Culture KOs Strategy ... Again
by Ed Horrell
I often write about the importance of corporate culture and how
it affects a business. I found a great example of a company
that had a clear culture, lost it for a while and brought it back
with a vengeance. If you've ever doubted the impact of culture,
read on. You'll like this story.
MBI is a Memphis-based business furniture and interior design
company. They have been successful in their field and led by a
charismatic and popular business leader, Scott Messmore. Like
virtually all businesses, MBI reflects the values of their
leader via their energy and quest for ever-improving service and
shares these values on their website at http://www.gombi.com/.
This changed in 2002 as a continued business downturn, caused by
the tragedies of 9/11/2001, affected business in general and MBI
According to Messmore, "The culture has evolved, and refined, at
MBI. There was a "crisis" in 2002, when the economy was down
turning for our industry at a steep slope and it required us to
have massive layoffs. From 2002-2003, we were forced to lay off
60% of our workforce. As a result, we made a conscious decision
to keep the people with 'great values'. We felt values over
performance would hold our ship together better over time. From
that point on, values became the most important ingredient to
our cultural mix.
After this occurrence, we adopted written values a bit
differently than our past values. Then, we memorialized and
shared those values encouraging employee input. So people had a
target of high values, high performance to shoot for.
Our organizational performance began to take tremendous turns
for the better. We communicated the values at every meeting, we
used the values for 360 reviews, and we had cards printed up for
every employee. The values were reinforced at every opportunity."
The cultural focus began to pay off and business for MBI grew
and the company recovered...for a while. A severe back injury in
2006 caused Scott to be removed from the day-to-day operations
and, once again, sales and profits suffered.
"When I was forced to back away from the organization, due to
health issues, the day-to-day "living" of the values suffered."
says Messmore. "What I believe happened was the remaining team
leaders at MBI would rationalize their day-to-day behaviors as
being in line with MBI values, yet demonstrate those values in a
far different manner than me. The effect on the organization in
some parts was high turnover and high employee dissatisfaction.
The good news is this was only the sales part of the
organization. The operations part of the organization, with a
leader who developed the values with me, held strong."
"Basically, our sales dropped 25% and turnover in sales reached
When Scott returned, he immediately refocused on the core values
of his company. These include the fact that each employee should:
understand that someone is there to listen to their needs
are supported in their efforts to grow and learn
are optimistic that there is a future for them in the
feel like a part of a team vs. an individual contributor
This type of values is what separates values-driven companies
from all the others. They understand that their employees ARE
their culture and they don't lost sight of it.
Employees are motivated by more than wages and titles ... studies
show that they want to feel appreciated and important.
They want to feel part of a team.
MBI is doing just that...game on!
Join the "Kindness Revolution" created by Ed Horrell, a Memphis-based author
and professional speaker and is the host of the syndicated radio show "Talk
About Service." Learn more about his books, keynotes and radio show at http://www.edhorrell.com .
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