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When 2013 finally rolled around, many executives gave a slight sigh of relief. The elections were finally over, the Great Recession had supposedly ended, and the only remaining issue was the looming fiscal cliff that the United States faced again. Yet we were going to have to fight through the process of watching our political leaders struggle with “leading our country forward. “ Thanks to the media pundits, we are able to not only witness these leadership challenges first hand, but to receive a breakdown of the meaning of each action or inaction. Unfortunately, as a business owner or executive, we don’t always have the benefit of an objective view of how our leadership is impacting the sustainable growth of our companies. Too often this only emerges through fiscal devastation at a time when the firm has fallen off of the cliff.
So many executives are challenged with recasting their organizations’ goals during each fiscal period. For larger firms this process is typically organized and structured along reporting periods especially in public companies. However, owners of smaller firms could also adopt this practice and create rituals to regularly update their strategic plan.
When working with clients, I often suggest that they entertain creating a similar ritual. I’ve coined the Business Strategic Resolution planning process as the New Year’s Resolution for business executives. This process includes evaluating the firms’ purpose, product, performance, people, position, and profits. If done with a specific goal, this process can reveal several internal and external opportunities for value-added improvements.
I wanted to speak with other business owners who faced organizational challenges, and were able to implement a change management process successfully. I caught up with Steve Rosol, President and Chief Executive Office for Mars Air Systems. Mars Air Systems is the international leader in high quality air curtains and air doors that help make buildings comfortable, sanitary and energy-efficient. Utilizing industry-leading tools and services, Mars provides architects and engineers with the most comprehensive air curtain and air door solutions, while giving building owners the peace of mind of a reliable product and dedicated support.
Steve shared several insights regarding how he became the owner of Mars Air in 2009 following what seemed to be a failed acquisition attempt. Initially, Steve was interested in purchasing Mars Air, but instead of completing the purchase he became an employee of the firm. Steve jumped in and ultimately three-years later finally completed the purchase. The deal closed on New Year’s Eve in 2009 during the Great Recession. He shared how he allowed the staff to leave early while he sat alone contemplating what he’d do next. Mars Air had been a family owned firm with several long-term employees, yet the organization operated like a typical “mom and pop” in its approach to business management and sustainability. Steve recognized that he would have to make changes, and wanted to do so in a purposeful manner.
Often when addressing the daily business operational challenges, taking time to work on the strategic plan can be delayed or altogether forgotten. This can lead to challenges for the firm which may surface as lost revenues, but what led to that reality may not immediately be evident. Sometimes during this process, you realize the vision should be reconsidered. For example, if the dynamics of the business environment have changed and your firm has not, it might be time to re-evaluate the firm’s purpose as a part of navigating the global dynamic market place.
Steve started by evaluating the corporate culture and through that process realized that internal changes were required. He shared, “the right people are my best asset, it’s important to be slow to hire and quick to fire.” The team began to redefine its value proposition and understand that they had to remain relevant, while managing current and future change initiatives. In order to adopt new corporate values, Steve had his management team play roles during a company gathering, reflecting each of the values. In this way, employees could recall a company value by remembering the manager who played that role. Steve describes that as, “making it sticky.”
Initially the leadership approach and change initiatives seemed to work, and then in 2012 Mars hit what I describe as a speed bump. It was during that period that Steve accepted, “what got us here won’t get us there.” He knew where “there” was for Mars and was determined to revamp his business model to right the course. As 2013 begins, it seems that Mars is well on its way. Steve shares, “through an internal culture committed to making customers’ jobs easier and backed by dependable products, Mars is the industry’s most trusted name.” For more information on check out: www.marsair.com.