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Client Success Story: Southern Civil Engineers, Inc.

Jim Hamilton is President of Southern Civil Engineers, Inc. a land development engineering and design firm he began in 1983 in Alpharetta, Georgia. Prior to contacting Leadership Strategies his company spent several years developing their strategic plan and discovering what their vision, strengths and values were. Having previously defined their mission/vision statements, they knew where their flag stood on the hill. What was lacking in their overall plan was the predefined process to execute getting to that flag.  Below are Jim’s remarks in a letter to Leadership Strategies after he completed a 2-day private strategic planning session with his core team, as well as answers to follow up questions.

“I find myself when I have seen a great movie, read a great book or had great experience-having great flashbacks that reinforce the great take away. I am having those now from your facilitation this past week. The group said, ‘This is the best Strategic Planning session ever!”

“The days we spent with Leadership Strategies were some of the most inspiring few days we’ve ever spent trying to get to that flag on the hill,” Jim commented when interviewed for this article. “Working with Michael Wilkinson enabled us to achieve greater discoveries into ourselves about both our brand and the people running the company. He has a real talent for getting a group to dig deep, and determine what our goals really are. The thing that impressed our group the most about Michael was how he drove the process because ‘process’ is exactly what we needed more than anything else. He’s like a miner in a gold mine drawing out the gold nuggets and asking the most important question at key times to drive us into what we needed to do. He’s written books about meetings and facilitations; there is no doubt in my mind he’s an expert in the field and the culture of Leadership Strategies certainly permeates these values.”

How did this strategic planning session help/resolve/improve work performance?

“In addition to process, there was required validation of every statement we made. Michael didn’t just say, ‘Tell me what your mission, vision statements are.’ He caused us to validate our mission, values, etc. Each team member also completed DISC personality profiles highlighting who is a high D, high I and so forth. It brought out where we all categorically fall regarding work styles by clarifying what strengths each of us brings to the table and the importance of bringing these working components together harmoniously. The process enabled us to gain insight into each other and bring our thought processes together in order to reach consensus and move projects forward. This may be a routine thing that Leadership Strategies does, but for us there was a lot of valuable discovery. Understanding and capitalizing on how each person best performs in their daily jobs is a great way to run a company. Lately, we at SCE have been very busy and found our selves caught up in the daily doing, making it hard to see the forest through the trees. Michael’s process pulls you back to 30,000 feet, guides your thoughts to our overall business plan and allows you to really get a handle on what your company is all about and where it’s heading.”

Any long term bonuses?

“One thing Michael recommended we do on purpose is only take the plan to 85-90% completion, then carry the plan back to the company and request the entire staff’s input on finishing the strategic plan. At first we questioned it, asking, ‘Why not hammer out the tablets and bring them down the mountain?’ Michael insisted we would get more buy-in when it was time to take the plan over the goal line if the rest of the staff were involved with the final details and allowed to take ownership of the strategic initiatives. Doing business this way was something very new to us. We’re still learning our way through the process but it has proved a tremendous morale booster. We’ve enjoyed excellent employee retention and 100% of our staff has gotten involved.

It’s been three months since our off-site planning session and all the components of the plan are in place. Now we’re going through the process of monitoring it on a monthly basis to ensure we are meeting all our objectives. A key component of the plan is the accountability of monitoring the execution process in order to arrive at the flag on the hill. Michael helped us discover our own execution process and a method for monitoring progress. We have prepared a scoreboard (strategies) and can easily see where we’re dragging and where we’re ahead. This allows us to quickly make course adjustments if necessary to continue our quest to the flag on the hill.”

What wowed you?

“The biggest wow of all was the final product that put our entire strategic planning process into a visual format. It was a tri-fold piece highlighting our three main objectives: reputation, people in-house and financial performance. Each objective outlined critical success factors we had identified would need to happen and the barriers we would need to avoid in order to be successful. When you have full knowledge of what your critical success factors and barriers are, you are really on the way towards ultimately attaining your goal. It’s a really easy method to follow. I’m not sure if other facilitation companies do this but Leadership Strategies has this process nailed down.”

Southern Civil Engineers, Inc. remains in the afterglow. “Sometimes you go to impressive seminars and have great experiences then come back and the lessons you learned stick around for a few weeks but then go by the wayside. Not so in this case. We keep reminding ourselves every time we revisit our plan. Our company is absolutely certain that in the future when we look back on this strategic planning session we’ll realize this was an important event in our overall success. The company was doing well but the work we did is already a really big catalyst.

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