by Izabela Lundberg, Columnist & Featured Contributor
[su_dropcap style=”flat”]I[/su_dropcap] AM VERY PRIVILEGED to call Denver, Colorado my home for over 15 years. Through my wide range of business opportunities, I was able to establish a network that is giving me the flavor and satisfaction of glocal presence (merged local, global and virtual environments) including a wide range of top performing executive talents and industries.
During a recent private event, I had a chance to catch up with some very successful and influential Fortune 500 CEO’s including Bill Graebel. This was an excellent opportunity to learn about his company, its most recent changes, and the new direction he is taking with his Graebel Companies.
You may be familiar with Bill’s family business and what his company was doing for over 60 years. They managed over this time to build a strong legacy and visibility, in local, national, and global environments. Even though they acquired this legacy, Bill and his C-Suite had to face hard decisions forced by the many changes of the global markets that affected their service delivery both locally and globally.
As you may already know, legacy leaders are something I have studied over the years; especially in the business arena and I am fascinated by their impact of what they are creating on their large scale, including corporate social responsibility. I could not help but zoom in and explore further in my conversation with Bill to find what he had to face in order to make a decision to sell part of his company – Van Line and US Moving Centers and change his focus to global relocation and move management, including global commercial office relocation and workplace services.
By taking a quick look on current trends of Fortune 500 companies that Fortune Magazine is delivering for last 60 years it is hard not to look and see the wide range of the changes during the last six decades that Bill and his family owned business had to face – a rapid change of the technology that is dictating how we are or may want to do business today or in the future. These changes are not easy, they are massive, especially for Fortune 500 companies and they require a lot of planning, careful implementation and in the end, effective use. As per a recent Fortune Magazine study, here are some additional pressing issues identified by CEO’s of Fortune 500:
The fact is that we live in disruptive times that make it so hard to step back and reassess our situation from a new and fresh perspective. What should we do? What direction should we take? What if we do nothing? Known and calculated risks vs. risks that are unknown and yet to be determined are a constant battle, especially when you are responsible for large financial, stakeholder, and employee portfolios around the globe.
But that is exactly what Bill had to do. The transformation and change had to happen first with him and within him before he could share his thoughts with his inner circle of trusted leaders. He recognized his own struggle to adapt to change and fully embrace the transformation necessary to continue and keep the family legacy.
By the end of 2012 as a result of his major personal breakthrough he stepped into 2013 ready to break his silence by sharing his thoughts on so many strategic and critical changes that needed to take a place. Since then, it took him months of planning, strategizing, and engaging key internal and external players in order to make the best decision for everyone involved not only short but also long term.
As he sold the part of his company by the end of 2014, the beginning of 2015 was unknown in terms of results. Many hard decisions with post reorganization after the merger and acquisitions of part of his moving company based in the US had to be made. The fact is that over 1,800 employees and contract drivers were affected with this merger.
By the time they finished the 3rd quarter, they felt that the company was in great shape, despite the major changes, experiencing a growth of 20% before ever reaching the 4th quarter. Things are looking great for the remaining divisions of his company: Graebel Relocation Services Worldwide Inc., Graebel Movers International Inc., Move Management Inc. and Graebel Commercial Services Inc.
But you must wonder how did Bill accomplish that? Through his sharing, Bill demonstrates so well his leadership while humbly giving the credit to his team and employees who brought a new direction of the company and contributed tremendous synergetic efforts to make this happen.
Let’s take a look at what he fostered as a leader of the company to take place in the process to achieve this level of success:
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- Challenge Yourself – Your beliefs, control of ego, facing fears or any hindering aspects that are preventing you from moving forward. Make a decision and fully embrace needed change. This is exactly what he did in order to move forward and feel fully committed to the change and decision.
- Be Transparent – Honesty coupled with integrity as a leader will take you so much farther even when faced with very hard decisions. The capacity to be consistent and transparent in what, why, and how you are doing is an essential component to successful merger and acquisition and involved change. The key is to be transparent and timely while addressing challenging situations.
- Share Your NEW Vision – With your trusted advisors and when the timing is right with the whole company. You have to be able to move forward together with your new and redefined leadership team that is fully aligned and owning your organization’s new strategic success blueprint, otherwise you will struggle and hurt more than just financially.
- Communicate Effectively – Internal stakeholders are your most essential drivers during the organizational change process. Be clear with what and how you are giving your message, who is representing your voice and the true intent behind your delivery. It is too late when rumors, mistrust, and conflict start to take place internally and through social media. It is necessary to engage with all employees across the organization – quickly, in a fresh, positive and energizing way.
- Define or Redefine your NEW Culture – Accordingly! That will not, of course, happen on its own with magical results. The key is to engage, innovate, and discuss changes in the existing culture and use that as an opportunity to refine and define or in some cases create a brand new. This will help you to accomplish three fundamental things at once: clarify the process, tools, and measurements of the results with well-invested time, effort, and strategy.
- Be & Act as a Leader – You are lucky if you already have a great reputation as a leader of the company. But if you don’t – you may not get buy-in to the process of organizational change and transformation from key members of the leadership team. It is excellent to have a quick “reality check” before charging ahead with a well-communicated sense of urgency (not haste).
- Retention of Valuable Employees – Some employees were with the company for a long time. Some embraced the change and some simply could not. Some became long-term loyal friends, making the change and transformation harder to take place. But at the end of the day, when you are focusing on retention of valuable employees not only by their skill and talent, but also their unwavering support to make the change as smoothly as possible – you just know what you have to do.
- Inform Stakeholders – Know when and how to share the message to key stakeholders. In Bill’s case, he invited all of his partners and external stakeholders to his headquarters to share his strategic vision moving forward. This allowed him to listen to their questions, concerns, and comments and then to address them properly. This allowed him to strengthen their relationship during the change while driving very quickly desired win-win results for everyone involved with minimum disruption.[/message]
What is coming next? Now with a new shape and size of the company, strategy and focus, it is perfect timing to continue to build trust with potential clients outside of the US and extend the company presence in new emerging markets. New company branding, with a laser focus on high quality service delivery through agile business practice will continue to build outstanding company credibility in far reaching continents.