Sometimes a C-tailer's best business strategy is to get its organizational act together
By Brian Hudkins
Putting your house in order as a company is never easy. It takes time, commitment and, sometimes, outside help. But it's worth it.
In 1996, we were reviewing plans for our 20-year-old business, Gramophone. We wondered whether Gramophone would still make sense in the market in the future. We tried to look 10 years forward and realized the answer was no. It was time to change, and we became committed to making the company fully professional in all areas.
The overhaul was gradual. It started with our showrooms and marketing. In 1998, Gramophone relocated to a new, 12,000-square-foot custom retail showroom. We had worked with a one-man marketing company; in July 1998, we hired a professional marketing company to develop a consistent brand and marketing message.
These first initiatives paid off with strong, sustained sales growth. We had people coming in the door expecting high-quality products and high levels of service delivered by professionals.
At the time, we had a capable sales force and talented installers. However, the interfacing between the two departments didn't work well. Everyone wore multiple hats. The business suffered from poor scheduling, poor job staging, no change order management, no standardized ordering systems, no organization chart and no job descriptions. All of this caused a lot of unnecessary stress and strain.
Our success, we realized, could also be our undoing. We needed to change still more as an organization, especially in light of our plan to relocate a second store to a 10,000-square-foot custom retail showroom in November 2000.
Our solution for phase two of our growth plan was to hire Bob Macfarlane from Mira Consulting. We knew Bob from his work with PARA. We hired Mira right after the PARA conference in spring 2000 to work with our company for two years; we worked together from May 2000 until September 2002.