Leadership Best Practices For Guiding A Legacy Organization

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When this CEO was brought in to lead a decades-old company into the future, he relied on tried-and-true tactics. Four lessons from the journey.

The goal of any organization is to become a legacy brand that stands the test of time, but how does one step in and lead such an organization to continued long-term success?

Chem-Dry has been in business for 45 years, now spanning 55 countries and serving over 11,000 homes and businesses a day worldwide. Since stepping in as president in 2019, my energies have been focused on aligning around a central vision for the future, which included reshaping internal and franchisee communication processes as well as the messaging used across communication materials and channels. Energies have also been laser focused on an omni-channel national advertising fund. While these are monster initiatives, the key to our success has been the implementation of tried-and-true leadership best practices paving the way to new avenues for sustained growth.

The below timeless leadership insight is meant to help inspire executives in guiding their legacy organizations.

Leadership Tip 1: Live your brand principles at every level

The culture of any brand can be traced back to a key set of experiences and interactions built through pattern, reputation and consistency. It is important to ‘do the right thing’ at every level across the organization to create win-win results.

At Chem-Dry, we place significant value not only in our high expectations for quality performance, but we also extend those expectations into our business relationships – elevating the relationship from a common transaction to a long-term, value-building partnership. Sure, a healthy deep clean is expected on every job, but the kindness and professional expertise of our technicians create a standing relationship where clients know that we are looking out for their best interests throughout their home.

This principle of trusted value and care is well demonstrated by our thousands of franchise owners across more than 50 countries, where franchisees are often helping each other through work support, advice, mentoring and sharing. With thousands of technicians entering homes every day and representing the brand, it is essential that we all work together to create a cohesive brand experience that resonates our vision of value, trust and quality.

Keep your brand principles in mind when growing your team – they must align. Hire smart and have a diverse team with people who will challenge each other and instigate conversations that will open doors to different opinions and ideas. These are key to creating a successful business with steady growth, and passion is a must. Your team will be your greatest resource in unlocking new innovations to keep your legacy organization young, vibrant and iconic.

Chem-Dry Founder Robert Harris with Charlie, company mascot.
Chem-Dry Founder Robert Harris with Charlie, company mascot.
Leadership Tip 2: Expect change & deliver great results

Change is inevitable — but how your organization handles itself and manages through the change is what demonstrates your ability to be an industry leader.

Recognize that challenges should not change a business’s development plans, only change the approach of how you reach those goals— simply adapt.

For example, large scale change can come in the form of a pandemic, where we evolved our service offerings to meet the needs of our consumer-base, to more tactical changes like the ever-evolving algorithms of Google impacting local business listings.

When you are faced with a new change, whether by the forces of nature or by strategic planning, it becomes an opportunity for your brand to evolve and improve. With Covid, we embraced a new revenue stream and with Google changing its algorithm, we adapted to supporting our franchisees in hyper localizing their efforts to maximize SEO and their local business listings.

Each change opens a door — a new chance to solidify a commitment to premium results. Metrics move and evolve, but the ability to drive toward success with measurable impacts is rooted in culture. This gives your organization a significant advantage in helping achieve strong results.

Leadership Tip 3: Communicate and connect at every opportunity

Clear and routine communication is critically important. This extends even into the little things, such as ensuring that department meetings are routine, with useful agendas and accountability to metrics. Broader communications using new technologies across the organization are also important — leveraging email, texting and chats as a complement to traditional resources such as events, newsletters and mailings. A robust and orchestrated communication approach where company vision and goals are referenced at every level is essential.

For example, at Chem-Dry, we have implemented a unified approach to weekly email communication. Each tackles a different area of the business (i.e., marketing, operations, technical, service excellence), and addresses how each of these impacts our company vision. As a result, we have seen the best open rates on messages in years, driving overall engagement and best practices that contribute to the bottom line.

There are also important unscripted moments that make a significant difference in the organization’s ability to drive impact amid change. These moments are often found in the one-on-one phone calls, regional visits or the personal touch-base discussions that allow us to connect our caring intentions with each other. With this comes the role of active listening — be mindful, empathetic and engage yourself in conversations.

These communications and interactions will inevitably play a role in guiding your business vision. Collectively, your team members all seek growing success — for each other — and together, you become a stronger force to be reckoned with.

Leadership Tip #4: Lead like a Lion

The lion is not the fastest animal in the jungle, nor is he the largest. Above all, the lion recognizes the importance of balance across the pride. The lion seeks to build a community environment that supports stability and consistency. Within this is a deep sense of pride and a fierce loyalty — a willingness to work together and to work hard to achieve the intended goals.

In the world of franchising, leaders get to invite their networks to participate in initiatives — and the best in the industry listen closely to their franchisees to build initiatives that are rooted at the franchisee level. Together, we’re able to solve problems, streamline efficiencies or remove obstacles to growth as defined by the franchisees. Ongoing communication, a willingness to advance a future-promising agenda, and a care for the individual franchisees can not only create a balance and unity across the network, but the group can work together to make remarkable things happen.

Of course, the best leaders listen to their heart in addition to the sensibilities of their mind — and recognize that we are making the best impacts when we seek to improve ourselves, our organizations and our communities with aligned goals. The legacy is not only built, but also maintained by these key principles.


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