Best Year Yet Team Case Studies
What results would you like to create in your business or life? Here are some real life examples of the type of results possible with Best Year Yet:
The 20-person engineering, planning and landscape design firm was the leader in their mid-sized town with impeccable reputation for quality and recognised as the provider for several large builders and developers. But the four founders felt uneasy. Why weren’t they making the money they wanted? Why were they progressively working harder and enjoying it less? Why was it such a challenge to keep talented staff?
They were also worrying what would happen if a bigger regional or national firm opened an office in their city and offered some serious competition.
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In the course of planning their Best Year Yet, we helped them with an intense and difficult discussion in which they discovered how they were limiting themselves. The group had reached its current level by responding to customer needs with a ’Can Do’ attitude and then pouring blood, sweat and tears into their projects.
We helped them to see that the problem with such eager response was that this team was reacting to the market, not being proactive. They were willing to do anything and everything a client wanted. So, they were working harder and harder for less and less money and losing their best people in the process.
These excited, young professionals didn’t mind long hours, but they wanted to spend their time on quality projects, not the mundane, boring work that had become a bigger part of their business. In their initial planning session they discovered that they were afraid of change. They were afraid to make a commitment and pursue it with passion. They aligned on a new vision and healthier paradigm: We design our future by planning for success!
Soon every employee could repeat the new vision effortlessly. In their first year using Best Year Yet, this small business increased revenues by over 40%. Better still, their profit margin doubled. They hired some significant talent and easily held onto their most valuable employees. They came back for their second Best Year Yet and in the first quarter produced their highest profits ever.
A sales manager for one of the largest financial services companies in the United Kingdom had just been promoted to Regional Sales Director. However, his elation was short-lived when he discovered the challenges that existed in his new area. While there were many positive aspects of his new role—good people, a quality product, and a substantial customer base — his team had the worst performance record in the country! They were achieving only 60% of their annual sales targets, employee morale was at an all-time low, and the entire region was headed in a downward spiral.
On top of all of that, the stress of his job was beginning to affect his personal and family life, contributing to an overall feeling of dissatisfaction and frustration. This is an impossible situation!
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Realising that some dramatic change was necessary, the director started by participating in a Best Year Yet Personal Programme with the help of a coach. The process required he answer a series of questions that, while simple, proved to be eye opening. The result was that the Director came away from the initial experience remembering all the great things he had achieved and a renewed sense of enthusiasm and purpose.
With that attitude in place, he took the Best Year Yet programme to his entire team, and starting at the top, made sure that it was implemented in all the various departments that made up his team. He involved everyone in the plan from the “Big Boy” decision-makers, to the administrative support staff, and everyone in-between, and claims the outcome was that they started to understand one another and be more trusting and forgiving.
What he discovered was that Best Year Yet was not only making a difference at work—by developing a high performance team—but his personal life was beginning to improve. The process is two-fold: in addition to the goals set every week on behalf of the business, each team member also had a plan in place for their personal objectives and dreams. The director started to notice how much more attentive he was to his family members and their aspirations, and relationships improved all around. Quite simply he felt he started getting the balance right and began to feel good. He also noticed that his co-workers were beginning to discover the same sort of balance. As personal lives improved, employee morale improved, productivity increased, and sales performance went through the roof!
Although the Regional Director faced some initial opposition when it came to delivering the process to all members of his team, his board was amazed by how many incredible results were produced by the remarkable and simple methodology. Staff satisfaction increased from 41% the first year to 92% in the second—the best score ever for the region, and they became the first region to deliver 100% plus performance and break even against cost. The region aligned on teamwork and shifted their focus to results, creating a real performance culture in the process. Within the next two years they rose to become the top region in the country and added £5 million to the bottom line. Over the next 5 years, the average income of the sales staff increased 87%, and 80% of the Regional Managers moved on to senior positions in the group.
When the new General Manager arrived at a factory that produced flat screen components for television sets and computers, he found an explosive situation. He had been told that if the factory didn’t turn around in one year, it would be closed. The decision of the parent company was understandable as the business was losing 1 million euros per month, had a worker absentee rate of 25% and had been forced to downsize from 600 to 220 people over the past two years.
Not surprisingly there was enormous distrust among management, and between management and the workers in the factory. Although everyone could see the potential disaster looming, most had attention on their issues rather than on galvanising energy to address the problems.
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The top 10 managers made their plan, followed shortly by a team plan for the second level of managers. However, the latter group was clearly going through the motions – not feeling trusted, as the direct managers of the workers, to be involved in the making of the overall business plan.
The General Manager agreed to bring the two teams together into One Team who quickly aligned on a plan to achieve the turnaround. The GM learned that results were more important than the process it took to get there.
Next 60 workers were chosen from the remaining 190 to make a personal plan to do their part in the turnaround. We began this exercise by giving them a chance to tell us what the problems were and what could be done about them. However, even after they made their personal plans, the level of distrust, frustration and anger was so great – you’re not taking these problems seriously and our jobs are at stake! – that the situation exploded. Taking time to make personal plans they were sure wouldn’t matter was the final straw. They stopped the engines and shut down the factory!
The General Manager now realised the true scope of the problem and took personal responsibility for his mission to achieve a breakeven in this year. He inspired his top team to do the same and every month they publicly posted their team and personal results. The consistent message was that
We are responsible for what we do and what we don’t do.We are committed to making this work.
This level of personal responsibility at the top led to the needed culture shift throughout the business.
Within two months the absentee rate had dropped to 5% and within three months it fell to 3% where it stayed. Not only did they come back to work, but they were willing to provide the necessary flexibility in their working hours and holiday time to achieve the business objectives. The workers could see that management meant business, trust was restored and the turnaround was achieved. Not only did the business break even, but they achieved the GM’s personal target of 1 million euros in profit. The plant is now there to stay and the community again feels safe. At the end of the year the factory was given the Award of Excellence as the top factory in the global business.
A wealth-management firm prided themselves with being well organised. Living in the highly regulated world of personal finance demands impeccable record keeping, timely reporting and adherence to strict compliance procedures. But although they executed well they lacked clarity and organizational focus.
As the stock market steamed ahead their business grew steadily however as the financial markets wobbled and went into crisis things got much tougher and they realised that their only marketing plan was to answer the phone before the third ring! As stock markets tumbled clients grew weary of market-based returns. The morale of staff was declining due to the demands from clients who just wanted some ‘shelter from the storm’. It was a trying period and they knew they needed to change from the inside out.
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When we began to work with this firm we started by bringing the key people together from all different areas of the firm for a ‘communicating and planning’ session. They felt it was tough work discussing their lessons and examining how they held themselves back. Making the shift to a new paradigm was especially hard for a group of self-professed A type individuals missionaries not accustomed to seeing themselves as having “limited beliefs”.
From a list of over 60 priorities, the Best Year Yet Programme Leader made them cull it down and gain alignment on their ten top priorities and a major focus for the year. But it wasn’t easy. Operations staff had their vested interests in how work was being done. Relationship Managers wanted to spend time defining what we were doing for clients. Administration was interested in answering when questions to ensure that services were being done in a timely manner, and Management wanted to be sure that who we were serving were the right clients in the right markets. But they did it.
In the first year not everyone was enthusiastic and committed. Some felt it was a fad they were going to endure until it was over.
However they had a celebration at their annual retreat as they all knew they had tackled and completed some significant projects and they’d done it in a demanding year. They had been forced to endure another difficult year for financial markets. By then they knew that Best Year Yet was in some respects a stabiliser in the face of some relentless ‘whitewater rapids’.
In the second year of Best Year Yet they started to attract new clients and most of their existing clients gave a collective sigh of relief as portfolios gained value. They were ready for growth because they had built bench strength during the previous year and in the 2nd year they examined and improved their operations, administration, and organisational structure.
In their third year they knew that they had found a system that made them focus on the main results they wanted and needed to strengthen their business. They are realising that continuous change is the norm and that helps them embrace that reality and adapt to change as the way to grow. They are delegating more so that everyone is working at their highest productivity level, and meetings are more efficient with proper agendas and defined time lines.
Their Chief Financial Partner says, While the work pace seems faster now, each member on the team has clarity and direction. Everyone is professionally challenged with broader accountabilities and more clearly articulated development opportunities. Management has introduced a new bonus structure to reward all staff equally for new business growth, helping us to celebrate together as we prosper.
Collectively, this is fostering a renewed sense of team, maintaining our focus on our highest priorities and fostering a high level of accountability to meet our goals.
A local health and fitness club was well established in the community and had a track record of providing excellent services and a comfortable atmosphere. The owner and founder of the club had been a professional in the sports and fitness industry for many years, and worked diligently to develop an ethic that emphasized health and fitness for an older clientele. Although the owner was well known in the community, the business was not being marketed to its fullest potential. The most significant problem this company faced, however, involved its leadership. Although the owner seemed to work well with his staff, there was serious conflict among some of the other leaders. As a result, the work environment was overshadowed by a tone of distrust and dissatisfaction and overall morale was low. Employees were feeling subjugated and prohibited from taking real ownership for their work or implementing new ideas that might benefit the business.
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We first began working with the leadership team of this company and performed a trial run of the Best Year Yet workshop with the twelve members of this team that proved to be groundbreaking. By the time these team members reached the second question of the process: “What were our biggest disappointments?” it had come to light that several members of the staff were too intimidated by the current management to answer this question honestly. The dialogue initiated by this question encouraged some of the team members to approach the owner and share their concerns. The owner became aware of the magnitude of the conflict among some of the staff for the first time, and within a week of beginning the yearlong programme, he had dramatically reformed the entire leadership model. He released several high-level management positions, and placed a new emphasis on the staff as a unified team that is now self-managing!
Although it has only been a few short months since this team created and implemented their new plan, the results have been astounding! With their new alignment and focus, they have tripled their sales in personal training, created a new sales and marketing program, and initiated a community health and wellness lecture series. There is a tremendous difference in the morale of the staff, with increased amounts of enthusiasm, initiative, and cooperation. The owner himself has rediscovered his inspiration, and the club atmosphere has never been better. As they continue to advance in their yearlong plan, this once disjointed company now has a team of leaders in place and is ideally poised for growth.
One of the two largest banks in the UK decided to launch a bank insurance company. It was the biggest start up insurance company in Europe with an investment of £225 million. From the beginning, the leadership of this new venture knew that they wanted to be a vision-driven organisation and to spend at least 10% of their pre-launch investment on culture and transformation. But it was challenging because this desire for a forward-looking focus was nearly impossible, given the dinosaur culture of the parent bank.
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We began by meeting with the top team to help them build a strong team based on fundamental principles of transformation. As part of this process they identified guidelines for behaviour in the business they wanted to build, created a vision that pointed to success without needless concern about being held back by the bank, identified their major focus and aligned fully on the top ten priorities for their first year.
Once this system was running with the leadership team we helped them implement the same process in the teams of people who reported to them. Soon a healthy culture developed in which the focus was on producing results and their new customers rather than the difficulties of working with a strong parent company.
Communication among the top team, guarded at first because so many had come from the bank, began to open up and soon a strong bond of commitment was forged. Within a few years this team was rewarded with further responsibility – but one that came with a big burden. It was also given responsibility for the bank’s portfolio managers, stockbrokers and the sales force – a combined business that was forecasting a loss of £20 million. Immediately we brought the Best Year Yet system to each of these new teams to help them become grounded in the same healthy principles and start to contribute to a healthy culture of achievement with a strong focus on key results.
Our Team Programme gave this UK business confidence, strong commitment and alignment of all management teams. Through this they were able to accomplish stretching targets, identify and resolve fundamental issues and create a performance culture through our Monthly Review Sessions with each team. In its first year it reached the Top 20 among UK insurance companies – an unprecedented achievement. Polls showed 90% customer satisfaction and some of the best employee satisfaction ever seen in the country. By the end of three years the combined business had achieved a £165 million turnaround!
The owner of a small bakery was frustrated with the downward spiral her business was experiencing. She realised that her staff was not communicating often enough with each other to really build a business – a result she had wanted for years. The communication was superficial since they all knew the big issues ahead but no one knew how to confront them. Not only was the team lacking direction, but there were serious financial strains as well.
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We began our work with this business by supporting the management team to identify what was working well and what was not. We worked with them to examine that information and identify the key lessons that when followed would achieve the turnaround they were looking for. They completed a Best Year Yet plan that identified the major priorities they wanted to achieve in a 12-month period and helped them to progress them through the use of our online tracking system.
Key to their success was an honest assessment of their fundamental issues and support of them to bring them out in the open, confront them and align on what it would take to resolve them.
Their first goal was to purchase a new van for delivering their goods to customers. Within three months of making their plan, they had their new van, ready to deliver to not only the 6 targeted new customers but also 6 more!
At the end of the first year of working with us, the bakery had achieved an overall score of 83% on their annual goals. They had achieved 200% of their goal to add 6 new wholesale customers. The cake sales went from £25 – £50 per month to over £600 per month! The team gained clarity, alignment and most importantly confidence. Regular Monthly Review Sessions hold the team accountable and keep them focused on what each of the team members can do to keep the dream alive.
A new direct marketing division was formed as part of an insurance company that had been operating in the UK for more than 100 years. Fifteen people ranging in age from 20 to 50 were given the challenge of generating a new income stream from existing relationships of the parent company. The problem was that the new team had no direct access to the potential clients, who were merely told to contact a huge call centre ‘if you should ever need insurance’.
The first aim was to generate more calls and the second was to transform those at the call centre from ‘the people who answer phones’ to those who knew how to respond in a way that converted inquiries to sales. And the team had no idea how to make it happen! In addition, they had come together from parts of the parent organisation in which personal responsibility for making things happen was a rare commodity.
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As the team was now responsible for all aspects of this new initiative – the quantity and quality of their performance – everyone in the new business came together to review the challenges and make a plan to make it all happen. A breakthrough occurred when they committed to taking full responsibility for their results by giving up the right to blame the parent company for any issues that could stop them from getting the results.
They agreed key fundamental issues and starting breaking down barriers to their achieving their plan. Many of these were resolved within the first year, but those that weren’t stayed on the radar screen until they cracked them. At times the team leader needed to ask the team for more, even though there were no funds to pay them a bonus for doing so. We used a key lesson in our Producing Results programme to help them re-energise and focus on longer-term objectives as well as day-to-day performance.
When the team first came together, they were a cost to the organisation. By the end of the first year, they had exceeded their sales target by 50% and were contributing 40% of the Added Value for the entire parent company. The team has now expanded from 15 members to 22, and every member of the team has developed in such a way that he or she was given a promotion.
Recently, a top board member visited a planning and review session and proclaimed that this team achieved more in three hours than his board had achieved in five months. Recently a downturn in the market has decreased performance in all parts of the organisation – but this team, while obviously stretched by this environment, now sees the possibility that they’ll be able contribute nearly 80% of the Added Value of the parent company this year.
In 2001, an accomplished mountain climber set out to achieve his life-long dream of conquering the highest peak in the world, Mount Everest. In addition to the treacherous terrain and unforgiving climate, this climber also faced a unique challenge: he was completely blind. He organised a team of 19 world-class climbers to help him achieve his objective.
Along with all of their expertise, however, each individual brought into the expedition his own strong will and “big ego”. Transforming this group of highly skilled individuals into a cohesive, functional team seemed nearly as challenging as reaching the 29,035 ft. summit of the mountain. Finally the climb was happening in an era in which many teams had attempted and failed to reach the summit, due to the fact that they didn’t have a plan and many went their own ways once the going got tough. Recently many climbers had died in the process of going it alone.
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One of the technical climbing experts was also a Best Year Yet Program Leader so the group participated in a review and planning workshop while at base camp. The process provided them with a strategy for the journey ahead and they formulated three basic guidelines:
• Trust one another’s skills and knowledge
• Ask for our needs—eliminate fear!
• Develop our plan and stick to it!
Furthermore, they determined their major focus for this expedition would be “team mate”, and they decided that their top goals, in addition to reaching the top and coming back alive, would include supporting one another both physically and emotionally. Before they set out from base camp, the group had a clearly defined objective and a mutual plan in place to ensure they achieved it.
After three months of extreme conditions and arduous physical exertion, the group achieved the culmination of all their goals and made history in the process. This expedition not only included the first blind climber, but also a climber, who at 64 years old, was the oldest man to ever reach the summit of Everest. Incredibly, all 19 members of the team made it to the top, making this expedition the most successful trek of Everest yet. Perhaps the most remarkable accomplishment, however, was the culture of partnership that was created at base camp and carried with them throughout the mission. Members reported that they “built an inspiring level of trust and confidence in one another despite not knowing each other well before they started” and attributed this success to the Best Year Yet system. Although they faced life-and-death situations every step of the way, and were often under the most stressful conditions imaginable, they maintained a superior level of cooperation and communication, without even a single argument among members of the team!