When a business starts out, it is typically a case of ‘all hands to the pump’. Everyone pitches in to get the jobs done and keep the Clients happy and, whilst much of this may not be documented, it works well.
As the business grows and more people join, these early arrangements often get ‘baked in’ to the ways of working: someone ‘has always done that’ and so it carries on, even though they may no longer be the best equipped or qualified.
The results can include a lot of wasted energy and frustration, even inhibiting the growth of the business altogether.
So it was in this business: an events management company with an enviable blue-chip Client base run by two generations of an extended family.
The business was facing a challenging context: new stakeholders in key Clients meant established relationships and revenue flows could no longer be counted on; the cost base was bloated due to a reluctance to take some tough decisions; accountabilities and responsibilities were blurred and poorly aligned to people’s motivations and competencies; robust management information was hard to pin down; and finally everyone was on the Board, making decision-making hard to impossible.
Some tough love was required!
Having been invited to witness a Board meeting, we worked together to create a new and refined understanding of the role of a Board, the distinction between its remit and that of a leadership team, and to agree who was best placed to serve each of these functions.
The size of the Board was reduced, which involved some emotionally challenging and charged conversations that would have been difficult to tackle without outside facilitation.
These acted as a catalyst for one family member to leave the business and pursue a long-standing ambition to set up in a different sector on their own.
These emerging new ways of working naturally highlighted the need to reassess and realign accountabilities and responsibilities across each business function, prompting further tough conversations. This was accompanied by a rapid and external assessment of the financial state of the business and associated systems, in view of the threats to forecast revenue.
This was a lot to take on board, and at this point the Client felt that they needed time to consolidate all of the changes and focus on securing and serving their long-established Clients.
At a recent follow-up review, they reported much improved forecast revenues, further reductions to the cost base, improved decision-making and a much clearer and more confident vision of what the business now needed to continue on its new-found growth trajectory.