Friends:

Every morning I visit the gas station around the corner from my house for a morning beverage for the car ride in to the office.  It is part of my routine and the clerk who works the convenience store at the gas station knows and recognizes me, we exchange the same pleasantries, and I invariably pay with the exact change of $0.97.  Like clockwork.

Recently, however, there have been some changes– the convenience store has changed ownership and is now part of the large franchise known as the “Circle K.”  As Bill and Ted said, “Strange things are a-foot at the Circle K.” 

For one, the shifts have changed and my regular clerk works different hours.  The employees all wear the same uniforms now and there are more of them at the counter in the morning.  There is a supervisor who seems to always be there and a donation cup has replaced the “add a penny, take a penny” container.  There is much less waiting in the morning to be served, the coffee is of a higher quality and the air/water machine is of much better quality.  The changes at the store are noticeable.

All of this got me to thinking:  in order to take a business to a higher level, sometimes significant changes need to be made and a shift in the culture of the firm is necessary.  For my local gas station convenience store, it is clear that the big business of Circle K came in and made radical and significant changes internally.  They didn’t necessarily clean house, so to speak, but they certainly have made it known that Circle K has certain expectations as to the store’s performance, the service it provides and its employees.

You all know that I am huge baseball fan, yet I am reticent to bring my love of baseball to these posts.  It seems appropriate, though, to at least bring baseball into the current discussion, specifically, the Boston Red Sox.

The Red Sox had long been suffering due to the “Curse of the Bambino” and had always played second (or even third, fourth, or fifth) fiddle to the Yankees and their multiple championships.  All of that changed in 2004 with their first world championship in almost 90 years and they quickly established prominence as a baseball powerhouse with their second world championship in 4 years in 2007.  The Red Sox had finally made it to the top of the baseball world and was considered one of the elite. 

All of that came crashing down at the end of the 2011 baseball season with a monumental collapse in the waning weeks of the season, leading to a loss of a playoff spot and an offseason spent on the couch wondering what happened.  It was clear to Red Sox management that a change was needed.  The days of beer and fried chicken in the clubhouse were over and it was back to focusing on only one goal:  winning the World Series.

It started with a new manager, an on-field general who was no-nonsense, who would establish order to a clubhouse in disarray.  The goals were established in Spring Training that there would be no more shenanigans behind the scenes, baseball was the only focus.

As the 2012 season has progressed, it became clear that the changes instituted by Red Sox management were not working.  There were constant reports of disgruntled players, in-fighting and private meetings between players and the executives.  Thus, further changes were necessary.  It was made clear to the players that they either fell in line/towed the company line or else they would be replaced.  It started with a crowd favorite being shipped off to the Chicago White Sox and ended with a virtual implosion of the team with the jettisoning of the All Star pitcher, first baseman and outfielder.  It is clear that the Red Sox are sticking to their new culture and have opted to find players who will play according to those rules.  They are starting from scratch and no player is safe from potential movement to another team.

Every once in a while a business must go through a transition.  It may be planned, as part of a reorganization, merger, or acquisition, or it may be part of a new strategy being employed to take the business to another level, to succeed to a level not yet attained.  In order for the business to get to that level, though, everyone needs to be on board.  Everyone needs to be rowing in the same direction.  Everyone needs to be part of the team that is going to succeed in the goals.  Because a business cannot succeed without everyone pushing and pulling together.  The management must be specific in its goals and must stick to its convictions that its goals can and must be met.  Failure is not an option.  And if the people on the team are not all pulling together and it is clear that progress is being impeded, then changes must be made.

Going back to my Circle K on the corner.  It is clear that Circle K has a firm culture and policies and its managers work diligently to enforce those rules and goals.  Each employee has a duty and is held accountable.  Even from the mere 2 ½ minutes I spend in there every morning, it is clear that Circle K has taken over and that each of the employees is not only a representative of Circle K, but is also expected to perform and will be replaced if they don’t.

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