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Culture change is not a weekend event; it’s a journey

Posted on Categories BrandonomicsTags

Culture change is more than one team-building weekend. Gene Gray, President at Innovative-IDM, shares how their company began the gradual journey to more powerful culture.

Robin: Hello and welcome to this edition of Brandonomics, an inside look at top brands and their marketing strategies. I am Robin Tooms, VP of Strategy at Savage Brands and my guest again is Gene Gray, President at Innovative-IDM. So Gene, welcome back to Brandonomics.

Gene: Well it’s good to be back. It’s always fun.

Robin: Well thank you. You’ve shared some really amazing stories about how unique the culture is at Innovative, but I want to know, was it always that way for you? And how did you get to that point?

Gene: No it wasn’t, no it wasn’t always this way. We were normal once.

Robin: Oh my goodness.

Gene: Yeah, we had a normal company. We’d come to our meetings and we were like everybody else; we had PowerPoint shows, everybody dressed in a Polo shirt. We were a small company then, but we wanted to look big so we invited spouses or dates and we gave them company shirts, that way when we’d walk around the hotel we’d look bigger than we were.

Robin: Oh my goodness.

Gene: But you know, we were growing the company pretty good. For the first eight years we were growing about a million dollars a year. And we were like you know, we’ve been doing this for a while, million dollars a year, is that the best we can do? What would be a really big goal? And so we got together and we thought you know, let’s become a 30 million dollar company, and let’s do it in 5 years. And so here we were, it’s 2007, we had just come off about 7 million dollar company and we were like, let’s see if we can get to a 30 million dollar company and have 6 locations by 2012. So we summed up this 5 year march, this trek, this vision as 30/6/12.

We said okay, now we’ve got to be different, because if we keep doing everything the way we’ve been doing it, we’re going to be who we were. So how do we change? I was at a seminar at this conference and I saw this company that went and did a fire walk and I thought, well that would be interesting. And I thought, why is that going to be interesting?

Well, it’s because it’s going to challenge our belief systems. But then I thought okay, so we go do that and you do that event and it’s entertainment, it’s a weekend thing and it’s done; how are we going to change the company when we come back on Monday?

Robin: So what happened?

Gene: Well, we decided that we needed to have a culture meeting every day and so we were going to go to this meeting and everything needed to be different. So I hired somebody else to run the meeting – to facilitate the meeting. We did our first employee growth event with a goal-setting seminar, we did our first fire walk, but when we came back on Monday we were going to have to do a chant every day.

Robin: Oh goodness, I love it.

Gene: And so it’s like how do you get a group of ordinary people to come in and all of a sudden we’re going to have chants every day where a speaker calls out, “What’s our vision?” and then everybody chants back at the same time: “9o/150/17!”

If I’d hired it in there and we just did it, that would be great because you showed up and it’s there, and you knew it was there. But the challenge was in 2008, all of the sudden saying, on Monday, when we come in, it’s going to be different. We’re going to chant. And then, boy, I was so scared. I showed up Monday morning and I go, I wonder how many people are going to resign today.

But that’s how we’ve started to become abnormal, and the culture, it grows slowly. Culture evolves over time. It changes. It’s kind of like politics or anything else; it incrementally changes. And so the important thing for anybody in a company is to manage that cultural brand internally, because if you don’t, it’s going to change; you’re just not going to be managing it.

Robin: Well I’m glad that you shared that story. That was amazing, and I loved hearing that it was that progression of the great idea tied in with the vision and reinforced daily that got you there.

Gene: Every day.

Robin: Excellent. Well thank you so much, I’m glad you shared that.

Gene: You’re welcome.

Robin: This has been another edition of Brandonomics, an inside look at top brands and their marketing strategies.


Innovative-IDM is an industrial automation and controls company with distribution and manufacturing locations in both Dallas-Forth Worth and Houston, and with sales and field service technicians across the southern U.S. They are committed to legendary customer service.

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