For business, ‘change’ is not a four letter word

Sustainable business growth needs the effective management of people, culture and communication

Kristy Weaver

It is commonly accepted that growth is a requirement for business success, but growth alone doesn’t build success – growth’s challenging sidekick “change” must also be well managed. Widely admired entrepreneur Richard Branson famously started his empire with a magazine out of his basement at age 16 and opened Virgin Records at age 22. Change management was critical to the growth and sustainability of his Virgin Group empire or it would have withered into oblivion by way of the video rental store and photo processing shop.

When I think about successful change management, I think about three key components: managing people, managing culture and managing communication. Without effective management in these areas, expanding geographically, adding new product lines or acquiring another business can be irrelevant – and quite frankly, a waste of valuable resources. Growth alone comes with no guarantees and can, in fact, hurt a business when the change that comes with it is not well managed.

Managing change: People

Bringing new people into the mix can be one of the most impactful elements to transforming your business as it grows. Businesses are nothing if not representative of the people they hire. While new employees bring new ideas, new energies and new capacities, they may also create new challenges.

Recruiting and hiring people is hard. It takes a tremendous amount of time and effort – and it takes you away from running your business. As such, it is critical that you allocate your time and resources as efficiently and effectively as possible. I’ve found the following tips helpful in managing people in times of growth:

Treat hiring as an equal to running your business. You have to give it your full attention and effort in order to get the right people who will serve your business well and fit into your organization’s culture.

Use the appropriate resources (e.g. social media, recruiters and online tools) to help find, recruit and hire people. While some resources have low monetary costs, be sure to account for the amount of time use you may pour into these resources and evaluate if you will get the return you desire.

Bring new and existing employees together in a fun setting. Getting to know each other on a personal level helps build the trust required for the team to excel. Arrange a potluck lunch, group volunteer activity or team happy hour to engage your employees and to strengthen their interpersonal relationships.

Managing change: Culture

Successful businesses have strong cultures that may have been created organically or intentionally. It is important for you to recognize what makes your culture stand out. What is the foundation of your culture? How will you preserve this culture as new people join the team?

Pacific Continental Bank (PCB) preserves and demonstrates its culture through its PCB Way and “WOW” program. PCB has five cornerstones of its culture that are represented by the acronym HEART (High Standards, Entrepreneurial Spirit, Appreciation, Relationships and Teamwork). It is one thing to put up a poster and say it’s your culture, but PCB encourages its employees to live its culture every day. Employees are encouraged to send WOWs to each other when they see colleagues demonstrating a HEART value. WOWs are posted within an internal portal that is visible to all employees, and managers are notified when their employees send or receive a WOW. At the annual employee appreciation party, awards are given out in each of the five HEART categories to the employees that best exemplified PCB’s culture throughout the year.

This program helps new employees embrace and understand PCB’s culture, which is critical to preserving it. The consistent presence of this program also eases the fear and apprehension existing employees may feel during times of transition and growth.

Managing change: Communication

Transparent and accessible communication can alleviate the angst your team may feel as they speculate about their futures and the future of the organization, but how can a growing business make this a priority when they are also hiring new people, managing cash flow challenges and using new technologies? While I understand the challenge of competing priorities, you can almost guarantee more bumps and bruises during growth if communication doesn’t get the top spot on your priority list.

Pacific Continental Bank has faced this challenge over the years, especially as we’ve experienced growth ourselves. PCB now has members of its executive management team travel to each bank location to present in-person quarterly updates. This accomplishes several key goals:

Employees receive a consistent message and as a result, are on the same page regarding the company’s top priorities.

Plans for growth are discussed which help remove the unknown that can lead to uneasiness and unfounded rumors.

The executive management team hears questions directly from employees and can identify common concerns to be addressed and clarified bank-wide.

While these meetings use one of our most valuable resources – time – this investment pays large dividends in reducing resistance to changes that are required for successful, sustainable growth.

Most businesses desire growth as they plan for their futures. Business owners and leadership teams must embrace thoughtful change management to prevent change from becoming a four letter word.

Kristy Weaver is Pacific Continental Bank’s senior vice president and relationship banking manager in Vancouver. She can be reached at