Discover what it takes to achieve excellence in business and what action steps should be taken by leaders to make it better.
The word “excellence” is often used to describe the standard of an industry, product or service, but before this word can be applied as a measure of performance, it should be defined and, from there, further investigated to highlight and explain how flooring company professionals can use proven business excellence practises to uplift the industry standard of excellence.
According to oxforddictionaries.com, excellence is defined as the quality of being outstanding or extremely good. This is a very simplified definition, but creates a foundation on which to add factors that contribute to excellence. Excellence in business has been defined as a journey through an ever-changing landscape of new possibilities and methods, and is the best result that can be produced at a particular moment in time. It was Aristotle’s philosophy that we are what we repeatedly do, therefore excellence is not an act, but a habit.
Excellence in business requires constant improvement to processes, systems and goals. Any business that is not striving to be better will soon find itself obsolete or out-manoeuvred by its competition. This concept is ideally captured by Andy Stanley’s podcast that is designed to help leaders go further, faster and ultimately achieve excellence.
Andy Stanley is the founder of North Point Ministries and has written several books and created DVDs that focus on various inspiring yet practical topics relating to business. His very apt podcast discusses principles that help an organisation to grow, with the aim of achieving excellence. The focus is on making things better, not bigger.
Before introducing this topic, Andy starts with a story, which is where he realised the benefits and importance of these simple words spoken by Truett Cathy, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Chick-fil-A.
Back in the 1990s, a company called Boston Market became Chick-fil-A’s first serious competitor in the chicken business. Boston Market had one big goal – to achieve a billion dollars in sales by the year 2000. This made Chick-fil-A nervous, as this was their first real competition in the market space with the same customers. Chick-fil-A was spurred on to start conversations about how to grow bigger and how to grow faster. This culminated in a boardroom filled with board members at Chick-fil-A, including all the Vice-Presidents and Marketing specialists, with everyone around the table trying to find ways of growing bigger and faster to compete with Boston Market.
Truett sat at one end of the table and was very quiet, so quiet that it appeared he wasn’t engaged in the meeting at all. Suddenly, for the first time ever, Truett started banging his fists on the table till he had everybody’s attention, and said, “Gentlemen, I am sick and tired of hearing you talk about us getting bigger.” Everyone paused and he continued with these invaluable words: “What we need to be talking about is getting better. If we get better, our customers will demand that we get bigger.”
This was a defining moment in Chick-fil-A‘s conversation and in their strategy. In fact, in 2000 Boston Market had to file for bankruptcy and, in the same year, Chick-fil-A hit a billion dollars in sales for the very first time.
According to Andy, this is how great leaders think – they shift the paradigm, put things through a different filter and ask the question, “How do we make it better?” If a company or business becomes better, their customers will force them to grow bigger.
How to make an organisation better
Andy goes on to say that leaders need to go to work every single day believing that things can get better as there is always room for improvement. “As organisations and leaders age, we start to take a step back from the incessant drive that many of us begin with, which is to get better and better and more successful in whatever field we are in,” he explains. “Leaders have a tendency to become complacent when they see their organisation as being better than their competition, so they just keep thinking, ‘let’s just keep pounding the same nails’. Leaders in their 30s are trying to prove something to the world, in their 40s they try to prove something to themselves and in their 50s they think, ‘well, I proved it, so what else do I need to prove?’”
Andy cautions against this and advises both companies and individuals never to lose the drive to make things better. “We don’t need to push bigger, we need to push better,” he continues. “Once a company is established, very often we think it’s our role to grow and market the company, but we never think about making it better (‘it’ being the very factors that make a company excellent or on the path to achieving excellence).”
A company has to ensure that it continually tweaks and introduces new products, services or even better ways of doing things to ensure that it becomes better. By doing this, an organisation automatically has the upper hand over its competitors. “By the time other organisations have figured out what we’re doing, we have moved on,” highlights Andy. “Like any good organisation, good isn’t good enough and we’re always looking for ways to make things better.”
Andy goes on to explain that in order to make anything better, two principles need to be identified and practised, namely clarification and evaluation.
Clarification involves defining the win. A win is not a goal. “A goal is something you reach, but you experience a win,” explains Andy. “As subtle as the difference may be, its impact is huge. Leaders need to create terminology around the win, not just the goal but the actual win itself.”
Andy advises every organisation to identify the critical events in their organisation, whether it be marketing, sales or a flooring product or service. These critical events can be seen as a company’s win. “An organisation should ask themselves what they did right and what event had the ‘wow’ factor,” he continues. “If this question cannot be answered or clarified, then it is impossible to evaluate, and if you don’t evaluate, then it’s impossible to make it better.”
The reason why some organisations fail to achieve excellence is often due to the fact that they have not clarified their wins, as clarification requires time and effort and is by no means an easy process. “Many organisations don’t do this because it requires meetings, the dreaded ‘M’ word everyone despises,” Andy adds laughingly. “Leaders often feel that sitting in a room with people talking for hours is unproductive. However, even though clarifying a win is a difficult process, once it’s been done, the ‘side effects’ will be worth every minute spent.”
The second principle that leads to making it better, and to achieving excellence ultimately, is that of evaluation. “An evaluation is no better than the standards against which you are evaluating,” enthuses Andy. “The tendency is to always evaluate against the numbers, but there is also an experiential evaluation that we have to pay attention to. Being purely anecdotal or numerical isn’t healthy. Try to create an evaluation process that takes both into consideration.”
He continues that anything worth doing is worth evaluating. Andy has noted a tendency for companies to evaluate what didn’t work, as opposed to making time to evaluate what did work. The reason why people don’t learn from evaluations is that they focus on a ‘fix-it’ approach. “Some of our greatest lessons come from evaluating what did work,” he says. “You can’t make it better if all you did during your evaluation sessions was try to fix what broke. You have to evaluate what worked in order to make it better. During the evaluation process, right isn’t the goal – better is the goal.”
Andy refers to an article that appeared in the Harvard Business Review which identified the ‘failure to ask’ syndrome, referring to the tendency to not evaluate good performance. “When we’re confronted with failure, it’s natural to ask why disaster struck,” he explains. “Unfortunately, success doesn’t trigger such soul searching.” He quotes the Harvard Business Review as follows: “Success is evidence that not only does your existing strategy work, but that you also have all the knowledge and information you need.” This knowledge and these strategies should, however, be evaluated, otherwise their ‘success’ becomes the worst enemy to making things better as it results in leaders becoming complacent.
“If I want to make it better then I have to evaluate all our successes and failures,” highlights Andy. “And that’s not intuitive for most leaders. If we don’t understand why what we do works, then it’s impossible to evaluate how to make things better. Furthermore, evaluation has to always be unfiltered, and nothing can be off-limits. If you can’t talk about it, then you can’t make it better. If you can’t criticise it, then you can’t make it better.”
To reinforce this point Andy concludes by saying, “Experience doesn’t make you better. Only evaluated experience makes you better.” All combined, these principles and actions lead to excellence and, more specifically, excellence in flooring.
FLOORS in Africa’s SA Flooring Awards, conceived in 2013, put all the above into practice and, because of that, SA Flooring Awards 2015 is set to take the industry by storm for a second time, with its showcasing of the very best of the best that the flooring industry has to offer. As such, the flooring industry has its own bar of excellence set in the form of the SA Flooring Awards, where companies of a high level of excellence are invited to enter in one of the nine exciting categories which can be viewed at www.saflooringawards.co.za. These categories enable companies to showcase their unique successes which in turn relate to their degree of excellence.
How do specifiers ensure flooring excellence?
Taking everything which has been discussed into consideration, the question arises: How can specifiers ensure flooring excellence in projects? The following tips and suggestions, when implemented, will undoubtedly result in project excellence:
1. Identify the longevity of a product to ensure that it is the ideal choice for the project at hand.
2. Always investigate the track record and industry reputation of a product within the context of its usage for a specific project.
3. Check that any specified product has the relevant stamp of approval.
4. Insist on after-sales service from the product supplier.
5. Any and every product should have some form of guarantee or warranty, which will offer some reassurance for both specifier and client.
6. It is very important that the product’s specifications meet the installation requirements to prevent any conflict that may arise due to differing expectations.
7. Before specifying a product, be sure to investigate the quality of the subfloor, which may affect the final floorcovering, albeit in a positive or negative manner. Ensure that the subfloor lends itself to a good floor finish.
8. Consider final floor requirements before choosing accessories such as joints and trims as these can greatly affect the end result.
9. Select a reputable contractor, be it from referrals or personal experience from past projects.
10. Take the time to be educated on new products and systems, and try to avoid falling into the trap of sticking with what works, year after year. Not to say that this is in any way wrong, but bear in mind that new products could perhaps be more cost-effective, easier to maintain or install, etc.
11. Last but not least, make sure that the selected floor meets the client’s brief.
Acknowledgements and thanks are given to http://feeds.feedburner.com/AndyStanleyLeadershipPodcast and http://excellenceinbusiness.org for the information contained in this article.