​When a pioneering consumer co-operative started to transition from being a small, entrepreneurial business to adopt a more structured, deliberate approach in order to achieve considerable growth, tensions arose over strategic direction. Amid fears that founding principles would be forgotten and the inherent identity of the business would be lost, the founder-CEO asked Telos to help smooth both the journey and a few board-level relationships, improving strategic governance along the way ...




Strong sense of identity, right from the start
The business was originally set up by the founder-CEO as a co-operative in a move intended to demonstrate the commercial advantage of aligning the interests of the business with those of its customers and to encourage the sustainability of this business model. Over the years, it has grown from being a start-up run from a bedroom to become a £8m turnover business employing more than 60 people.

Fears over losing sight of the founding principles
However, 12 years into this success story, the founder-CEO was beginning to battle with the struggles and pains that an entrepreneurial business typically experiences when shifting towards a more corporate structure. As a result, he felt somewhat trapped between the board and his own management team – a disruptive dynamic. At the heart of the challenge was his fear that the founding principles and the identity of the venture were under threat as the business prepared for growth.

Conflicting attitudes result in unhelpful tensions
The differences in approach taken towards strategic governance by the board, the founder-CEO and his management team led to abrasive and unhelpful tensions throughout the business. It was at that point that Telos was called in to help transform the dynamic and bring everyone together to steer the business towards continued success.

Agreeing and implementing a positive action plan
We completed an initial audit to highlight and promote a collective understanding of the problem. Then undertook to help the board, the founder-CEO and the management team to understand and co-create a better understanding of the purpose, values and strategic direction for the business – at the same time as addressing board and management team effectiveness. This was achieved through a combination of coaching for key individuals, strategic development workshops, group facilitation and frequent telephone support and advice.

While our work with the business spanned all three Think, Believe and Act phases of the Telos offer, actions to align the top team and ensure they were all invested in the future direction of the business proved to be key to this particular challenge. Engaging the whole organisation in the strategic plan created a positive shift in the dynamic at the top and helped to fuel a sustainable transformation. As a result, the co-operative moved from break-even to £400k profit in the space of 18 months.

Hard components

  • A strategic plan to grow from £8m to £15m
  • Actions identified to improve profitability and achieve financial targets
  • An agreed framework for strategic decision making

Soft components

  • Ongoing, open, constructive and robust conversation between founder, board and management
  • A more ambitious and confident management team
  • A founder better positioned to explore his own exit over the next 5-10 years

 

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"The work that Telos have done at board-level has made a permanent and positive shift in the dynamic. We feel much more aligned with the management team and are more able to have challenging, respectful conversations. Personally, I have found the ability to share, test and shape my thinking immensely invaluable."