Leadership is key to turning a good business into a great one

David FullerThe ice on my neighbourhood skating rink last winter was good but not great, and that was totally my fault.

There have been years when the ice has been fantastic, and people from all over the city have come to skate on the rink. It even got nominated for best outside rink in the city one year.

But we didn’t win any awards this year.

I’ve looked after the ice with my neighbour Byron for the past 14 years. This year, we got off to a late start. I wasn’t motivated, felt tired, and didn’t put in the effort to make it good. As a result, while kids were skating throughout the city on other rinks, ours had barely been used.

We’ve probably all seen this happen with businesses. You support a business for years, and it thrives with new products, services, and a lively atmosphere. But after years of success, things start to slip. It’s hard to pinpoint why, but you can tell it’s struggling. You see it in the faces of the employees, the products or services seem stale, and the leadership appears exhausted. The business might still be good, but it’s definitely not great anymore.

business leadership
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What’s caused the decline, and how do we fix it?

When I worked on the floor of my health food stores, people came in because they were mentally tired, had no energy and were physically in decline. They all wanted to know: How do I fix it? What’s the magic pill that’s going to make it all better?

The truth is that there’s no easy fix for healing a business or a body. However, when we align ourselves with our true purpose, there suddenly seems to be much more energy to get those things done that will make the biggest difference.

In a struggling business, we need to return to the core reason we exist: we need to understand what we do that really adds value to our customers, even if that means moving away from our roots.

In 1971, Darwin Smith became the CEO of Kimberly-Clark, a paper company that had its own paper mills. Within months, he decided to close down its mills and use that money to buy new product lines. Some people thought he was crazy. But Smith knew that the path the company had been following for decades was doomed to mediocrity. What worked in the past doesn’t always work in the future. So, while competitors continued to struggle, Kimberly-Clark thrived.

In his classic book Good to Great, Jim Collins describes his discovery after five years of research that companies that made the shift from good to great had several key characteristics. Their leadership was down to earth and more concerned about the company than their own success. They got the right people on the team first and then decided what needed to be done to be successful. Just like Kimberly-Clark, the companies that became great didn’t hold on to core businesses that didn’t have a bright future.

Companies that grow from good to great have a culture of entrepreneurship and discipline. They’re not afraid to say ‘No’ to opportunities that don’t fit their core business. Technology is not the driving factor in their success, and they keep working toward the company’s goals even when times get tough.

It takes great leadership to keep a company on task and on track and turn it around. It also takes great leaders with guts to make the tough decisions to eliminate the functions, people, and businesses that no longer work within an organization.

However, when leaders can work through those pain points and create a vision for the future that inspires their team, struggling companies can thrive again.

When you decide to take your organization to the next level, your leadership and belief in the vision are paramount to your success.

Turning companies around is possible. I’ve seen it happen and the outcomes are stunning for the leaders and the team.

Do you have what it takes to get your organization from good to great?

Dave Fuller is a Commercial and Business Realtor, an award-winning business coach, and business author.

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