Savvy business owners understand change is necessary and sometimes drastic measures are needed to ensure the success of the organization. This requires buy-in from everyone—the CEO to the rank-and-file. In this final installment of our series we explore how to manage change as well as what strategies can help employees get on board faster.
Robert Smith never ran from change. In fact, the president of Champion Media Worldwide, a Loves Park, Illinois-based Internet marketing and communications firm, transformed his company from the top down two years ago.
“I started out as a general practice firm doing everything for everybody,” says Smith. “But that business model started to dry up.” And he had the numbers to prove it. “When your revenues go from $100,000 to $20,000 three months in a row, you know what you are doing isn’t as effective as it used to be.” So Smith focused on a niche, going after clients in healing professions such as psychologists, chiropractors, and marriage counselors since he could focus on the same key contacts and strategies to help market them. In the process, his firm dropped from 18 employees to 11 as Smith eliminated the least-productive workers.
Throughout the whirlwind of change, Smith says he met some initial resistance. “I understand human behavior; we don’t like change,” says the 36-year-old boss. “But tough decisions have to be made and you’re not always going to be the most popular guy in the office.” To smooth ruffled feathers, Smith started holding weekly meetings where he would update his staff on the changes taking place. He tried to give them a few weeks to prepare for major transitions, like reporting to a new manager. He also gave employees time to make mistakes as they adjusted.
What Smith realized through the process is the more you help employees embrace the changes and learn to work within the new requirements, the more likely the change will be effective since “your ‘human’ capital has a direct impact on your ‘financial’ capital,” says Arrelle Anderson, chief business strategist for Washington, D.C.-based consulting firm Chandlerson Strategic Management.
Since Smith initiated the changes, the company’s revenues have grown by 35%. The company projects that it will make $1.2 million in 2010. When implementing any major change to a business, it’s important that management does the following:
Business owners may be tempted to keep bad news to themselves, but this can be particularly damaging to employees’ morale says Melva Tate, president of Strategic HR Partnerships, a human resources consulting firm in Birmingham, Alabama. There’s also the potential that employees will hear company news from other sources, whether it’s around the water cooler or from those in other departments privy to certain information.
Provide a forum.
Expect some people to have problems with the new system, says Tate. Also, with downsizing or forcing employees to work in a different capacity, some may feel uncertain about their role within the company. By giving employees a forum to share their frustrations you not only make them feel that their opinions count, but you may pick up useful advice on ways to tweak the system for the better.
While you’re setting the general parameters of the change, give employees some input into how the change can best be implemented in their particular area of the company. “You want people to feel they are part of the process and part of the solution,” says Alonford J. Robinson Jr., chairman of Symphonic Strategies Inc., a Washington, D.C.-based business consulting firm. “If they don’t feel that, you’re going to have resisters.”