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Inside the best in class – top leadership lessons

23rd May 2011

Julie and Kate recently have had the privilege of visiting three of the best companies in the country. We were lucky enough to spent time with each large corporate finding out what makes them ‘best in class’.

Here is a brief summary on Julie’s first impressions and the points we’ve decided to take away from each experience.

Apple
We expected a clean, minimalist presentation of this top business, resonating with the experience of Apple stores worldwide. But what was not so much anticipated was that the clear (even clinical), precise, demanding (even ruthless) presentation techniques also extend well into the business itself. I had expected that some of the urban myths about leadership styles inside this business would have been dismissed once we got a look on the inside. If anything they were increased! Apple is now third largest business in the world (behind 2 oil companies), and clearly aims to be the biggest overall within a few years. The style of management, leadership, presentation, sales techniques, PR – all support this clear and focused ambition; and to within an inch of its life!

Apple lessons -

  1. absolute and stringent attention to detail, express quality in all possible ways to increase brand loyalty and customer retention
  2. if it works then you keep doing it, and do it the best you possibly can – and make sure that everyone in the business is linked into the ethos and brand messages
  3. in the tough times make sure you invest in development – it will launch you ahead when things pick up and put you ahead of competitors

Innocent Drinks
On to Innocent and the warmest of welcomes for our group – we made it to their new building in time to join in with the celebrations of their 12th birthday! When we arrived I made a note of first impressions – fun, lively, welcoming, generous (reflective of their values). Presentations from the founders brought to us a very clear attitude towards value-driven business, staff engagement, clarity of objectives, nifty marketing especially in the digital spaces. They clearly have some major talent operating in the business – not just the founders, but a very strong team recruited carefully and effectively to develop the business with clear strategic aims and performance measures in place. We heard about the development of core values and how these informed plans, and how performance was rewarded in the business, including through evidence of values being delivered through individual activities.

Innocent lessons

  1. linking staff performance monitoring to business values keeps the ethos alive – find ways to engage staff in knowing how to ‘live the values’
  2. compromise is certain to be needed to ensure ambitious strategy can be achieved and in planning for compromise its important to know what is and isn’t negotiable
  3. working environment is important and helps to bring the brand to life – especially when the office is a place to host visits, clients and investors – make it an extension of the brand

Red Bull UK
Having previously admired the way that this business understood digital marketing as well as any other I’ve reviewed, and with a clear link to youth culture and future business opportunities I was looking forward to the Red Bull visit as you might expect. But mostly this was focused on the opportunity to understand a completely different business, still in the drinks trade obviously, but much more in the youth culture space and much more clearly using social media to promote its business with major success. What I hadn’t understood at all before the visit was that for Red Bull social media, and media in general, alongside content development is now a major part of their core business. In fact their strategy aim is for media to be as big as their drinks-can sales within the next few years.

Red Bull lessons

  1. know your business strategy and what motivates the key stakeholders effectively; what does success look like and how will it be rewarded
  2. Word of Mouth is the most important marketing plan for many businesses, including those in retail spaces; understand the power of brand recommendation and use it
  3. Brand ambassadors can be a highly effective way to ensure growing recognition and engagement, especially those who are seen as leaders, inspirers, achievers

Let us know what you think!