Terry Thompson, Surrey, BC, CYBF Mentor

My story begins about seven years ago. I was part owner and general manager of a growing company that had succeeded in expanding across Canada and was reasonably profitable. The prospects were very bright. We were bringing new services to the market and the market potential was significant. However, not all things were as rosy as I would have liked them to be. I was working 60 to 75 hours per week, management and operations turnovers were high and we were not as profitable as I thought we should be. I believed that we had good corporate culture (whatever that meant to me at the time), the clients loved us and that we had good people – so what were the issues that nagged at me but I couldn’t put my finger on? The answers to my concerns were identified when we completed a client survey and an employee survey.

The client survey confirmed that the clients did love us with 97% stating that they would recommend our services to other companies. However, to my surprise it wasn’t because we were great at what we did (the clients only rated us as average with respect to our people and the quality of our service). They loved us because of the strength of our concept – we were the only company who could provide the type of services that we did. Further, the employee survey showed that we had only average corporate culture. In this case corporate culture was measured by the level of our “employee engagement”.

These significant findings caused me to reflect seriously about how this had happened and what path we should follow to correct the situation. We had a significant competitive advantage because of the uniqueness and value of the services that we offered but with only average execution, we would be exposed to competitive pressures in the future. The path we followed in response to these revelations took place over a number of years and was extremely successful as evidenced by:

  1. Being named Canada’s 7th best company to work for in a highly regarded national survey
  2. Being named as one of Canada’s 50 best managed companies
  3. Continuing to grow the company (and improve profitability) at a double digit rate during Canada’s worst recession since the Great Depression
  4. Reducing my work load to 30 to 35 hours per week and significantly improving my “fun” factor
  5. Selling the company to a private equity firm at a very attractive price (and thereby allowing me to retire and write articles like this)

In future articles I will describe this path in bite-sized pieces so that you can achieve the same goals much earlier and with less stress in your career and your company’s life than I did.

If you have any questions or feedback regarding the content of this article, please email me (Terry Thompson) at tesh@shaw.ca.

Other articles in the Managing Corporate Culture article series: