This case study is an excerpt from an article co-authored by Maureen Metcalf, CEO, Innovative Leadership Institute (formerly Metcalf & Associates, Inc.), and Carl Fernyak, the CEO of MT Business Technologies, about the transformation of MT Business Technologies. Carl faced the challenge of carrying on the legacy of success in a changing economic time while navigating the dynamics associated with family and long tenure leadership that helped build the company well before the son was working.
Mansfield Typewriter (MT) was founded in 1918 as a typewriter repair company. In the late 1920s, Carl’s grandfather started an office supply and furniture company which merged with MT in 1932, and the company became The Mansfield Typewriter and Office Supply Company. In the late 1950s, his father, John, joined the organization as a sales representative. In the early 1970s, MT began selling copier equipment. In 1992, after graduating from college and working for IKON selling copiers, Carl joined MT to learn the organization from the ground up. In 2004, he took over the Mansfield operations. At the end of 2005, he finalized the purchase of the remaining shares of all MT corporations, thus ending a 14-year acquisition process. At the time of this case study MT employed approximately 300 employees across five locations.
Challenge and Vision:
Carl: When I started working with Metcalf & Associates (now Innovative Leadership Institute) and identified areas of change, I had three succession challenges that I had to face: Respect, Habit, and Culture.
- “Respect” revolved around our top five leaders, each who has been with the company for a minimum of 35 years. It is wonderful to draw from such a vast array of experiences they bring to the table; however, it presented a challenge.
- “Habit” was a problem because these managers were used to working directly with my father and not me. Being the new guy on the team (only 17 years with the company), my involvement was often an afterthought to them.
- Culture – I was working towards a culture of higher accountability and standardization while his culture was more relaxed and autonomous.
The processes we used for the individual and organizational change were similar and interconnected with how the individual would lead the organizational shift.
While the image of the process appears linear, the actual process involved an approach that would more closely resemble a spiral, circling back and around. Additionally, the individual and organizational processes followed different paces depending on the needs of the leader, the organization, and outside conditions.
The changes focused on both leadership development and organizational transformation. Carl saw that he needed to enhance his skills to enable him to succeed his father in running the company and to transform the successful company to meet the needs of the next generation of clients. He understood that business and personal change must happen concurrently to increase the speed of the transformation. As of this writing, the project had been in progress for one year.
Carl: We accomplished a tremendous amount of improvement this year. Not only in doing things differently but thinking differently as a group. At times, the process seemed slow, but in retrospect, it was impressive as to the amount of ground we covered. We are very fortunate that we have a management team that wants the best for the company. As they began to see what we were doing for the company, the buy-in and participation increased. While it is never perfect, it is undoubtedly much better than it was last year.
This is what I can report after my 12th month in the process:
- First, there is a clearly articulated and written plan; we are all marching in the same relative direction. No longer do we have seven lone wolves running their locations with no unified course of action, other than to sell and service more.
- Second, we are addressing the sacred cows (people and processes) that have held us hostage, for many years; they are being identified and eliminated. Because of this, our expenses are dropping while productivity is increasing – imagine that!
- Third, our decisions are more aligned with data and industry benchmarks rather than intuition or politics. Now, if a project is dying, we know sooner and either increase the resources or pull the plug. It no longer hovers in project limbo.
- Fourth, there is a better utilization of resources due to organizational changes and the establishment of a Project Management Office. Roles are better clarified.
- Fifth, there is less drama. While this seems minor at first blush, it is significant. We now focus on the issues rather than the personalities. Keep in mind, we have a great work environment, and everyone gets along very well. But the mild undertow of drama from unclear objectives sucked valuable energy out of everyone.
These are just five results out of many which we have experienced, but it should give you a small sense of what is possible. For the next twelve months, I am focusing on improving the processes and will be spending considerable time developing our team.
To learn more about how you can achieve similar results, contact us.