Your roadmap for a successful SME business transformation

Talent is your most valuable asset

Leadership is central to any attempt at business transformation, but a top-down mandate alone cannot bring about the required culture shift necessary for those efforts of an organization to succeed. Why? The culture of a business – especially small to midsize enterprises (SMEs) – resides within the collective hearts and the ingrained fundamentals practiced by an organization’s talent, as well as their collective perception of “how we are treated and valued around here.” Culture is like the wind. It is invisible, yet its effect is seen and felt daily. Transformation requires making the invisible, visible.
Enduring business transformation demands new behaviors that are contrary to traditional leadership methods, which typically focus on what a company, or leadership, needs from its people. In today’s business and labor climate, success lies at the intersection of business and career success. Business leaders that operate at this intersection are often rewarded with a culture filled with talent that know exactly what they should do, why they should do it, and feel valued as stakeholders.
While most business owners have a general idea of what business success looks like, the same can’t be said for the career success of their people. Ask leaders to define precisely what career success looks like and most are challenged to provide clear and concise answers. Without the answers that create a sense of belonging within their people and a path for career success being realized, sustainable business success will be an elusive dream.
The success of a business is deeply connected to that of its talent. It is the talent that drives business results, develops new products and services, and creates competitive marketplace advantages. Understanding how to navigate and arrive at the intersection of business and career success is a leader’s “secret sauce,” so to speak. Operating at the intersection of business and career success is the determining factor between successful transformation and failure.

The transformation journey

We believe the evidence to be unequivocal: A successful transformation journey includes three stages – transition, standardization, and innovation – and focuses on the two value streams of acquisition and retention of talent and clients:
• The three stages: transition, standardization, and innovation.
• The two value streams: the acquisition and retention of talent and clients.
Leaders are well advised to plan a minimum of one to two years for navigating the three stages of transformation. The transition stage will typically start small. A group of passionate enthusiasts with the right leader will deliver some modest wins. While the wins will appear to be small, they’re powerful in demonstrating efficacy to nonparticipants and they help the transformation journey gain steam. The movement really gathers force and scale once the group successfully engages existing networks and influencers as the effort moves through the standardization stage. Eventually, leaders can leverage that momentum to navigate the innovation stage where the real “magic” happens. While culture may be like the wind – invisible, it doesn’t have to be. Implementing and consistently measuring engagement and performance levels can bring visibility to a culture that has traditionally been invisible.

Master the art of messaging

Simply explaining the need for change won’t cut it. In fact, eliminate the word change from your vocabulary. It’s your first step in the process of mastering the art of messaging in your business. Rather, talk in terms of transformation, which is about modifying core beliefs and actions to achieve desired results. Harnessing the full and lasting commitment of people requires instilling a deep sense of belonging, which can light their “participation flame.” Developing the right messaging strategy is a key component of success.
Narrow your transformation messaging down to these two basic beliefs:
1. The existence of your business calls for the pursuit of greatness for the service of others.
2. The journey can only be considered successful if the careers of the company’s people are positively transformed.
When leaders give meaning to work, they inspire both individual emotion and collective action – two important components of any successful business transformation.

How to transform your business

You’ve made the decision to initiate business transformation. Now what – or rather, how? We suggest the following to begin:

1. Engage an individual or team that can deliver the required advisory, coaching, and training services to provide the following:

• A longterm transformation strategy and structured program.
• Guaranteed results.

2. Adopt a talent-centric leadership philosophy.

3. Align your business and team member career goals.

4. Build and nurture self-directed entrepreneurial teams.

Take action now

If you are failing to achieve the results you need, choose your transformation path now, don’t wait. About 50% of businesses fail in the first five years of operation. Only 34% make it to their 10-year anniversary with about 25% surviving to 15 years. If you prefer to focus on thriving, not simply surviving, ask yourself: Is my business most likely to thrive if I lead it at the intersection of business and career success, where everyone wins?.
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