One of the biggest factors determining success and longevity in business is corporate culture, says Mining People founder Steve Heather.
A lot of it comes down to culture.
I’d even go so far as to say that, when it comes to success in business, culture rules.
Or, as management guru Peter Druker puts it, “culture eats strategy for breakfast”.
In January 2020, Mining People International (MPi) turned 25. Naturally, this was a good opportunity to reflect on our longevity and (in the main) success, and I wanted to share some of these reflections, because I think they will be useful to others in business, be that a mining or mining services business, or indeed a recruitment business..
During my reflections, I was reminded that while the culture in an organisation changes with the times and the people who are a part of the team, at its core, an organisation’s culture must always encourage behaviour that supports progress towards its main objectives.
I could see how, over this quarter of a century-long journey, some elements of our company culture supported the achievement of our objectives. I could also see how others had, at times, acted as a handbrake that held us back.
Looking back, I don’t think Mining People changed much in its first 20 years, but a lot has changed in the past five years.
- We have retained a core of experienced long-termers
- We have had a higher than normal level of turnover in the wider group
- We completely changed our remuneration model
- We completely changed our business delivery model for our labour hire business
- We modernised the office
- We moved to a cloud-hosted database after 20 years with one system, running on servers in our office basement
- We grew from 20 permanent staff to 32
- We grew our contract base from 100 to 250
- We have reduced the size of our business support team.
So much change
Change can be unsettling for some people; they simply cannot handle it and they leave. Others embrace it and grow.
But even with all that change, a lot stays the same.
This is the hard part. Changing the bits that are holding you back, but not throwing the baby out with the bath water. This has been the real lesson for us and I think, one of the major secrets to our success.
So much stays the same
In an industry like mining, which is big in terms of its financial impacts, the leadership is concentrated. Everyone knows each other, and they all talk.
If you mess up as a service supplier to this industry, the word gets around quickly. So to survive there are some elements of culture you must never let slip.
Here are some of those elements that we are relentless about:
- We get back to everybody, every time
- Candidates are in total control of where their details go, every time
- We keep people in the loop, progress or no progress
- We never poach people from our clients
- If we make a mistake, we admit it and we fix it
- We have four groups of customers
And we treat them all equally, without fear or favour.
Why bother with culture and why leaders must be transmitters
I recently wrote an article about corporate culture and why we must all own it. It can be viewed here.
And if you’re interested in a summary of our twenty-year journey, you can read my speech I delivered five years ago. It’s got it all:
- Starting with two people in a bedroom of a Federation home in Mount Lawley, Perth
- Drawing our first modest wage
- Lending it back to the business six weeks later
- Six offices in four Australian states
- 50 full-time staff
- A public listing
- An emergency re-privatisation buyback
- Slaying dragons and helping build mines from scratch
- And losing a founder.
It’s all there. One hell of a journey. You can enjoy the whole thing here.