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When a successful CEO tells you growth is not his number one priority, you immediately ask, what is? For John Hoffman, CEO of Altis Consulting, the answer is definitive – his team comes first. “We will give up growth to make sure that we have an engaged, high-quality team that loves what they do every day.”
For ten years running, Altis Consulting has made the Australian Financial Review’s ‘Best Places to Work’* list. It’s a recognition that validates the company’s founding vision – to grow a living company that would continue to be prosperous in 100 years.
John credits the implementation of the Harvard Service-Profit Chain as the underpinning of the company’s ongoing success. As John puts it: happy people = happy customers = success.
And that leads us to a bigger question… if you’re already implementing a working business model and your company is enjoying long-term success, what’s the value add of joining Anna’s Scaling Up Program and committing valuable time to Scaling Up? The answer to this question is layered, but it starts with Anna Samios.
With over 115 permanent team members, Altis is the largest privately owned data and analytics consultancy in Australia and New Zealand. As a people-first company, Altis is proudly values-led: connecting with courage, heart and insight. Anna’s passion and experience were an excellent fit.
“Anna comes from a family business,” explains John. “She had her own accountancy firm with her husband, and her father also ran his own business. And I liked that; there’s something about that family background and the importance of employees and family business that resonated with us.”
Before working with Anna, John had a strong understanding of the Scaling Up framework. He and his team are big fans of business thought leader Jim Collins and had heard Scaling Up founder Verne Harnish speak at an event with Jim some years back. The way Verne communicated the attributes and values of Scaling Up resonated with John. When Altis started working with Anna, he’d already implemented elements of the Scaling Up framework, but he wanted to try a different approach.
An important factor for John was Anna’s approach to implementing the Scaling Up tools – most importantly for him, the flywheel. As a tool, the flywheel is all about people as the central drivers of the business, a concept that makes a lot of sense to John and his team at Altis.
The flywheel concept, developed by Jim Collins, visualises the incremental changes that take a company from good to great. It’s the idea that greatness doesn’t happen in one fell swoop but is the result of a team aligned and all pushing little by little in the same direction – until momentum takes hold.
Anna likens the flywheel to a series of strategic chess moves: once you make one move, it forces you to get to the next move a lot faster. So, when you prioritise these actions within an organisation, you can start to scale a lot faster.
The Scaling Up Program gives me the time to reflect on whether we have the right people on the bus,” says John. “And it takes in the accountability matrix, making sure that every key element of the business has someone who’s accountable for it. I love connecting with others who are on the journey of growing their own organisations and being able to share challenges, opportunities, experiences and lessons learned,” says John.
The twelve month Scaling Up program brings a small group of like-minded leaders together in monthly meetings to work with Anna on implementing the Scaling Up framework in a collaborative environment. The program has given John the opportunity to connect with other leaders and work with Anna to implement the elements of the framework that he feels are relevant to Altis.
John really appreciates the energy and positivity that Anna brings to the room as well as the effective way each monthly meeting is structured.
“Each session is organised around a specific business challenge and is structured to foster dialogue and discussion,” says John.
The collaborative approach provides some welcomed space outside of the day to day challenges and operational side of running a business.
The opportunity to step back and take stock on a regular basis has been a real value add for John.
Finding the time to work on and not in the business is an issue for many time-poor executives.
The Scaling Up Program provides the space and strategic approach to carve out that time regularly and efficiently.
Having people outside the business who help to keep things fresh is also a plus.
As John explains, “It’s great having Anna and, just as importantly, some of the other executives, to bounce ideas off and share commentary.”
John and the team at Altis approach growth from a different angle to many companies. They see growth as a tool, not the end goal.
“For us, growth creates opportunities for the team and the objective of growth is around creating those opportunities for individuals within the organisation through personal development and professional development.
Growth for growth’s sakes isn’t as important for us.”
It all feeds back into the Harvard Service-Profit Chain model that prioritises people as the key to success.
And using growth as a driver plays perfectly with the Scaling Up framework, where learning how to attract, retain and develop a team of A-players is fundamental to success. As Anna says, it’s all about having the right people on the bus and making sure the bus driver is making all the right turns along the way.”
"Anna' is a champion. You don't often come across people with her enthusiasm and genuine interest in helping people. This is more than a job to her... it's her passion. Peter Salveson, CEO Hansen Yuncken.
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