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April 11, 2022
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How to Transplant a Winning Culture

winning culture

Photo Credit: Kristal Serrano of Partisan Advertising

What do you do when you’re a successful company with decades of industry-leading performance and you acquire another business where things are done very differently? Where the contrast to your personal business attitude is stark: a traditional approach with less than motivated people. A classic focus on financial outcomes, where staff work to get paid. How do you go about changing a culture like that? You can’t transplant your own culture, inject it or find some sort of silver bullet.

In our previous article on the foundation for TR Group’s success, I commented that the approach of putting intrinsic motivation at the core of everything they do has turned TR Group into one of the most successful, enduring, and interesting businesses I know. We discussed how Andrew Carpenter and Neil Bretherton built their winning culture from the ground up. That this was easier than changing an existing culture to the ideal blueprint they had in mind. But Neil has proven this too is possible when TR Group assimilated their TR Driver Training into TR Group. This is his story.

You know you’re in a different truckie business when the first thing Neil mentions is love. But I’m getting ahead of myself. Why is intrinsic motivation important? It answers the ‘why’ for people and it means that all they want, is to contribute to the team’s success. Says Neil: “People want to feel part of something and want an alignment between their personal values and the business values”.

“The results have to be there for the cool stuff you do for your culture to develop. Initially for TR Driver Training the results were not there but our outcomes were complimentary to the wider TR business. So we took the money out of the discussion to some degree and started talking about quality and how you look after each other, and the change in the organisation was massive. Rather than doing work because they were told to do so, people came to work with ideas for a better way.”

The work that Neil led for TR Driver Training focused on five elements:

  1. Love – for what you’re doing, and for the people you’re working with.
  2. Loyalty – to the business: you supported me, I want to support you.
  3. Companionship – I love the people I work with.
  4. Growth – a company that is actually interested in you being better and you wanting to be better.
  5. Achievement – that feeling when you can stand in front of people and deliver something that is better than anyone else can.

Neil says it took years to get it right: “All of this builds culture and customers love it. The more you focus on this and the more you put the individual in the centre of what you do, the better quality they provide to the customers.”

“It’s a hard business to work for, in terms of review, the challenge we provide people. You have to be able to look in the mirror and say ‘this happened because I screwed up’. Not everyone can do that, it’s tough. It challenges people to park their ego and put other people ahead of themselves. That’s tough too. The people that can, stay here. The people that have other motivations leave.”

TR Driver Training results now line up with TR Group. Neil is clear: “Culture always leads finance. If you do it right, then the money will follow, not the other way around”.

Adds Andrew: “When we make decisions we cross check against intrinsic motivation, are we contributing or subtracting from it? Sometimes it would shift the thinking or completely kill the decision. It takes a bit of courage to choose the options that don’t show the quickest payback.”

In the next instalment I will talk about how Andrew is leading the same cultural transition to create a winning culture in their Australian acquisition. A teaser quote from Andrew: “I’d rather stop trading than switch over to being an arse to do business”.

 

About the author: Geerten Lengkeek is the Managing Director of Productivity People