There’s much to be said for fostering company culture, but how do you handle a company culture that needs a complete overhaul? Mark Waller from A-1 Freeman Moving sat down in the recording studio with us for the latest episode of HR Insider and shared about his experience of wiping the slate clean and building his company culture from the ground up.

When Mark stepped into his role 18 years ago, he had his work cut out for him. In his words, “We had a lot of problems that were related to culture. We had a culture of people not working together, not trusting each other. The result of that was not only poor service but financial loss, service failure, all of the things that are connected to people not working together as a team. When I got here, I knew I had a lot of work ahead of me.”

“It was a culture of lack. There was a lack of accountability, lack of trust, lack of vision, lack of direction. I knew that I had to get people in there who had the same kind of vision that I had for the company. Not people necessarily like me, but people who had commitment and real passion, not only for the business, but passion to help build teams and develop people.”

“Ultimately, my objective when I came into the company was to rectify that this was a company that was losing money. This was a company providing poor service. This was a company with problems. And so my first thoughts were, “How can I make changes that are going to help this company move into producing a profit and generating cash?” And so the very beginning was hiring the right people.”

“To get started we laid out some core values. We wanted to treat each other with dignity and respect. We wanted to care for the things that our customers cared about. We wanted to provide a safe and secure environment for all of our employees to work in. We really focused on these things to begin to build our culture.”

“With all of those changes we ended up turning over most of the staff. When you’re facing changes like that, some employees make it simple for you. They’re not on board with the changes that you’re making. They don’t agree with the direction that you’re going, and so they choose to leave. Then we had others who stayed. They were on board with the changes. If you have the right person, you can coach them up. It won’t be the majority, but people can improve. Still, we had several who became part of the new team.”

“To enact such huge changes, the key to everything was clear, concise communication about what was happening. I would bring our teams together and say, ‘Look. Here’s what we think the problems are. Here are the changes that we think need to happen in order to correct this. We’re doing this so that we can become the company we want to be. Here’s what I’m going to need from this team and from every individual.’”

Clear, concise communication set the stage for both pruning and new growth at A-1 Freeman Moving and it still plays a big part in Mark’s role with the company today. In our next blog post, Mark will share about having the tough conversations it takes to protect and foster the culture he’s worked so hard to build. 

If you’d like to get in touch Mark, you can find him on LinkedIn or send him an email at Catch the full conversation with Mark on HR Insiders available on Soundcloud and Apple Podcasts.