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Making the Tough Calls

Hiring and firing is no easy feat, but if you step back from the emotions and play by the rules, it only helps in the long run.

Being the leader is great: creating and executing strategy, hitting targets, receiving accolades, and making bonuses makes it all seem worth it. But even when it is all going well, there will be some tough decisions to be made.  

 Usually, we associate making the tough calls to hire or fire, close departments, move production or close a line – and most often, when a business is struggling.  

However, the toughest calls come when a business is doing well or when a new hire is really good but does not fit or vice versa. 

Tough calls are easier when it’s not going well or someone is not showing up, as there is an easy justification. Tough calls are harder when you have been in the business for some time and have an affinity for what the business does, the market, the customers, and mostly, the employees.  

In Jim Collins’s Good to Great, Kimberly Clark’s CEO Darwin Smith created and executed a strategy to get out of paper manufacturing in favour of paper products. All the mills were sold, much to the chagrin of many outsiders and company die-hards. The decision, of course, was not arbitrary but professionally researched, thought out, and based on the long-term. They kept within the industry they knew (paper), rather than going in a completely different direction. 

Darwin Smith had been their in-house lawyer and so understood the history. All he did was apply great leadership, even in good times, and moved the business to a more lucrative position.

Having to remove people who just can’t do the job yet are nice, committed, and keen, is a tough call and takes tact and diplomacy and a streak of ruthlessness around performance: it’s not personal, it’s only business.

When the person involved has stolen from you or your business, or is rude and unproductive, it is easier to make those tough decisions to remove them, the law is on your side, so make the decision and move on even if it is painful at the time and might leave you short.

It is far easier to make tough calls if you are new to a business and have few attachments.  

Recently, we were asked to take over a group’s three dealerships that were not making money. The leader of the business had already been asked to leave after accusations from an employee found to be guilty of fraud. The whole business was a shambles. It was our job to seek out those who were responsible, find the evidence, and remove them.

Knowing that we followed the process, and knowing everything was done right gave us a sense of strength to keep going, With the support of the board we came through implementing better practices, increasing profits, and in turn, employing more people who were reliable and trustworthy. The business today is a happy, thriving environment of productivity and success.

In summary, making the tough calls is easy when you take out the emotion. Easy for me to say – right?! 

INN8 white
The client, part of South Africa’s largest financial institution, realised that it was not a platform destination of choice for the IFA market in SA. In an effort to address this valuable market and to futureproof their business they undertook to build a new investment platform. With this platform they needed to gain clarity and certainty on the appropriate brand and positioning to penetrate a highly competitive market and grow market share quickly.
We undertook a comprehensive global and local audit and research program, talking to current users of the brand as well as the target market IFAs. We looked at global trends and analysed behaviour across 3 markets. We spoke to competitors, partners and staff and then we made a recommendation. Created a new independent brand focused only on the IFA. Becoming the one thing an IFA really needed – a partner in their corner with no agenda other than to enable and facilitate their growth which would ultimately result in the platform growth.
INN8 a fintech investment platform brand “Changing the way investments are done in South Africa by becoming “The Adviser’s Partner.” We created the brand and developed its narrative and we launched it into a very tough closed market. To this day, we’re still punching above our weight and getting above industry average engagement across all our touch points.