinking. It cannot be changed without changing our thinking.” 

-Albert Einstein

 

Think about change in your life for a moment. Start small – your favorite lunch spot, the place you go once a week is closing, forcing you to find a new haunt. Now think a bit bigger. Switching from an iPhone to an Android, and what a hassle that would be.

 

Now keep going.

 

A new company.  A new position. A new house. A new city.

 

How does each one make you feel? Excited? Apprehensive? Terrified?

 

Now consider that each of those scenarios affects only you or the people in your immediate circle, and change the setting to a corporate boardroom. You walk into an executive meeting with a plan to change your company’s strategy. You’ve considered every outcome backward and forward and have contingencies and options.

 

Except as you’re progressing, you can see the faces around the room drop. The finance team is concerned about how it will affect Q3 earnings. The sales people have their current pitch down cold and don’t want to learn a new one. The marketing team doesn't know how this new strategy aligns with what’s been done before.

 

At one time or another, you’ve probably faced this problem. Unless your company is in a freefall, enacting change can feel like an insurmountable task. Because even if things could be better, as long as they’re ok, people will be resistant. After all, change can sometimes be scary.  It can be risky without confidence or clarity in the new direction. 

 

As much as you hear about entrepreneurs looking for the next disruptive service or product, staying status quo can be the path of choice for many organizations. I know this because I’ve seen it and lived it. I spent years working in the corporate world and ran into every kind of barrier to change. Fear, complacency, ego, doubt – I’ve seen it all.

 

And I’ve broken through.

 

Everywhere I’ve been, I’ve been an agent of change, and I've been able to broker buy-in despite initial reluctance, including my career as a senior marketing executive at McDonald's, a Fortune 500 company with one of the most famous brands in the world.

 

If you've started your day with a delicious cup of coffee from McDonald's in the last two decades, I was part of the catalyst making that possible. Based in the coffee hotspot of the Pacific Northwest, I watched as people avoided McDonald's coffee as the premium coffee industry exploded. Those winds of change hadn't yet reached the rest of the country, so top management wasn't inclined to look at things differently.

 

But seeing where the trends were going, I sprang into action. I created a partnership with Seattle's Best Coffee in the Northwest region, and we saw immediate results, so much so that corporate couldn't ignore it any longer.

 

We took a setback when Starbucks purchased Seattle's Best Coffee and ended the partnership, but our executives had seen the potential. That led to a greater investment in premium coffee and the creation of McCafe, which has grown to become a growth catalyst to their business.

 

To get there, my team and I had to win over our regional management, then our national management and then our franchisees across the country. There was pushback and there was doubt, but the results quickly removed barriers and led to company growth, which is the ultimate goal.

 

It isn't easy getting to that point – to get past complacency you need an abundance of perseverance and tenacity, attributes I'm certainly not short on. I like to use the analogy of climbing a mountain – you can get to a plateau, but there's no helicopter coming in to take you to the summit. You must keep challenging yourself and with me at your side, I will help elevate you and your team to reach the peak.

 

If your business has reached a crossroads where change is necessary, I will guide your company in the right direction to help you execute your growth goals. Enacting change in a Fortune 500 corporation with a worldwide presence is no easy feat. I encountered just about every barrier imaginable and overcame them.

 

Sometimes, it takes a set of fresh eyes to find new ways forward, and that's where I come in.

 

Contact me today to schedule a complimentary Leadership Assessment and see how Augustavo International can help your company’s strategy and execution systems change to improve profitability. If you're ready to climb the mountain, let me be your guide.

For a free business growth consultation and assessment, contact me at kim@augustavointernational.com.    

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