Welcome to a Tacticware Resource Group educational white paper! This white paper is available for free download on Tacticware.com.
At Tacticware, we discuss the most difficult subjects for today’s business management executives. On its whole, we suggest that culture, leadership, and brand perception are the source of most business challenges, rather than a symptom.
People challenges do not have an on/off button, nor is there a silver bullet. Training without leadership accomplishes zero. Employees impact every component of your organization, including customers. But keep in mind that our dialogue is not about basic business mechanics; it’s about quality organizations, communication, and customer/employee retention.
White Paper Introduction
In this white paper, we discuss the “Boiled Business (Frog) Syndrome” and its negative effects on company culture, leadership, and strategy. We also cover how this syndrome affects customer satisfaction, retention, and brand perception.
The “Boiled Business (Frog) Syndrome” creates Gatekeepers. These gatekeepers not only limit company and personal success, they drain company resources. Circumstances and events manage the business rather than opportunity.
Let us first remember the original fable. It goes like this: “A frog is slowly being boiled alive. If a frog is put suddenly into boiling water, it will jump out. But, if the frog is put in tepid water which is then brought to a boil slowly, it will not perceive the danger and will be cooked to death.”
For the purpose of this white paper, now consider a business-related version of that fable:
“A business is slowly being boiled alive. The premise is that if a business is put suddenly into a pot of boiling competitors or adverse market conditions, it will survive and adapt.
But if the business is put in the tepid waters of ineffective leadership, communication, and poor perception, which is then brought to a boil slowly over time, it will not perceive the danger. The business will be cooked to death.”
No industry is immune to this syndrome. Some people incorrectly believe that large companies have solved these challenges with their layers of strategists and management. Ask Volkswagen, Wells Fargo, or the many challenged retailers. Businesses that fail to manage changing culture and customer satisfaction are simply boiling to death while prioritizing, engaging, and reacting to the wrong indicators.
Throughout this paper, we introduce questions that you must honestly ask yourself to determine the true state of your organization. Often when a company encounters difficulty, some of that problem can be traced back to leadership, communication, perception, and most importantly, culture.
As you read this white paper, please let go the distractions of business mechanics. This includes technology, CRM, ERP, market intelligence, production equipment, and distribution. Consider every question honestly, both as an employee of your company, and as a leader of your organization.
By having an accurate picture of the current state of culture, your organization can be proactive in ensuring that your team keeps true to organizational values, and in turn, keeps from boiling to death.
Successful organizations look at leadership vertically. That is owners, senior management, and secondary management are first responsible for enforcing cultural expectations equally and fairly. Each are responsible for communicating, executing, and verifying that company core values, quality, perception, and business practices are aligned and communicated to the customer with each transaction.
Transformational leaders achieve more objectives because they place culture and perception as a first priority. They are transformational leaders because they are constantly in tune with both customers and employees.
“Your Culture is Your Brand” is more than a simple statement. When company core values and statements are not enforced, it is a sign that company business practices are out of alignment. While price is the issue in some transactions, poor business relationships and practices also have a large impact on customer retention. Customers who feel slighted go elsewhere and the company loses a valuable revenue source.
When companies effectively manage culture and core values, customer satisfaction is generally high. Satisfied customers are usually loyal customers. Loyal customers are more collaborative and receptive to innovation. Unhappy and dissatisfied customers choose not to invest further with suppliers demonstrating poor business practices.
- Do customer satisfaction results accurately reflect your company core values?
- Does management consistently “walk the talk” of vision, mission, and core values to the team and customers?
Tip: Identify managers with excessive employee attrition rates, or those with none at all. Assess how these managers compare with the expectations of your top managerial talent.
Brand perception is viral and directly contributes to the boiling temperature. Perception starts at the top of the management chain and trickles down to the bottom of the organization. From there, employees spread perception in every communication and transaction of the company.
There are really few secrets in business, we just think so. Positive perception establishes employee trust. Positive customer perception leads to consistent purchase orders and customer satisfaction. Customer satisfaction leads to customer retention.
Employees are ambassadors of perception. Positive employee perception achieves more objectives. It’s also an open invitation to new candidates about joining the right team.
Tacticware provides 360 Organizational Assessments to our clients. Interestingly from our client experiences, two common challenges are most discussed by employees:
- Equal Accountability: Where departmental managers fail to equally and fairly enforce quality and performance standards. Eventually the bar of excellence is set by the weakest employee.
- Management Communication: Where management communication of company status, meetings, objectives, challenges, innovation, and achievement is poorly executed, inconsistent, or a non event.
Generally, activity-based management results in unequal accountability and poor communication. Objective-based management is generally proactive and facilitates equal accountability and communication while supporting a quality work environment.
- What are the customer attrition rates for your organization?
- What are the employee attrition rates for your organization?
Tip: 360 Organizational Assessments provide factual evidence to management teams in order to benchmark and improve upon challenges.
Strategic planning is influenced by culture and leadership. Companies with flawed strategies communicate a message to both employees and customers. The effects of the Boiling Syndrome are increased when plans are flawed or poorly conceived.
Customers view flawed strategy as an absence of leadership and sometimes as a lack of customer understanding and market conditions. Customer trust flies out the door when poor planning occurs because customers begin to question supplier trust and value.
Some companies have invested vast financial resources pursuing flawed strategies. Eventually these flawed strategies became toxic strategies. A few toxic strategies can pour gasoline into the boiling cauldron.
Quality and high-performance employees view flawed strategy as a reason to look for another job. Why risk working for an organization that is self defeating? With unemployment at less than 4% in many markets, good people can and will secure another job.
Strategic planning is an extension of company core values. Strategic thinking is a process, and is more often about what “we should not do, rather than how to do it.” Transformational leaders separate strategy and tactics from the discussion. They accurately assess company risk and strategic contribution to company growth.
Consider this, Company Capacity is generally limited to its Management’s Capacity. Strategic plans exceeding company resources or tactics often lead to failed execution.
Who is at fault when strategy fails? Generally management blames employees and employees blame management. Employees feel unrealistic objectives are the cause and management feels unqualified employees are the cause. The final result is the strategy failed and contributed to the “Boiled Business Syndrome.”
- Consider your last significant strategic plan. Were company core values, brand perception, and customer satisfaction included as discussion points and risk management concerns?
The Five Greats of Customer Satisfaction
Customers consistently expect the Five Greats. The question is how many managers and strategic plans effectively engage these qualities. The result is competitive advantage.
- Quality: products/service are exactly as promised
- Relationships: consistent relationships that are professional and timely
- Service: consistent and friendly solutions resolving challenges
- Innovation: that is truly innovative and relevant
- Value: fair and predictable pricing
Quality companies are predictable. The term “Quality” applies to the entire organization’s management, employees, products, and distribution network. Customers know they can depend on the company to correct any deficiency.
Professional and timely relationships create customer trust and collaboration. Customer relationships are not just the responsibility of sales; every company employee, and department is responsible.
Customers expect friendly solutions from supportive staff who actually care. Positive resolution of challenges set the tone for a future transaction. Satisfied customers generally are loyal customers.
Effective innovation is the source of new revenue and an opportunity to renew collaborative relationships with the customer. Unhappy customers with sore feelings about prior quality complaints or lack of relationship simply are not the right candidates for innovation. Customers with positive perception are statistically more likely to purchase innovation because of previously-established trust.
Quality customers expect suppliers to charge a fair price for products and services. Quality, service, and innovation have a price and this creates value. Commodity-driven customers sometimes fail to value a quality organization. If your company has a number of significant customers falling into the commodity category, consider the type of customers your sales team is soliciting and why.
(Notice that Value/Price are #5. If the conditions of Quality, Relationship, Service, and Innovation are achieved, the condition of Price is less important.)
More often than not, customers leave suppliers because of poor business practices and perception, rather than price. What’s important for management to know is which scenario really happened.
- If we were to measure and benchmark each of the “Five Greats” for your organization, what would be the result?
Tip: Interview your most important customers personally for real truth about company performance. Find any ideas that customers have that could positively impact the relationship.
The ability of a business to adapt and prosper when confronted by adversity, competitors, and market conditions is the highest level of risk management. Effective leadership, communication, and positive perception is the foundation of customer satisfaction.
What We’ve Learned
The first and primary responsibility of management throughout the organization is leadership and verification company of core values with both employees and customers. This is the source of quality.
Brand perception is viral and directly contributes to the trust and retention of employees and customers. Benchmarking perception identifies and separates sources and symptoms.
Effective strategic planning should be aligned with company culture and core values to mitigate risk and contribute to brand perception. Company capacity is generally limited to management’s capacity.
Customers consistently expect the “The Five Greats of Customer Satisfaction.” It is competitive advantage.
Brand adaptability is the highest form of risk management. The ability of a business to adapt and prosper when confronted by adversity, competitors, and market conditions is the sign of effective leadership, strong communication, and positive perception.
We at Tacticware Resource Group are firm believers that “Your Culture is Your Brand.” Straying from this basic idea simply turns up the business heat to full boil.
Objectively speaking, it can be helpful to employ an unbiased observer to help your organization when considering cultural analysis and improvement. Oftentimes an outside, objective ally can assist in determining all sides and pieces of the puzzle, giving a honest view of culture with no play of politics.
White Paper Author
Paul Fournier is President of Tacticware Resource Group.
Tacticware Resource Group is a business management consultancy firm offering cultural solutions, strategic planning, upSkill management/sales training, and 360 Cultural Assessments. We help clients nationally to be more successful–in all industries, and of any size. Learn more about transforming your business by contacting Tacticware Resource Group.
Quality people do not have a color, gender, or age. We are committed to diversity and equal opportunity. We do not discriminate against racial, ethnic, and/or religious groups, older workers, women, veterans, and people with disabilities. As a matter of policy, we remain apolitical, religion neutral, and respectful of local customs.
Tacticware Resource Group, LLC