Unlock Hidden Value: 4 Lessons from Wal-Mart

In the October edition of HBR, Leslie Datch provides some invaluable advice to executives in his column, “Don’t Spin a Better Story.  Be a Better Company.”  http://s.hbr.org/15XzZRi  While the advice is focused on how to effectively and authentically respond to negative PR, the insight is also powerful for unlocking hidden value in organizations.

Here’s my take on four of Datch’s lessons and how they can unlock hidden value in your business:

  1. Authenticity works – every time and over time:  Whether you’re defending negative PR, marketing your products or trying to recruit and retain talented employees, people see through hype and spin.  The costs of trying to maintain a false brand image or managing the turnover of disenchanted employees far outstrip whatever benefits you think you’re getting.  Unlock that hidden value and use it to drive growth or profitability in the business.  (Check out my friend Jim Gilmore’s book – co-authored with Joe Pine – for more insight on authenticity:  http://www.strategichorizons.com/authenticity.html)
  2. Listen – really listen – to all input:  It is often difficult to do, but listening openly – especially to criticism – is one of the best ways to unlock hidden value in a company by identifying unmet needs, new opportunities and hidden barriers.  There’s a wealth of untapped ideas, innovation and opportunity just waiting to be unleashed if you will engage with and learn from your detractors.
  3. Culture matters:  Culture, as we define it at enlight, is the underlying “moral compass” employees use to guide their day-to-day decisions – it is based on what employees believe is acceptable or expected of them based on the values they are rewarded for living every day.  (Note: the values they are rewarded for living may not be the ones that are published on your company’s website…actions speak louder than words.)  Culture begins at the top, and as Datch puts it, the CEO must set the tone.  But, embedding new values in a company’s culture requires a concerted effort and consistency over time.  Once values are embedded in a culture, the organization will naturally make decisions that align with those values, which can unlock hidden value in surprising ways – increased efficiency, new product or service ideas, increased customer or employer loyalty…the list goes on.
  4. Broaden your definition of benefit:  This one can be tough for executives who want a hard and fast ROI for decisions.  Unfortunately, what we often see is that executives – in their quest to quantify impact – are too short-sighted.  Many times the numerator of the ROI calculation is flawed.  The reality is that we fail to consider the value of increased employee retention, increased customer loyalty, reduced legal risk, reduced PR risks, etc – all of which can be quantified and will have a financial impact on your business.  So, the next time you calculate the ROI of an investment, ask yourself how the investment will affect such things as employee and customer retention and PR and legal costs.  The added benefits might surprise you.

Opportunities to unlock hidden value are all around you…these are just a few to get you started.  Give them a try, and let us know how it goes.  Let us know if we can help you unlock hidden value in your business.

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