Igniting the Spark

“We realised we were spending a lot of time and money trying to improve our performance yet we never seemed to get the results we were after. Completing Craig's programme provided the breakthrough we were looking for.”

Frances Palmer
Director, Spark Business Directions NZ
Background:
A time of change

Spark (formerly Telecom) is New Zealand’s leading Telecommunications company and one of the country’s largest businesses.

Prior to buying back its retail stores, the heads of the Business Directions network knew they needed to improve the performance of their (44) franchises if they were to compete with Vodafone’s expansion in the market.

Following an assessment of the franchise’s performance, a number of options were sought, however, there was a concern they wouldn’t improve the performance of their businesses as they were focused on internal systems and reporting rather than the growth of the network.

During the consultation period, an advisor recommended they trial our process to see if it could bring about the change they were looking for as he didn’t believe the planned initiatives would improve it.

This prompted a discussion between Telecom Business Directions and ourselves which eventually led to a pilot programme in its Tauranga store (Tauranga was chosen because our principal Craig Steel was based there at the time).

During the four-month trial period, the Tauranga store increased its sales by over 400%. What staggered the network however was the fact that none of their other 43 franchises increased their sales at all during the same period.

Subsequent analysis confirmed their suspicions that the improvement didn’t come about by way of product or market changes but by improving the performance of their staff.

It was the impact our process had on Telecom Business Directions that prompted other organisations to ask us if we would be willing to do the same for their people. 

Challenge:
Matching the competition

Despite being one of the more successful franchises in New Zealand, there were a number of issues that were becoming more of a challenge as time went on. The main one was how to improve our performance to maintain market share.

To achieve this, we knew we needed to get everyone on the same page and heading in the same direction. We also needed to set really clear goals so our people knew what success looked like in their role and how they were going to deliver it. In simple terms, we needed to get focused if we were to face up to increasing competition as a franchise.

Francis Palmer Director, Spark Business Directions

Solution:
The Steel Performance System (SPS)

Following a review of the business, one of our advisors recommended we trial Craig Steel’s performance improvement process as he believed it would help us lift the performance of our people based on what he had seen it do in sport. It was this discussion that led to us rolling out his programme.

Francis Palmer Director, Spark Business Directions

Q&A
Derek Fendley
General Manager, Telecom Business Directions
What difference has it made to your team?

Deploying Craig’s programme has led to changes across every level of the business. Today, we are far more focused and organized which is why we’re delivering the results we are. Completing it provided a real breakthrough in terms of staff engagement which we didn’t expect but were obviously hoping for.

Why do you think it worked?

Looking back, I can see we used to spend a huge amount of time and energy trying to improve our performance, yet we never seemed to get the results we were after. We never seemed to be able to address the issues that were holding us back or causing the problems in the first place. Introducing it completely changed the way we thought about the business and equally, how our people thought about themselves and their ability to fulfill their roles.

Today, everyone is far more interested in what we’re trying to achieve. There is a much deeper sense of commitment to our goals and how they contribute to them. It’s amazing, everyone is so much clearer about what needs to be done than they were before. As a result, we’ve been able to remove the need for most of the things we used to do to manage our people’s performance.

What are the key differences between Craig’s programme and other things you’ve done?

Most providers claim their work is unique but it rarely ever is. Craig’s programme is different. It’s been tested at the highest level of sport and the results prove that. You can see the amount of thought that’s gone into it which is why it resonates so well with everyone. The relationship between sport and business which he talks about is interesting and one people can relate to. Most of us have done a lot of leadership and management type courses in addition to our formal education and yet they hardly ever work whereas the impact this has had on our people is phenomenal.

What would you say to others considering working with SPS?

Deploying Craig’s programme (now the SPS) has had a massive impact on us as people as well as the performance and success of the business. In this market, our people have to perform. If they do well, we as a company do well whereas if they fail, we fail too.

I’m confident his programme would do the same for any company irrespective of its size or industry.

“In our latest nationwide dealer network results we came first in NZ – up from 10th the quarter before. What was really amazing however was the fact that we increased our sales by a whopping 407%. What’s more, we were the only franchise to increase our sales at all during the quarter!”

Frances Palmer
Director, Spark Business Directions

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