Former Culture of Sarcasm Now Exceeds Sales Numbers

When Bristol Farms, a leading Southern California grocery retailer, underwent a series of buyouts, its company culture suffered. Each investment company brought with it new priorities and business strategies. Through implementing Partners In Leadership’s Lead Culture program to the senior leadership team, they developed their tenacious Key Results. The company shifted from a culture fraught with sarcasm to a culture anchored in accountability with the help of a common language. Instead of employees playing the blame game and belittling each other, they communicated in a way that was more positive and focused on the business. If there was a problem, everyone rallied together to solve it. Communication skills fostered collaboration. The company crushed its goals, finishing the year at a 7.7% sales (a 2.7% increase over the previous year) and increasing the POD to 22%.

Client Spotlight

Bristol Farms

“There was old-school thinking, new-school thinking, thinking that didn’t work,” said Adam Caldecott, who became President & COO of Bristol Farms in 2015.

He decided to make culture a priority.

When Bristol Farms, a leading Southern California grocery retailer, underwent a series of buyouts, its company culture suffered. Each investment company brought with it new priorities and business strategies. Every time the company adjusted to the changes, it was sold again. The constant change resulted in inconsistent expectations, a clash of cultures, and mixed messages. After many years with that kind of turnover, the culture was extremely dysfunctional, dissatisfied, and weary. A culture of sarcasm had taken root. “There was old-school thinking, new-school thinking, thinking that didn’t work,” said Adam Caldecott, who became President & COO in 2015. He decided to make culture a priority.

 

Identifying Cultural Beliefs® and Key Results™

Caldecott brought in Partners In Leadership and introduced the Lead Culture™ program to the senior leadership team. Together, they identified and determined the company’s Cultural Beliefs and set the Key Results for the year: year-over-year growth of 5% sales and 15% point-of-difference (POD) products. This was a big stretch for the company, and no one was confident the company would meet the goals. However, because of the new emphasis on culture, everyone felt the numbers were more attainable than before.

Roll-out

The company presented Cultural Beliefs meetings to most of the management team. The management team immediately incorporated all the Partners In Leadership principles and tools, including the following:

  • Common language established: With Caldecott’s support, the company established a common language to encourage people to interact and hold each other accountable. The clarity and simplicity of the Key Results was incredibly important. They successfully communicated how each person played a part in achieving the results.
  • Feedback: Giving and receiving feedback became a daily habit, championed first and foremost by Caldecott. As a leader, he held himself accountable and was holding others accountable as well. Bristol Farms didn’t have that Culture of Accountability before, and encouraging the leadership team to act on feedback was part of the shift.

The Power of Feedback

Caldecott actively asked for feedback during one-on-one meetings with employees and at large group meetings. Feedback started to trickle into Caldecott’s office, both from direct reports and eventually from every level of the organization.

“It’s hard to be vulnerable,” said Yolie Pepin, Vice President of Human Resources at Bristol Farms,” but again and again Adam put himself out there so people could tell him whatever they felt they needed to tell him and he responded. If the leadership doesn’t buy in to the process, you aren’t going anywhere.”

Having leaders who model acceptance of any feedback proved to be extremely beneficial to the success of the company. Getting cross-functional feedback helped the leadership get things right the first time, rather than having ideas fail because one group was forcing its will on another group to implement it.

Speaking the Same Language

The company shifted from a culture fraught with sarcasm to a culture anchored in accountability with the help of a common language. Instead of employees playing the blame game and belittling each other, they communicated in a way that was more positive and focused on the business. If there was a problem, everyone rallied together to solve it. Communication skills fostered collaboration.

Hitting Their Sales Goals

While the company was much more focused on the human interactions and changing the culture than it was on sales goals, Caldecott’s vision, combined with the Partners In Leadership principles and tools, led to financial health for the company. The company crushed its goals, finishing the year at a 7.7% sales (a 2.7% increase over the previous year) and increasing the POD to 22%.

To gain perspective on that achievement, the industry and competitors were basically flat. Wal-Mart was up 1.8%, Whole Foods down -3%, Sprouts was mostly flat at -1%, and Kroger had its first negative comparable in 13 years.