Good culture, its simple: Strong values and walk your talk without exception

I just read a very short and rather wise blog by Richard Branson, here:

Richard Branson

I would like to add some equally short and incisive comments about culture, which is one of my passions and an absolute focus of my work, through which gold standard results are achieved.

I agree with Richard, good culture isn’t a magic formula, but it is all too rare.

For me it’s about congruence in strong values and the leaders walking the talk, and it’s starts with the board, the CEO and the management.

It’s about truly walking your talk in every action and decision at every level. There can’t be exceptions.

That starts with walking your talk in life. Your whole ‘being’ needs to walk through the door at work, and an unbalanced incongruent ‘being’ at home will be no different at work.

The more we become values centered people who walk our talk in life, the more it will transform the places we work, and in turn the way they impact our communities.

Ura P Auckland
Business Coach &
Social Entrepreneur

Managing Director
Authegrity Pty Ltd

Mr Wippell comes to town

One of the great mentors in my life was a man of few words, who probably wouldn’t count me among those he was conscious of mentoring.

He was a man off the land. His name was Frank Wippell.

People ask me often now “How can you demonstrate that a ‘conscious business culture’ can create better business performance?”. One of the cases I have to draw experience from, of a number in my career is that of Frank.

Frank came to the city of Toowoomba off the land in the middle of his life and in 1970 established a Mazda Dealership.

I met Frank when I joined Mazda Australia in 1989. The largest part of my job with Mazda was to establish a Dealer Reporting System in the Northern region collecting information about the profitability and efficiency of the Dealer network.

We were lucky in the Northern region that our State Manager Paul McNeill, a strong man of great integrity had established enormous trust among the dealers. With that foundation we had great success in our region working with the dealers to show trust with one another and come together routinely to discuss their business performance and share the inner workings of their businesses.

Frank’s Dealership ‘Wippells Autos’ was one of the most effective and profitable dealerships in the nation. What I found interesting was that they achieved this while selling their vehicles usually with significantly less gross profit per vehicle sold. They were professional and tenacious in sales and achieved excellent market penetration, and did a ‘fair deal’.

In our dealer analysis group we routinely organised a ‘dealership tour’ bringing the other dealers to visit a dealership and have the dealership managers give presentations on the business. In preparation for leading such a visit to Wippells, a couple of weeks before I drove up to Toowoomba and spent the day with Frank and his General Manager Don Russell who later became the Dealer Principal.

Frank and Don were able to talk about ‘the Wippells way” where things had to be done right and where the genuine satisfaction of the customer was the most important factor in every decision. This was not mouthpiece talk, they really meant it and lived it. They bent over backwards to look after their customers, and the culture among all the teams in the business was one of doing things right. They even had their own panel shop and by the statistics spent more per car on reconditioning their used cars to present a car-lot with the highest quality used cars. They told me about the opportunities Frank had given for his people to buy into the dealership and take a stake and I saw the pride and ownership these people had in ‘their business’.

When it came to talking about why Wippells Autos was such a benchmark organisation in terms of profit versus so many other dealerships, Frank and Don looked at each other and came up blank. “We just do what we do” they said.

Both Frank and Don were a little unsure about what they had to say to the other dealers when they came up to Toowoomba for the day.

I left Frank and Don that day wondering how best to distill what I had learned about their business and how to help them distill what they had to teach others.

At the time I had not long before read Steven Covey’s “7 Habits of Highly Effective People” which of course is a book based heavily in values and which had a huge impact on my life and my outlook.

Over the ensuing days it hit me. Frank didn’t learn business in business. Frank had come off the land and had the values and the patience of a man who had come off the land. On the land you plant the seeds, and you wait, and you trust. Frank came off the land and decided to grow a crop. A crop of deeply satisfied customers, people who come back time and again to buy from you, people who keep coming back for service. There was no short-term thinking, no sacrificing what is right for what is profitable.

Profit was an outcome at Wippells, not a deciding factor. It was closely monitored in a professional way, but decisions were made using values and ‘the Wippels way’. It was all about satisfaction for customers, satisfaction for staff, satisfaction for the suppliers. We saw this at Mazda with Wippells care for the needs of us as Distributor, and they have won 17 consecutive Mazda Master Dealer Awards. Wippells were in integrity with everyone, they lived doing the right thing by everyone.

The crops have continued to grow and now 17 years after I moved on from Mazda, Wippells has four franchises and is still reinvesting in expansion to service their customers.

So to Frank Wippell I give acknowledgment as a great man who not only created an amazing ‘conscious organisation’ but gave me another wonderful example I can draw personal experience of to show business people that they wont be dissappointing shareholders by adopting a ‘conscious business culture’.

Ure P (Phillip) Auckland
Organisational Revolutionary
Authegrity Pty Ltd


The best years of my working life….so far

I have been thinking a lot recently about seven years of my journey with an organisation that was way ahead of its time as a truly ‘conscious organisation’, PanBio.

It had a very strategic outlook from the beginning with a vision to become a significant global biotechnology company. It had humble beginnings in an industrial shed with two employees and with some of the co-founders doing weekend work in said ‘shed’.

I joined in 1997, about 9 years into its journey, as about employee number 20 or so, when revenue was about $2 million per annum.

I found an incredible culture which was cherished by all who were a part of it. Egalitarianism was a clear value, everyones opinion counted and there were lots of forums where all of us got to speak. All significant decisions were made with team participation.

There was a profit share scheme for all staff, an employee share scheme, and generous benefits accessible to everyone like monthly massages and the chance to spend a week in a development program at the Camp Eden health retreat covered by the company.

The culture was one of ‘authentic communication’,’integrity’ and ‘service’, which made for an environment of deep commitment. Along with everyone there I gave my heart and soul to supporting the journey of our ‘collective’.

Being a ‘nice place to work’ is one thing, and it was a laudable achievement to create a culture that makes coming to work a joy for a community of people.

The interesting thing though is that this organisation enjoyed extraordinary success. It began in 1988 with just $500,000 of start-up capital and was valued in 2001 when it listed on the ASX at $34,000,000 (a 64 times multiple). It was in the BRW Fastest Growing 100 seven years running, and won the Australian Quality Award in 1997.

I cant tell this story and crow about the many successes without also acknowledging that the organisation adopted a higher risk appetite in later years, sometimes for the better and sometimes not.
We acquired two US companies in Maryland which are stories for another day, and after listing we invested heavily in an aggressive R&D program which we failed to yield sufficient value from. The organisation ultimately got acquired by a large US medical manufacturer a couple of years after I left.

My focus in this blog entry is on the culture established in the founding years, an enduring culture of egalitarianism, authenticity, integrity, and service and the direct impact I saw that culture have in creating the many successes that organisation did enjoy growing a truly significant organisation. That journey has been very instructive to me on the value of a ‘conscious business culture’.

Many people contributed to the successes of that organisation, and in fact that was one of its charms, we truly were all responsible for its success, because we truly all were fully engaged from the directors to the youngest and newest employees.

I am thankful for the blessing of those 7 years of my journey and for what I learned about the incredible value of organisation culture.

Ure P (Phillip) Auckland
Organisational Revolutionary
Authegrity Pty Ltd