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 in particular.

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 50%."

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 organization

  • 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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Copyright 2007 by Ed Horrell. All rights reserved.

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