Culture is Key to a Company’s Success and Legacy- Look at Ford

Legacy is greater than currency. – @garyvee

With the recent announcement of Mark Fields to be Alan Mulally’s successor at Ford one of the first things that came to my mind was the culture Mulally created at the once beleaguered company. Will it stay the same? I believe it will. Why? Because Mulally created what he calls “The One Ford Plan”.

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It’s a culture in which every employee at Ford believes in whole hardheartedly. Every decision they make all goes back to their unofficial mission statement, “Opening the Highways to All Mankind”.

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Fields who at one time was the automaker’s Chief Operating Officer was an advocate of Mulally’s revised collaborative management style culture.

Mulally’s success all goes back to the culture he instituted at Ford. Why? Because it created teamwork, a sense of ownership for employees at every level and when you have that sense of ownership you have the passion you need to make and stick with when making the tough decisions. Success is set by example and it comes from the top. Mulally created a positive, engaging environment of inclusion and empowerment. The hiring of Fields, an “insider” is key to the future success of Ford because he is not only an advocate of the culture Mulally built but he an instrumental leader in that culture by helping cut the company’s US division out of deep losses.

Culture is important to employees because you want them to be happy in the environment they work in. I have seen high turnovers in my various jobs in local news when the boss was toxic, holed up in his office or the employees were nasty and backstabbing. They were allowed to be like that because of the culture that was instituted at the news organization and the lack of leadership which allowed such behavior. A successful, healthy culture and strong leader would not stand for that.

Money while a great motivator is not the key to a successful culture. Of course it helps to be recognized and be awarded for achievements and hard work, but culture is the glue that fortify s a company and workforce. A weak culture will leave a company and employees floundering in a sea of uncertainty. Culture is the wind in a company’s sails.

Looking for more inspiration, leadership strategies and lessons? Please order a hard copy or Kindle version of my book Opportunity Knocking Lessons from Business Leaders

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Defining Your Mission Statement

Passion can start a revolution. It drives you to rise above. It energizes you to push for change.

Are you fed up? Discouraged? You’re not alone. Everyone has been there one time or another even if they don’t care to admit it. But the difference between the successful and those struggling is one thing-passion. You have to believe in yourself and push yourself. Yes it’s hard, but it’s what you have to do. How do you stay on course? With a mission statement.

A mission statement defines you. It’s what sets your roots in your foundation. If you can’t define what your goal is, how can you achieve it? All good leaders have one. All of their success is built on that one statement. That’s how Alan Mulally of Ford turned around the beleaguered automaker. Inspiration can be anywhere when it comes to creating a mission statement. It can literally be right in front of you. For Alan it came in the form of a 1927 ad created by Henry Ford himself: Opening the Highways to All Mankind.

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Every decision they make for the company goes back to this ad.

What is your mission statement? Make it your guiding star as you embark on your journey to world domination. Be the absolute best you can be. You deserve it!!

Please order a hard copy or Kindle version of my book Opportunity Knocking Lessons from Business Leaders.

The Difference Between the Successful and Unsuccessful

“The difference between successful and unsuccessful people is successful people do all the things unsuccessful people don’t want to do…when an opportunity presents itself. It is those who take action—time after time—that finally succeed, regardless of the adversity that presents itself. Lori Ann LaRocco breaks down these differences nicely in her book, Opportunity Knocking.” —John Paul Dejoria, CEO & Co-Founder John Paul Mitchell Systems and CEO Patrón Spirits Company

When author’s write books they seek out endorsements. Even if you know the person it’s a little nerve-wracking. John Paul is a contact and business leader I have admired for years. His personal story is compelling living in a car for a year while trying to sell his John Paul Mitchell Systems products to salons. His determination, passion and belief in his products and himself got himself through a very rough time.  When he found out I was writing “Opportunity Knocking” he wanted to read the book.  I was excited at the chance to have a successful self-made leader read my book. But to be honest I was a little nervous.  Writing a strategy, inspirational book is a personal process especially when you are writing about your own thoughts and beliefs. There is no curtain separating you from the reader. You are all out there. It’s not like you are writing a fictional character that you can hide behind.  I am a journalist and I love the thought process of leaders. What makes them tick. How similar they are to you and me.

When John Paul wrote an endorsement, his thoughts leaped off the page for me. He hit the main topic that I hammered on throughout the book. Hard work.  That’s the glue that solidifies the Opportunity Pyramid together.

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You have to want it so bad you are willing to work your butt off.  You want to be the best you can be,  you take an honest look at yourself: you strengthen what you are good at and you try to better yourself when it comes to your weaknesses. You learn as much as you can and when you set your sights on your goal you stick with your game plan.  Your passion and drive keeps you going in times of hardship, disappointment and jealousy when things come easier for others and you are breaking your back trying to get where you want to go. Finally, you reach your goal. YOUR world domination. But I can tell you from my interactions with leaders like Alan Mulally of Ford, the three founders of BlogHer to private equity titans Ralph Schlosstein of Evercore Partners and David Rubenstein of The Carlyle Group- just because they are at the top of their game doesn’t mean they are complacent.  They are constantly asking themselves how will they continue to better themselves? How will they continue to raise the bar and remain relevant.?

Being the best you can be is a journey that you continue to fine tune. It never stops. When you look back at yourself say 10 or even 20 years from now you want to see how you’ve grown.  I equate it to going back to your high school reunions. There are those who peaked in high school- forever stuck remembering times of old and have not done anything with their life and then you have those who have made their mark in the world, living in the present. Were they the most popular in high school? Who knows, but they are the success stories of today and tomorrow. They never got complacent.

The way you live your life is your decision. The perception and energy you bring out in your job is in your hands. The question is how hard do you want to work?

Please order a hard copy or Kindle version of my book Opportunity Knocking Lessons from Business Leaders. 

Kick Off to World Domination!!!

Monday officially kicks off the launch of “Opportunity Knocking” and I’m very excited. The responses I have received from my BlogHer interview, the four-star review from Success magazine and my  thestreet.com pieces were fabulous. For those interested, here is a list of my appearances this coming week so far:

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Monday, March 17th, CNBC Squawk Box 6:50amET

Monday, March 17th, “Car Concerns” 9:30amET (nationally syndicated or click on link to listen live on your computer!)

Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday: WCBS 880am- “Women in Business” at 9:51amET (if not in Tri-State area, click on link to listen live on your computer!)

Thursday: WOR 710am- “Money Matters” at 2:22pmET  (if not in Tri-State area, click on link to listen live on your computer!)

Please order a hard copy or Kindle version of my book Opportunity Knocking Lessons from Business Leaders. 

The Secret to A Successful Corporate Culture

ImageOver the course of my 22 years in journalism I have come to know many titans in a variety of industries and what I have found out is it doesn’t matter if you are Alan Mulally of Ford Motor Company (F), Ron Kruszewski of Stifel Financial (SF), public equity titans, David Rubenstein of The Carlyle Group (CG) and Ralph Schlosstein of Evercore Partners (EVR) or even Harold Hamm of Continental Resources (CLR)- they all share one distinctive trait– a strong corporate culture. By creating a culture that embraces the goals of your mission statement a company can be successful. Culture is the rebar that holds a company together. Creating that culture starts with the leader of the company; he or she is responsible for jumpstarting the organization’s culture.

A company’s culture is the essence of how managers and employees approach
and execute plans, and this culture comes from the top. Management needs to put in place a clear set of objectives, and everyone in the organization has to believe in them to execute plans effectively. For Carlyle’s Rubenstein, his formula for creating a culture that fosters innovation and performance is the same in every Carlyle office around the globe.
“We have a ‘One Carlyle’ culture, which means everyone is truly a member of one firm and they are incented to make sure they work as one firm, or they will be penalized if they don’t,” he explains. This framework provides the comfort of inclusion and the guidelines employees need to thrive.

No matter which Carlyle office you are in around the world, the company’s long-term philosophy is present in tangible items to remind employees that they are all in this together, from visual reminders on employees’ desks to posters in the lunchrooms. Culture is a living, breathing creature. You have to nurture it and foster it over time. Rubenstein emphasizes the culture by awarding one employee in the world each year with a One Carlyle award which is considered to be the highest honor an employee can receive.

For fellow private equity titan Ralph Schlosstein, its culture of inclusion of employees and the ownership their employees feel because of their contribution is key to Evercore’s success. When asked about one of the greatest life lessons he has learned he said it was very simple, “Focus relentlessly on culture.” Schlosstein said that winning combination of inclusion and ownership has fortified an environment of growth for Evercore. In order to do this, Schlosstein explains, you need to have a clear strategy that is responsive to both your environment and the relative strengths of your business. “If you do one without the other, you lose. If you create a business plan that is not relevant to the world as it is today, failure is probable,” he says.

This culture based on the value of human capital is also present in the auto industry. Ford may be a global company, but the model Mulally uses to structure his company is something any entrepreneur or business leader can apply. He calls it the “One Ford” plan (see attachment)

This tiered, focused One Ford plan illustrates the culture of Ford. Mulally and his team meet every week, enabling Mulally and his team get to know each other extremely well: “You know you can’t fool anybody. Without leadership sharing the same vision and communicating about how they would execute, the One Ford plan would cease to exist.” Mulally said. As with any plan, it must be executed properly to be effective, CEOs need to set the example and Mulally says it sets the tone for the employees. Known for his unbelievable memory and able to recall someone after meeting them just once. A Ford employee told me about being “blown away” by his memory when walking with him on the floor of the Detroit Auto Show. Mulally went out of his way to go say hello to a dealer he’d met the year before, remembering his name and the dealership he ran. “It’s things like that that motivate you,” the employee told me. “He truly cares about the employees. Everyone is important to the overall plan.”

Mulally’s story also shows that good leaders should have the courage to not only see what business opportunities lie ahead, but also to value human capital and recognize the opportunity a healthy culture creates.

“Consistency is key when trying to achieve a goal,” Mulally stressed. He said if his employees did not share this vision, they left. It’s not that they weren’t performing; they just didn’t have the commitment or passion the company was looking for.

Part of nurturing a culture is by having CEOs who are willing to not only listen to their employees but to also constantly raising the bar of excellence for themselves.
“I have never told my employees that I know everything,” said Ron Kruszewski, “I don’t, and I’m open to change. Our organization today is the melding of many deals. We are one firm today, but we are the best because of all the different firms that make up Stifel. Your infrastructure has to be prepared. That’s the bottom line.”

Kruszewski did not hesitate when describing his endgame: “I always say I want to be able to double the firm tomorrow if I have to. And that’s how I approach my business. I have the people and the plan to be able to increase the firm very quickly in terms of our capability; I just don’t know when it’s going to take place. If you set the right culture and
thought process, growing a company with people who are nimble and thrive on change is self-selecting.”

Not only does this foster a positive environment, it can also help improve productivity. As Kruszewski puts it, “You have to invest a lot of authority with your key people. You motivate them, and they like it. This positive reinforcement builds the culture.”

Leaders like Mulally and Kruszewski do not view the loss of such employees as negative, because those employees didn’t enhance the organization in the first place. It
doesn’t matter if you are the employer or the employee—having a successful
culture begins and ends with value. Every person in an organizattion should bring value and passion to the table.

Out in the oil patch, Harold Hamm said the culture of Continental Resources is always being nurtured through his own personal improvement. “I have gone through tremendous growth myself as an individual. Obviously, you go through different stages, and you have to continually readdress what you are doing as a leader and get ready for the next stage and set of challenges facing you going forward. I’ve learned to do that. That’s the part of the job that keeps it interesting. Not a lot of people do it, and they stop along the way because their lid can’t be lifted anymore. I’ve always liked change and I thrive on changing and growing the company…. This passion is something I built into the culture of my company. Everyone in my company likes change and likes growth. We are a growth company. It is a challenge, but it’s who we are. It’s been a heck of a ride. Some employees have been with me for more than 30 years.”

Creating a positive culture is key to all these leaders’ foundations—as Schlosstein described it, “You need to be a long term believer in the things that enhance productivity.”
Even the tchotchkes and posters in Carlyle’s offices have helped foster their One Carlyle message. Productivity is nurtured in a variety of ways.

Lee Iacocca sums this up perfectly, “In the end, all business operations can be reduced to three words: people, product, and profits. Unless you’ve got a good team, you can’t do much with the other two.”