CASE STUDY

PROFITS THROUGH PEOPLE

How to turn unengaged, underperforming employees, lacking skills into a smaller, better performing team. Done in under 8 months which was thought was impossible.

Situation: The patient was a sick business

A business is like a living organism - there are lots of functioning parts. When any part is sick then the whole business suffers. Sometimes businesses get so sick that it’s like a cancer that has spread to every part. This is a story about a business that seemed terminal but was brought back from the brink.

This Module is Part of Boss Camp

Boss Camp will show you how to improve employee performance by showing you what they never taught you in school. The program includes topics such as:

  • How to motivate employees
  • What are bad employee motivators
  • What you must do as a manager but isn't on your job description
  • How leaders get power
  • Management techniques that don't take time

Get the Full Video Transcript Here...

Case Study: Profits Through People

Turning a declining, loss making business into a profitable, growing business. How to turn unengaged, underperforming employees, lacking skills into a smaller, better performing team. Done in under 8 months which was thought was impossible.

Situation: The patient was a sick business

A business is like a living organism - there are lots of functioning parts. When any part is sick then the whole business suffers. Sometimes businesses get so sick that it’s like a cancer that has spread to every part. This is a story about a business that seemed terminal but was brought back from the brink.

A client’s business was failing in almost every way possible. Sales were declining, costs were out of control. They had substantial losses and things were getting worse. They had grown their staff but things weren’t getting done. The boss was working over 70 hours a week, stressed and close to a breakdown. Things were so bad that the management team wanted to shut the business to salvage its assets.

I’ve done a lot of consulting in my day but this was a bad case. If we didn’t act fast then; the business was going to fail. People were going to lose their jobs and it would be a very difficult time for all concerned.

There were a lot of problems and I realized that the root cause was that the boss wasn’t getting her employees to do their jobs. And this was because the boss had never had any management training or good role models to learn from. The boss was highly educated, hard working and extremely well regarded in the industry. She had been a successful, independent business woman for many years. But now as her company grew, her individual talents mattered less, and how her team functioned mattered more.

This is similar to what I see when technical people move into management positions. It’s exactly the same problem I had when I first became a manager. And I took years to achieve the self - awareness to accept that employee performance problems are because of my lack of manager skills. And I should stop blaming employees for problems and instead improve my manager skills.

What happened was that the company had grown beyond her capability to manage people.

And a few bad hires pushed her over the edge. She felt trapped because:

  • The staff she had weren’t doing what she needed
  • Trying to fix them wasn’t working. And
  • Hiring new staff took too long and because she hadn’t been trained how to hire, she ended up replacing one problem with another.

If she didn’t make something happen herself then it didn’t happen. In under 8 months I guided the boss to turn the business 180 degrees around into a profitable, growing and sustainable business. And this is how.

The employee situation:

These were some of the warning signs I saw and what was happening as a result.

To keep this quick, I’m only going to highlight some common examples.

  • Staff morale was low, people were unhappy & unproductive in the office.
  • There was massive abuse of sick leave.
  • Employees didn’t take ownership for their jobs. They rushed out the door with work undone and left the boss to finish up
  • Employees didn’t have the right skills to be good at their jobs

These are some of the warning sings. And what was worse is that the boss tried to create a supportive culture. The boss was accommodating to employees needs, they bought staff lunches. The boss wanted employees to like her but instead employees had a dysfunctional relationship with her.

  • They weren’t committed to her or their jobs.
  • Employees didn’t listen,
  • They kept on making the same mistakes and
  • They didn’t deliver results.

This was not a performance culture.

What we changed:

Working with behavior models we identified that we had the wrong people doing the wrong jobs. Which sounds complicated but is really just using DISC And we had employees with skills we weren’t using. This we fixed by

  • changing the allocation of work with delegation and
  • hiring to fill competency gaps.
  • We also set clear performance expectations.

Particular wins were:

  1. A staff member who didn’t have a creative outlet got the project to redesign the premises. By optimizing space we saved rent and increased sales with a better showroom layout. This employee had been one of those employees who could win an award for bad attitude. But with the design job they were like a totally different person. They taught themself new skills. They took pride in their work. This was a large project that the boss thought only she could do. Not only did it save the boss time but the employee did a fantastic job, sooner than the boss could’ve done it.

  2. By following the hiring for performance process we made sure that new hires had required skills. Instead of finding out afterwards that they couldn’t do the job. By doing this we plugged the two major gaps in the organization skillset that were costing a lot of money. We got fantastic new hires which made a massive difference to performance and office happiness.

  3. People say it’s difficult to change the culture of an organization but setting performance expectations was the first step to becoming more results oriented. This worked especially well with the new hires by doing it on day one. The new hires hit the ground running and turned into loyal, performing employees.

I showed the boss how to run regular, high quality one-one meetings. The boss and the employees had never had one-on-one meetings before and so they needed training. I’ve got a lot of empathy for them because I had also never been trained in what to do in One-on-one meetings. And clearly neither had any of my bosses because the content of these meetings varied wildly, that is when they bothered to do them at all. I now know that there is definitely a massive difference in the quality of one-on-one meetings.

What resulted was that communication and relationships improved. Regular status updates kept work on track. The CEO got fewer interruptions which meant she had more time to focus on her work.

I showed the CEO how to do effective performance communications. So that when she spoke, employees listened to what she said and found her message motivational to act on. I showed her how to make performance communication quick, hassle free and non-confrontational so that she can do it every day. And we set up processes to encourage every employee towards their goals and make every employee feel important. Employees started to feel more ownership for their jobs, performance improved and employees were getting more job satisfaction.

Sales had been weak because of a lack of sales skills and poor systems.

I also showed her how to develop her employees skills in just ten minutes per week.

The employees learned how to sell better. Employees also learned how to run a sales system to manage customer enquiries. This totally reversed the decline in sales. Sales have grown consistently by 30% year on year since then and they’ve been having record sales months.

We achieved a result that was difficult to believe. The boss thought we had to hire more people because there was a lot of work to do. Instead the company became more productive with fewer employees. So costs went down (by almost 25%) while sales went up. And this wasn’t by becoming a task master and working people hard because the employees got more satisfaction from their jobs.

And the boss changed from having to do everything herself to getting her time and life back. Plus she had less stress from employee frustrations. One of the best outcomes was that it became a much nicer place to work.

Plan 1, 2, 3

You can do the same in your business, whether you’re a boss with hundreds of people working under you or a small owner-manager.

It’s a simple 3 step plan

  1. Decide you want to be a better boss. Whether it’s to create a better workplace, accelerate your career, make more money, reduce your stress or gain confidence in your abilities

  2. Set aside an hour a week to work on people performance (see YOUR power-hour for help)

  3. Find out how to be a better boss in Boss Camp (if you haven’t applied to join then you can do that here)

Wrapping up

So to wrap up, What I’ve learnt is that when your people don’t perform, it’s going to drag you and the business down with them. Poor employee performance is a cancer that will destroy your business, it will make you unhappy and unhealthy. But do the right things as the boss and pretty soon employee performance will turn around. When this happens you’ll find:

  • That your team will be happier and more productive
  • A massive improvement to the bottom line
  • You’re going to get your time back
  • You will gain confidence in your boss skills and
  • You will have the peace of mind that you don’t have to do everything yourself

Managing doesn’t have to be hard

What I also learnt is that people are complex and managing is difficult. Don’t expect to be a good manager without some sort of formal training. But as complex as people are, managing doesn’t have to be hard. All you need to do it apply the foundations with the correct technique and the rest will follow.