Communication & culture determines business success
Whether I worked with a tiny start up like the one above, or Microsoft when they grew from 24 people to thousands, or major Fortune 1000 companies like for instance HP, or a brand new entertainment company, it is usually easy to spot who will more likely succeed.
Ironically, it is not how breakthrough the company’s concept or the management team is on paper. It is also not the access the team has to VCs, Customers, and Vendors due to their Alma Mater, Or, even how chic their equipment and office furniture may be and how huge their marketing budget is initially. Of course, all these factors help tremendously, and of course without a functioning product or services success stays elusive.
What is so striking to me still, after providing strategic advice to companies during their rapid growth phase for so many years, is how much internal communications affects a company’s overall success.
I found in my many years of assisting people succeed, often from the two guys or ladies’ with an idea on a napkin at an affordable coffee shop phase to literally becoming billionaires. Quite a few of them anyhow and millionaires still count, right? The success often hinges on the way the teams communicate with each other inside the company. This is often an underrated success factor.
Are the founders/managers listening and hearing what their teams have to say? Are they staying informed about what the teams are actually working on? Or, is everyone creating their own little business model without letting the rest of the team know? Are people and their contributions valued? Are they encouraged to contribute? Do they feel that they can grow their own career within the company by helping the company grow. Or, do they feel that their ideas are disrespected or worse stolen, are they treated like minions, do they feel used and abused. Very often when the first or second venture money arrives, it quickly becomes apparent who can handle success without loosing composure. Attitudes matter.
Companies, no matter how large or how small, improve their success rate tremendously if they insisted that people communicate with each other in an empowering and honest way. The corporate culture is always linked with top management. Today the HR teams have a lot of influence, not always for the better. Whoever is in charge of hiring has a great influence over a companies’ success or failure. Every new individual brings their own culture into the enterprise and adds or subtracts from the overall success of the company. The culture determines if the company stays informed, nimble and quick – yet steady, reliable, and solid. Successful companies typically somehow manage both by nurturing a culture of open and mutually respectful internal dialogue.
A quote that I often share with C-level managers: “Whether you have a plan or not, you will get there.”
If the company has a plan everyone has a chance to move forward toward the common goal. If there is no plan, everyone may very well move in different directions, messing up the chances for success. If there is a plan that only the top managers know, the company functions as though there really is no plan. Only if everyone on the various teams understands the overall plan, likes and buys into the plan, sticks with the plan or improves and carries out their own part of the plan, has the company a solid chance for success. This is true at every phase of a company’s growth. Lack of mutual respect ruins companies. Sometimes when larger sums of investor money arrive some people get grandiose or create cliques. It is no fun to watch people lose money through foolishness and arrogance.
A small company maintains a solid sense of direction and cohesion by having regular meetings in which people in the various departments share how they move toward meeting their miles stones. An open communication style rooted in polite behavior and mutual respect allows everyone to help improve the companies’ cohesiveness and allows the prompt removal of obstacles to success. As the company grows it is still needed that hundreds of people share their own progress and concerns on how to improve their abilities for mutual progress. At that point, having a clear communication flow vertically, horizontally, and across different departments is ever more important. By the time communication flow needs to filter through team managers the corporate communication culture becomes vital to the company’s health. For many years I heard financial manager say “stay out of the weeds.” Yet, if you don’t know about an overgrowth of weeds, the growth of the crop may be strangled before top managers or the board finds out about needed fixes. Think Uber CEO!
Strategic governance allows departments to stay focused on future goals while dealing with issues in the here and now. It helps a company stay realistic and in tune with their vision, mission, the company’s values, and manage available or missing resources. Team members, whether male or female, will not get defensive if they stay regularly informed about market changes, delivery issues, needs or opportunities in the various departments. In healthy companies there are no problems only solutions! It’s a matter of the corporate culture’s attitude toward issues.
A cohesive team will freely identify and manage challenges, and turn them into opportunities. They will avoid unnecessary risks and make sure the entire company is legally compliant, while allowing the company’s individual divisions adapt to remain relevant to the overall success of the company. Company’s who have constructive policies about sharing, evaluating, and acting on new information without getting distracted from their overall plan have a greater chance for success.