Balancing culture and strategy

March 15, 2017 -  By
Jeffrey Scott

Jeffrey Scott

Eminent business thinker Peter Drucker is known for saying “Culture eats strategy for breakfast.” He believed culture trumped all.

His words are taken as gospel. This thinking is misplaced when it comes to small and midsize green industry firms. Here’s what I’ve found to be true.

Most firms in our industry spend more time focusing on culture than strategy. A good strategy is missing.

Owners in the green industry care greatly about their people—sometimes to a fault. Many landscape and related service companies have grown organically without a particular strategy.

At least half of these companies are under performing, and many owners are greatly underpaying themselves, due in part to a lack of a good company strategy.

Even larger corporations have to balance culture and strategy to survive. Their struggle is twofold: get everyone on the same page and figure out what page that is. This topic of culture came up when Dan Ariens, president and CEO of Ariens Co., spoke to some of my Leader’s Edge peer group members last year. “We challenge ourselves to balance our culture with a constant pursuit of perfection,” he said. “Balancing the expectations of world class performance requires a discipline to a strategic plan while we measure the accountability of the plan through our cultural eyes.”

Which Comes First?

Many landscape business owners will tell you that having a stronger culture is their biggest challenge. A third of my clients come to me with that goal in mind. In fact, that’s the reason I published, “Become a Destination Company,” because of the need in our industry for attracting better employees and creating a stronger culture. Yet, what I find missing from most companies is a clear and compelling strategy. If your strategy is fragile, confusing or ever-changing, it will greatly weaken your culture.

Screen Shot 2017-03-07 at 1.31.34 PMUltimately, culture and strategy reinforce and support each other. Having a healthy culture allows you to implement your strategy at 10 times the speed with a much higher chance of success. Conversely, having a targeted and well-implemented strategy allows your company to achieve more, which then attracts more successful people.

So which should you focus on first? Give priority to whichever is weakest. If your culture is weaker and unaligned, focus there to shore it up.

A successful growth strategy

To grow in profitably, you need good marketing, sales and service. Sustainable growth, however, requires more than just hiring another salesperson or increasing your pay-per-click budget.

You need a cohesive approach that builds and grows your entire company. Here’s my five-step business-building strategy. Follow this recipe and you will achieve more.

  1. People strategy: Attract, retain and surround yourself with the right team of people; put them in the right seats, and empower them to excel.
  2. Operational and systems strategy: Put proven systems in place to make your people more efficient. You need both people systems and production systems.
  3. Marketing and sales strategy: With improved productivity, you now need to close more sales to keep up with the expanded capacity. Most companies can sell at a higher margin when they get focused on their ideal client and how to serve that client.
  4. Feedback strategy: Control your business in real time with the right metrics and key performance indicators.
  5. Accountability strategy: Ensure accountability and seamless execution of your systems. This is the glue that keeps everything humming. Develop daily, weekly, monthly and quarterly accountability systems for success.

Your company is like a sports car. It needs a set of balanced tires to maintain traction around sharp corners at fast speeds. The same goes with your company. If you want to win the race, make sure your strategy addresses all five points, with buy-in from all your employees. Full speed ahead—see you at the checkered flag!

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About the Author:

Jeffrey Scott, MBA, author, specializes in growth and profit maximization in the Green Industry. His expertise is rooted in his personal success, growing his own company into a $10 million enterprise. Now, he facilitates the Leader’s Edge peer group for landscape business owners—members achieve a 27 percent profit increase in their first year. To learn more visit www.GetTheLeadersEdge.com.

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