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David FullerThe ice on my neighbourhood skating rink is good but it’s not great, and that’s totally my fault.

There have been years where the ice has been fantastic and people from all over the city came to skate on the rink. It even got nominated for best outside rink in the city one year.

But we won’t win any awards this year.

For the past 14 years, I’ve looked after the ice with my neighbour Byron. This year, we got off to a late start. I wasn’t motivated, felt tired and didn’t put in the effort it takes to make it good. As a result, while kids are skating throughout the city on other rinks, ours has barely been used.

We’ve probably all seen the same thing happen with businesses. For years, you support a business and it thrives, there are new products and services, and there’s a buzz about the place. But after years of success, things start to slip. It’s hard to put a finger on the reason for the decline but you know that it’s struggling. You see it in the faces of the employees, the products or services seem stale, and the leadership appears really fatigued. The business might still be good but it’s definitely not great!

What’s caused this decline and how do we fix it?

When I worked on the floor of my health food stores, people came in because they were mentally fatigued, had no energy and were physically in decline. They all wanted to know: How do I fix it? What’s the magic pill that’s going to make it all better?

The truth is that there’s no easy fix for healing a business or a body. However, when we get ourselves in alignment with our true purpose, suddenly there seems to be much more energy to get those things done that will make the biggest differences.

In a struggling business, we need to get to the core of our existence. We need to understand what it is we do that really adds value to our customers, even if that moves us away from our roots.

In 1971, Darwin Smith became the CEO of Kimberly-Clark, a paper company that had its own paper mills. Within months, he decided to close down its mills and use that money to buy new product lines. There were people who thought he was crazy. But Smith knew the path that the company had been following for decades was doomed to mediocrity. What worked in the past doesn’t always work in the future. So while competitors continued to struggle, Kimberly-Clark thrived.

Jim Collins, in his classic book Good to Great, talks about discovering after five years of research that companies that made the shift from good to great had several key characteristics. Their leadership was down to earth and more concerned about the company than their own success. They got the right people on the team first and then decided what needed to be done to be successful. Just like Kimberly-Clark, the companies that became great didn’t hold on to core businesses that didn’t have a bright future.

Companies that move from good to great have a culture of entrepreneurship and discipline. They’re not afraid to say ‘No’ to opportunities that don’t fit their core business. Technology is not the driving factor in their success and they keep working toward the goals of the company when times get tough.

It takes great leadership to keep a company on task and on track, and turn it around. It also takes great leaders with guts to make the tough decisions to eliminate the functions, people and business that no longer work within an organization.

However, when leaders can work through those pain points and create a vision for the future that inspires their team, companies that have struggled can thrive again.

The ice on my neighbourhood rink will be good soon – and hopefully even great – if we’re disciplined and keep working toward that goal. However, in all honesty, the effort Byron and I put in to making a great rink is nothing compared to the effort required to turn a company around.

When you make the decision to take your organization to the next level, your leadership and belief in the vision is paramount to your success.

Turning companies around is possible. I’ve seen it happen and the outcomes are stunning for the leaders and the team.

Do you have what it takes to get your organization from good to great?

Troy Media columnist David Fuller, MBA, is a certified professional business coach and author who helps business leaders ensure that their companies are successful. David is author of the book Profit Yourself Healthy.

business leadership

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