Rebuilding the Team
Design & Communications Firm
The owner of a design and communications firm wanted to grow her business by targeting clients with larger budgets. The owner felt that she needed to bring in a design executive experienced with higher-end clients to attract this audience. She impulsively hired a dynamic and charismatic person who was very appealing to staff and clients alike, to serve as the new creative director.
Unfortunately, it turned out to be a bad hire. The new director quickly started to undermine the owner, and poison the culture of the company. The owner felt trapped in her decision as new clients signed on for work with the firm, based on the expertise of the higher-level design executive. The owner started to feel she was outside her business looking in. The new hire was excessively directive to the staff, assumed control of the staff through intimidation and appeared to gain the upper hand with clients. It felt like she was an adversary.
Our objective was to help the business owner regain control of the business. Step One was to make her comfortable that removing this bad hire would not negatively affect the bottom line profitability of the company. We wanted to demonstrate to her that: clients were buying her company’s brand as much (if not more) than the brand of the design executive, and that there was other talent on the team that could step in and take the client relationships forward. Some of the steps we proposed were to:
- Meet with the staff, understand what they were experiencing, assess their alliances and reestablish the authority of the business owner
- Map out a plan for the removal of the bad hire (that would minimize the impact on both new and old clients)
- After the new account exec was removed, work with the business owner to evaluate each team member, understand their potential and their commitment to the company
- Facilitate regular team meetings to get all the issues out on the table, rebuild a healthy culture, and foster clear channels of communication
Throughout the process, we:
- Coached the business owner in order to elevate her leadership skills, clarify her vision, and identify critical goals (and action steps) that would help the company grow by targeting more ideal clients
- Supported the business owner in her decision-making to make sure she honored her core values
- Developed some key staff members (in their leadership skills) in order to enable them to better manage the growing staff and project load
Within 18 months of the original crisis, the business owner felt that her business was stronger than it had been in many years. She was confident that she had the best staff she had had in the 20-year history of the business. The company was growing and attracting clients with larger budgets. More authority has been delegated to key managers, so the burden on the owner was reduced. Overall the owner felt highly energized about the future.
In order to avoid hiring problems going forward, new hires are now taken through a more formal interview process that includes the use of objective behavioral assessment tools. And, multiple team members meet with prospective candidates to ensure a match to the company’s core values.