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In loving memory of Felix Vanholsbeeck

Written by Michelle Currie:

Felix came into our lives during our association with Bandag Europe. He immediately won us over with his knowledge and wit. The three of us traveled throughout Europe with Felix as our connection to the clients, their countries, and their businesses. Windshield time with Felix was never boring. A true Renaissance man, Felix, would engage Bob in philosophical discussions on the meaning of life and the next moment turn to me, Michelle, and discuss the latest fashion trend. Our respect and affection for Felix grew during these trips.

On one of our trips to Dresden, Germany Bob asked Felix to ask the proprietor of the hotel for an iron so he could iron his shirt. She said yes. While we were in the restaurant having dinner, the proprietor came over to our table and looking at me, the wife, asked something in German. Felix could hardly keep from laughing. I turned to Felix and asked him to translate. He said that the woman asked if I wanted an ironing board with the iron. He was now laughing. Felix knew what I would say, “I didn’t ask for the iron. Ask Mr. Currie if he would like the ironing board.” As Felix translated, the woman looked at me in horror. Felix was now laughing out loud. He translated to Bob that the woman said to bring her his shirt and she would iron it for him. I do believe that she said something rude about me but Felix being the gentleman he is would not translate that part. His laughter was enough. That was Felix. He was our buffer between our ugly American ways and the ways of Europe. He did not judge, he accepted people as they were and for what they had to offer.

When Bandag cut him loose, Currie grabbed him. Felix ran our European office for 10+ years. He took care of our clients, the business and the Curries. Our friendship deepened and so did our admiration. We had lots of success and fun with Felix. Then a marketing trip to Russia brought Olga into his life and ours. He was amazed that someone so beautiful, young, and smart would be interested in him. We weren’t surprised. Olga brought out the best of Felix. She was the love of his life and he was grateful every day he was with her.

Felix and Olga were acting as tour guides for myself and my friend, Annie. Annie asked if Felix knew of the American Cemetery in Belgium and of course he knew. So, on our way to visit Aachen, Germany Felix took us to this cemetery. This was in December and it was colder than the Arctic. Annie was looking for the grave of an American Soldier who died in the battle of Aachen and was the father of her friend back home. No one had ever visited his grave. We would be the first. We found the caretaker who lead us to the grave which was in the farthest corner of the site. Standing in the freezing cold the caretaker told us the story of the Battle of Aachen and what the soldiers had endured. Felix was moved and had tears in his eyes. That was Felix, going out of his way to help and connecting on an emotional level with someone he didn’t even know.

It is difficult to condense so many years of association and friendship down to so few words. Yet, when we think of Felix these are the words that come to mind.

Knowledgeable, Teacher, Mentor, Generous, Wine Connoisseur, Foodie, Loyal, Caring, and Friend.

I last spoke to Felix on his birthday, June 30, 2017. He sounded upbeat and we were planning to get together. Bob and I are saddened by Felix’s sudden passing and will carry our memories forward. He was loved and admired by many and may he rest in the arms of the Lord.

Organizational Culture: Does it Matter? Can it be Managed?

By John VanDeusen, Executive Partner at Currie Management Consultants

Also, published at LinkedIn.com

In this post, I’ll answer three key questions: What is organizational culture? Why does it matter? Can it really be managed and, if so, how?

I’ve been noticing an increasing amount of discussion on the web and in print devoted to the matter of an organization’s culture. Some recent Google results:

“10 Examples of Companies with Fantastic Cultures – Entrepreneur”

“Examples of Organizational Culture and Its Importance – Grasshopper”

“5 Company Culture Examples Worth Emulating – Business Hub”

While most business owners are aware that something ‘cultural’ is going on in their organization, few may think it deserves any deeper consideration. This is unfortunate because culture can prove to be a strong lever for improving a company’s functioning and profitability.

What is organizational culture?

Edgar Schein, MIT professor emeritus and the foremost thinker in this area, describes organizational culture as a “pattern of shared basic assumptions learned by a group as it solves its problems of external adaptation and internal integration.” Schein (1992) sees culture as operating at three levels in any organization:

  • Visible artifacts: Anything that would be visible to an outside observer, e.g., behavior patterns and work processes, the way the physical environment is organized, dress codes, company symbols/credos/logos, etc.
  • Espoused beliefs and values: What people say about “what we do around here and why we do it,” e.g., core values and guiding principles, as well as cherished stories about the company’s history and significant accomplishments.
  • Basic (unconscious) beliefs and values: Deeper feelings, mindset and motives about mission, relationships, human nature, etc., which drive words and actions.

In short, culture permeates everything said and done in any organization.

What Matters?

Organizational culture can be a driver of employee engagement and productivity, innovation, safety, reputation, value for money, etc. As an organizing force, culture can make any or all of these aspects of your company better or worse. Several attributes are key:

  • Strength: the extent that people clearly understand, can articulate and act according to its dictates. A weak culture may lead to uncertainty, friction and disappointment among employees and customers.
  • Outlook: A culture should strive for positive character, through proactive beliefs, words and actions that draw people in.
  • Coherence: The various facets of the culture should be internally consistent, not conflicting.
  • Focus: The best cultures concentrate on a few, vital aims with respect to creating and sustaining momentum in the desired direction.

Here are some examples of how all of this can translate into value not just for shareholders, but for everyone who participates in a strong, proactive and focused culture:

  • Companies with a participative culture can have an ROI nearly twice as high as firms with less participative firms (Denison, 1990).
  • Companies that managed their cultures well over an eleven-year period saw revenue growth four times higher than those that did not, and net income increases of 756% versus 1% (Kotter & Heskett, 1992).
  • Customer satisfaction and loyalty: Gillespie, et al (2008) found that organizational culture has a strong correlation with customer satisfaction and loyalty
  • Flamholtz (2001) found that business units adhering to a company’s preferred culture had greater profitability (as measured by EBIT), than units that did not.

Can Culture Be Managed? How?

Several authors have published good guides for culture management. Here are three I recommend: Roger Connors and Tom Smith (2012), Change the Culture, Change the Game, Jon Katzenbach, Ashley Harshak, et al (2012), Don’t Blame Your Culture; and Eric Flamholtz and Yvonne Randle (2011), Corporate Culture: The Ultimate Strategic Asset.

To get started, the steps I will suggest you take:

  1. Take Stock: What is the current state of your organization’s culture – the words, actions and beliefs that are most prevalent in day to day actions? How are these impacting customers, employees and business results? You could interview or survey to try to get a sense of these, but I find a much stronger approach is to bring together a cross-section of your stakeholders (including) customers to engage in some straight talk about their impressions.
  2. Define: Set the preferred direction for the culture. Identify the few key things most needed or desired from the culture to support the business, going forward. E.g., what is the desired orientation to customers, to employees, to performance and accountability, to innovation, etc. These should build directly from your company’s mission and core values. (If you are using a group meeting for the prior step, this can be a second topic for discussion.)
  3. Design: Seek to discover people and actions that can help catalyze or reinforce the desired changes. Katzenbach and Harshak suggest that you seek to engage four types of people in this work: pride builders, role models, networkers and early adopters. Work with them to design a simple, meaningful plan to start making the changes needed to tune up (or transform) your culture. It’s okay to begin with just one or a few items and see how well they work.
  4. Deploy: Put the plan into action. You may find that some desired changes are already happening somewhere in the company. Recognize and support these, wherever they are working. Where you don’t see anything relevant happening, drive new actions by incentivizing them in some manner.
  5. Keep Score: Regularly monitor your culture-building and -reinforcing activities in play to assess cumulative impact. Lend additional support and recognition to sustain momentum. Learn from both successes and failures. Repeat steps 1 and 2 every year or two.

Please contact me if you have any comments on the content of this post or would like to learn more about managing organizational culture. jvandeusen@curriemanagement.com.

References

Connors, Roger and Smith, Tom. 2012, Change the Culture, Change the Game. Portfolio

Denison, Daniel, 1990, Corporate Culture and Organizational Effectiveness. Wiley.

Flamholtz, Eric, 2001, Corporate Culture and the Bottom Line. European Management Journal, 19(3): 268-275.

Flamholtz, Eric and Randle, Yvonne, 2011, Corporate Culture: The Ultimate Strategic Asset. Stanford Business Books

Gillespie, Michael, Denison, Daniel, Haaland, Stephanie, Smerek, Ryan and Neale, William, 2008, Linking organizational culture and customer satisfaction: Results from two companies in different industries. European Journal of Work and Organizational Psychology.

Katzenbach, Jon, Harshak, Ashley, et al (2012), Stop Blaming Your Culture, in https://digitaledition.strategy-

business.com/allarticle/25249/134704/134704/allarticle.html. Also, available as a Kindle Edition from Amazon.

Kotter, John & Heskett, James, 1992, Corporate Culture and Performance. Free Press.

Schein, Edgar, 1992, Organizational Culture and Leadership. Jossey-Bass.

Photo Contest!

Want to attend a two seminar at The Currie Training Center for free?  Send us your photo!

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Currie Management Consultants, Inc. is proud of the great work being done by dealer clients across North America.  Send us your favorite photo of your food drives, community events, Little League teams, projects for the homeless, etc.  We want to see all of the great work!

Here’s the link to enter!

Announcing the new Currie Training Center website

Exciting things are happening, and The Currie Training Center is growing rapidly.  Have you hired some new manager(s)?  Are you an executive looking for deeper Currie Model training?  Are you promoting some people, or looking to develop your succession plan?  These are all great reasons to visit our new website and register for some upcoming seminars.

Featured Program – Leadership Development 2017, beginning February 7-8, 2017.  This is an intense, year-long program which combines all of the Currie Model practices, from Currie Financial Model to Rental Department best practices, to Service Department Profitability, to Account Management and more.  Along with all of the Currie Model departmental training, participants will begin with the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator and learn many advanced leadership and management theories:  effective communication, Situational Leadership, Emotional Intelligence, Executive Roles in a Distribution Company, Team Building and Problem Solving, and more.  This is a critical program for all C-Level Executives, Department Managers, and all people identified as succession plan!  Space is limited in this program!

Follow the link for a complete list of all seminars currently open for registration at The Currie Training Center.

CURRIE PRESS RELEASE

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

WALK FREE:  Local activist to walk 500 miles for global slavery and human trafficking

Worcester, Massachusetts – September 1, 2016 – On Oct. 15, Robin P. Currie of Worcester, Massachusetts will undertake a 500-mile journey on foot from Portland, Maine to Washington, D.C. to provide information and raise awareness about human trafficking.

“Once people begin to understand the problem,” Currie said, “then we can begin, as a nation, to create the solution.”

It is estimated there are currently more than 20 million people globally who are victims of human trafficking and slavery.  Sixty-eight percent of these people are trapped in forced labor, 26 percent are children, and 55 percent are women and girls.

In 2015, an estimated 1 of 5 endangered runaways reported to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children were likely child sex trafficking victims.

Currie leads the Central Massachusetts Coalition to End Human Trafficking.  Partners for WALK FREE include Currie Management Consultants, Inc. and Women In Action, Inc., both of Worcester.

For more information on WALK FREE, visit Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/CMCEHT/  To donate, visit the Facebook page and click the donate button on the cover photo, or send all checks, payable to: The Currie Charitable Fund, to 292 Lincoln St., Worcester, MA  01605.

Contact Robin Currie at 781-223-6347 or email rpcurrie@gmail.com with any questions.

Currie Team supports the fight against human trafficking

Just giving everyone an update on the latest Currie community service project!  In October, I will be walking from Portland Maine to Washington DC (over 500 miles) to raise awareness about domestic and global slavery and human trafficking.  Follow the action by liking my page (below).  The Currie Team is committed to this fight!

4 Ways to Join the WALK FREE Team

  1. Walk with me! – 1 mile, 10 miles, or more. Meet up with me for a visit, or accompany me with your vehicle.  These are all great ways to participate,
  2. Tell everyone! – That’s the whole point! This project is a way for me to continue to educate people about the issue and let everyone know what they can do to help.  And believe me, this is something we ALL need to address, each and every business and citizen.
  3. Connect me! Who do you know that lives or works along my route?  I will be looking for places to stay and people to help support me and show that they care.  Do you have friends or relatives that are interested in meeting up with me to help and learn more?  It would be a great part of my stories that I am collecting along the way.
  4. Give! – I will be in need of funding for lodging and supplies along the way. I’m estimating that this will cost about $100-$150 per day.  Please consider donating some cash for me to use, or send me some Visa or Mastercard Gift Cards, or Dick’s Sporting Goods (I am buying sneakers there!).

https://www.facebook.com/CMCEHT/

(to help fund this event, click the Donate button on the cover photo at the page listed above)

Currie Focuses on Service – Part 2

As promised, here’s the second piece of the two-part article that Bob wrote about Service Department metrics and profitability.

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For a complete immersion into the best practices of service department management, according to The Currie Model, we recommend attending our two-day seminar, Achieving Service Profitability in an Equipment Dealership on November 7-8, 2016. Registration is open for this program, which will be held at The Currie Training Center, here in Massachusetts.

Feel free to call or email Robin Currie, Director of The Currie Training Center if you have any questions!

 

Currie Focuses on Service

Here’s a piece that Bob wrote a while back.  He dives into critical measures that will assist you in boosting your Service Department’s net profit.  In today’s marketplace, the Service Department is the leading profit center and this article contains helpful information for this, and all Aftermarket Departments.  Aftermarket Managers, Branch Managers, General Managers and Executives should use this information to  evaluate and improve your Aftermarket Departments today.  Now is the time to review and renew. Need additional training?  Come on over to The Currie Training Center’s Service Profitability Program, November 7-8, 2016.  Register here: Achieving Service Profitability.

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Download Part 1, Service Metrics, of a 2-Part article series.  Part 2 will be posted soon!  Subscribe to our feed for the next article and other updates!

2016 Recipient of the Robert P. Currie Scholarship

Congratulations to Peter Bilzerian of Holden, Massachusetts.  Peter is 18 years old and will be attending The Rochester Institute of Technology.  This dynamic young man has an impressive list of successful endeavors.  On top of numerous academic awards and holding office as class treasurer, Mr. Bilzerian has worked as a business developer for local restaurants, and is an accomplished entrepreneur in the video gaming industry.

Much of his work to date is included in a recent article in The Holden Landmark.  In addition, Peter submitted a superb essay, which is posted in Surety Bonds Insider.  This piece (which is available here) describes, in his own words, Mr. Bilzerian’s journey, which began with a battle against childhood cancer.  He has skillfully chronicled a number of circumstances which, when met with his drive and determination, became victories that have propelled him to where he is now.  The journey is nowhere near over for Peter Bilzerian, and the Currie team will be following this maverick and his work for years to come.  Way to go Peter!

Follow Peter Bilzerian on Twitter @PeteBilzerian and on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/pbilzerian

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Peter Bilzerian

Wrestling Fans?? Smackdown here in Worcester!

The good newsWWE Smackdown is here in Worcester on July 19.  If you are attending the Currie Benchmarking and Financial Model Seminar, you should know that Smackdown is the night before the seminar so the timing couldn’t be more perfect!
The not-so-good news:  the hotel which the Currie Training Center normally uses will be over-run with wrestlers (actually that may not be such a bad thing!).  They are reserving all rooms for WWE and we are using other hotels that are close by…but PLEASE register right away if you are interested in attending this seminar so we can get you a room!  We also would be happy to assist you in purchasing tickets for the WWE Smackdown event.  Let us know!
Click here for the Currie Benchmarking Program!
All Currie programs are available here!