How to Build a Great Company with a High Performance Culture

By Patrick Thean


dateTue, Jan 21, 2020 @ 11:02 AM

We had a wonderful Breakthrough Conference this year that helped hundreds of middle market company culturemanagers and CEOs achieve breakthrough execution. In my keynote, I shared that ImageFIRST achieved consistent growth every year for the last 12 years. Many attendees asked me to share more about how they were able to build a high-performance culture to produce great business results and impact the bottom line.

“Patrick, this flywheel that you’ve been helping us build over the last twelve years is really working! I can really feel it! It is getting easier to implement new things here at ImageFIRST,” Joe Geraghty, COO and CPO (Chief People Officer) of ImageFIRST, shared with me excitedly after the last annual planning session I facilitated for ImageFIRST. Over the last 12 years, I have facilitated over 48 strategic planning sessions for them. They have grown consistently every year and are more than 6X bigger than when we first started working together 12 years ago. The team dynamics have really improved over the years as we continue to build trust, not just in each other but in our business operating system.

Building an overnight success doesn't happen overnight. More than 12 years ago, Jeff Berstein, their CEO, asked me to help him build a great company. To do that, you need a business operating system that will help you build your company like a turning a flywheel so that it produces predictable results. A flywheel is a big wheel that stores kinetic energy as you turn it. It is hard to start a flywheel, but as you keep turning it, the kinetic energy builds up and it helps you turn it. Once it gets going, momentum begins to build, and turning it gets easier.


Rhythm Of Work™

ImageFIRST used our Rhythm Of Work™ to build their flywheel these past 12 years. This is a repeatable process that they use quarter over quarter, year over year to build energy and momentum to help them achieve their performance goals and improve employee engagement. 

3 - 5 Year Strategic Plan

It starts with thinking and developing a 3 to 5 year strategic plan. You must have growth initiatives that you can depend on to give you growth and motivate employees over multiple years. The execution of your growth strategies is carried out over medium term and getting continually adjusted as you get new information from the market. It takes time to  dream up growth strategies, test and validate them, plan them, water and nurture them for multiple years of harvest. It is critical to have the right technology to systematically develop, test and execute your strategic plan across the company over multiple years. This common vision helps you to align your teams toward a common goal and makes performance management easier as it becomes a part of the company culture.

You need to be able to tie strategy to action plans that are worked on and tracked weekly to create a high-performance culture and team accountability. Team leaders can then see the status of each growth initiative. When you see something that is off-track, you can then drill down to find out why and take action quickly. This immediate visibility gives you insight into what needs to be addressed and prevents wasting weeks and even months before finding out bad news during quarterly meetings.

Annual & Quarterly Planning and Alignment

Annual Planning

Most companies believe they have a good plan for the year when they have figured out what they want to do. If you stop here at “What,” then your annual plan will not be tightly linked to action, and you will not be able to get aligned on what the real work is that needs to be done!

You need to build a strong execution plan so your teams can align and do the right work together. You need:

  • The action plan, the “How to do it” plan
  • Choose a few priorities and punt on the rest. Get focused and agree on the short list of priorities and projects. Say “No” to other priorities and communicate this to your teams.
  • Provide clarity on what success looks like for each priority
  • Get aligned across teams and departments on how to do these few priorities. Build a sense of unity and a feeling that “we are all in this together”

Weekly Adjustment Meetings™

Mike Tyson said, “Everyone has a strategy until I punch them in the mouth.” I’ve never seen a plan that did not get punched in the mouth.

  • When you are punched in the mouth, you need a process and discipline to react quickly. 
  • Make sure your teams are re-inspired weekly and you are resolving conflict as it occurs. Eat the baby elephant, don't let it grow into a major issue.
  • Spend 80% of your weekly meeting discussing viable solutions to problems. Don’t waste this time on merely providing updates.
  • Make your weekly meetings cross functional. This will reduce departmental silos and speed up your work.

Daily Focus & Leadership

Leading your team to get the right work done needs to happen every day. Leaders need to actively lead and grow their teams while getting work done. Companies fail when they outgrow their leaders and don’t acquire new talent with the right skills and leave team building as an afterthought.

  • Collaborate with your team members daily
  • Have project and team dashboards that promote visibility, transparency and a culture of sharing bad news faster so that we can solve them quicker.
  • The key is to have the right system to help with this, coupled with the right work culture that encourages accountability and builds high performing teams.

Download our white paper on building a high-performance organization. These ideas have delivered proven results for many of our customers over the years. I was inspired when I asked myself what our best performing and most successful clients did to put together multiple years of success and growth. The stories had the same underlying theme. They used our Rhythm Of Work™ and improved the company bit by bit every year. They got better and stronger quarter after quarter, year after year. They used this process, with coaching and technology to stay on track and enable habits across the whole company. This concept is simple, yet the execution is not easy. That’s why there are so few great companies. If you want to grow from strength to strength, year over year, we are excited to help you.


Want more information on a high-performance culture? Check out these additional resources:

Why You Need a Peak Performance Plan for Your A-Players

Team Accountability Begins with Personal Accountability

How top CEOs Close the Strategy Execution Gap

Building Team Accountability: Job Scorecards

10 Signs of an Accountable Culture [Infographic]

Growing Team Accountability in Your Organization

Quick Tips for Building Accountability

5 Steps to Having an Accountability Discussion [Video]

Photo credit: iStock by Getty Images

Patrick Thean


Photo Credit: iStock by Getty Images