Your people are key to value creation

Directors and Senior Managers need to know which value creation levers to pull in order to build a bigger and better business. Graham Donoghue, CEO of Sykes Cottages, shares practical tips to help you tell the best story for your business when you focus on the ultimate Key Performance Indicator – your people.

In this article you’ll discover:

  • The role of Objectives and Key Results (OKRs) in giving clarity and fixing focus
  • Maximising value creation by looking after your people
  • The importance of succession planning

As a PE-backed CEO, Graham’s approach is always to begin with the end in mind. At its most basic level, this means thinking 5-10 years out – not only at the current exit, but also at the next one. Choosing the end of the story and setting the right narrative to reach it. Once you know how much value needs to be created, creating a plan to get there and measuring performance and progress towards it are key.

The role of Objectives and Key Results (OKRs) in giving clarity and fixing focus

Every manager understands the importance of setting a strategic business plan. The most successful PE-backed organisations go further, translating this plan into a vision and mission that illustrate what success looks like. Sharing the story you want to tell and choosing the right people to tell it. 

Identifying how your unique values and ways of working help the team work towards this vision is vital, and the best way to do this is by building targeted objectives into every role. At Sykes Cottages, Objectives and Key Results (OKRs) give clarity to everyone in understanding how their role impacts the business’ vision and mission. Individuals are appraised against the delivery of six Committed OKRs and Aspirational OKRs, empowering people to take ownership for targets and feel accountable for progress towards them. Graham explains that, rather than state an objective of creating a business worth X billion pounds, this is set in more tangible terms that people can visualise:

“What we say is we want to take X million people on holiday and we want to have Y properties and we want to keep growing and we want to be a great employer. We want to create value and we want to have a purpose.”

Maximising value creation means looking after your people

The reality is that post-pandemic, people are choosing where and how to work. At Sykes Cottages, having a people-centred culture and strong values helped the business survive (and even thrive) through Covid. Managers worked hard to listen to, and address, the concerns of those on the front line dealing with disgruntled customers and ever-changing lockdown restrictions. Wellness, always a strength of the organisation, truly came to the fore. Managers communicated honestly with their teams to allay their concerns and provide practical support, sharing updates when government was lobbied, assuring the team that investors remained confident. People who feel understood and supported are engaged and motivated. Shared challenges and ownership of solutions to overcome them creates real value for the business.

“Your business is your people. We spend a lot of time talking about people.”

The importance of succession planning

Graham likens the role of CEO to that of storyteller, deciding what sort of story you want to tell to your customers and investors and then evidencing its parts. The extremely capable people he works with are all part of the story and play key roles in driving it forwards:

We’ve got amazing people and I think I’m in awe of what they do… So that’s part of my story. Part of this story when we’re selling our business… And as a result of that, we need to make sure that the succession is right in the business.”

Succession planning is extremely important in terms of value creation – identifying and plugging potential people and skill gaps is key if forward momentum and growth are to be maintained. This involves identifying future leaders, mentoring them, providing access to management training, bringing them onto the board and exposing them to the story. A story that they can co-author as it evolves into more successful chapters.

There’s a wealth of practical advice and examples on the principles and processes of succession planning on the PepTalks Members platform.

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