Terry Corbell, The Biz Coach
By Terry Corbell
Business Consultant

Business Down? 7 Lessons from Ford Motor Company



If your business is performing in a mediocre fashion, chances are your company needs an overhaul. A culture change, if you will. For a positive case study in change-management, Ford Motor Company qualifies.

Game-changing requires an assertive, strong administrator, especially because all such organizations go through humbling experiences. Strong visionaries know how to profit from ego-destroying events and plan for victory.

First, let’s consider one of the salient Ford headlines, such as: “Ford Makes Comeback From the Brink to Billion-Dollar Profit.”

Actually, Ford’s fortunes began to improve when it looked outside the carmaker for solutions to its challenges. The automaker recruited Alan R. Mulally from Boeing.

The irony is that Mr. Mulally had his own ups and downs, of sorts. He had been bypassed twice by Boeing for the CEO’s job. But he was able to put his full talents to work at Ford. 

By the time he retired from Ford, Mr. Mulally had notably installed a competitive, sustainable business model. He simplified production processes. Managers, in effect, were told to change their perspective on change. He inspired a positive balance sheet by taking strategic steps on Ford’s cash flow. 

Unlike Chrysler and General Motors, he didn’t seek a government bailout. This meant Ford was able to focus on being proactive, for example, development of new vehicles – cars consumers would buy. Ford would not be hamstrung by bailout cash-flow constraints. Chrysler and GM became beholden to the government – bureaucrats called the shots. Ford didn’t have to resort to discounting and incentives to attract car buyers.

Ford’s brand image skyrocketed as Chrysler and GM suffered from poor images – they were only able to survive with the help of bailouts and bankruptcies.

In other words, Ford’s success was summed up by this headline: “Ford Says Culture Change Has Led to Success.”

Culture change is not easy to achieve. Six steps are necessary to attain a cultural change for profits

It’s not just a matter of knowing the automotive business. Many businesspeople make a big mistake — they only consider hiring people from their industries without regard for all the necessary skill sets. Mr. Mulally didn’t have automotive experience, but his management and manufacturing skills were transferrable from the aircraft industry. Simply put, solid business principles are applicable in all industries.

Qualities to win

From Ford’s success, here are seven basic ingredients for a business game-changer:

1. Management

True leaders are strong, knowledgeable, and manage risks. They oversee all fundamentals but delegate – finance, marketing, operations, product management and customer service. Executives must also have a team spirit – an environment of collaboration.

2. Vision

Top managers possess skills in analyzing their strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats in strategic planning. They avoid complacency and must continually fine-tune the company when appropriate. That means habitually practicing the Principle of Contrary Action, which is a process of learning how to keep an open mind.

3. Focus

Managers must outline their master plan, stay focused and inspire the staff – the frontline responders to the marketplace – where the proverbial tire meets the road. Nothing great has ever been accomplished without enthusiasm and passion.

4. Best Practices

Senior management must inspire best practices for quality in all areas. Creating value is job one.

5. Mobility and flexibility

The 21st century marketplace requires quickness and mobility. This also means empowering all workers in decision-making and in being proactive.

6. Listening skills

Effective managers are approachable. In a proverbial sense, they walk the floor twice a day to interface with their employees. They hire managers and staff members who, too, are effective in listening skills. That’s the first step for a motivated staff and creating profits. Without even looking at financials, an astute outside participant will always be able to ascertain the success potential of a company merely by watching the interactions between management and staff.

7. Communication

Good, open communication is required internally with the team members and with the customers and marketplace. In this way, you’ll take great steps in inspiring loyalty from customers.

From the Coach’s Corner, suggested related topics:

18 Leadership Strategies to Earn Employee Respect — Eighteen strategies to profit from good labor relations, and to leverage the perspective of employees – your company’s human capital.

20 Tell-Tale Signs You’re Underperforming as a Manager — Managers can often struggle whether they’re new or experienced. Poor management, of course, leads to poor performance. As red flags, underperforming managers share one of two common traits with ineffective employees. Such managers aren’t fully aware of their shortcomings. Even if they are aware of deficiencies, they’re afraid to admit it.

Leadership, HR, Marketing Lessons from HP’s Executive Turmoil — It’s been quite the roller coaster ride for Hewlett-Packard. Its shares have rebounded significantly — nearly tripled since November 2012. The rebound was helped by landing a $3.5 billion contract to operate the communication system for the U.S. Navy.

10 Steps to Manage Conflict for High Performance — For progress, a business needs human interaction for ideas and innovation. Sometimes, argument, debate and conflict prove to be productive catalysts for high performance. But such catalysts can be obstacles to success, too. Here are the simplest ways to manage conflict.

“In preparing for battle I have always found that plans are useless, but planning is indispensable.”

-Dwight D. Eisenhower 

 __________

Author Terry Corbell has written innumerable online business-enhancement articles, and is also a business-performance consultant and profit professional.Click here to see his management services. For a complimentary chat about your business situation or to schedule him as a speaker, consultant or author, please contact Terry.

Seattle business consultant Terry Corbell provides high-performance management services and strategies.