The Turning Point
By the time Buddy took over, the crisis was evident. He knew the organization was desperate for some restructuring if it wanted to survive. His immediate efforts to save Soles4Souls centered around four pillars:
- Defining the organization’s values
- Putting those values into an operating system to run the business efficiently
- Clarifying the mission
- Strengthening the team
By reformulating efforts based on these four elements, things began looking up. Over the next three years, the organization went from losing money, to breaking even, to finally becoming profitable.
But growth still was not happening fast enough. By around 2016, Soles4Souls was ready to take its vision to the next level.
The team implemented what is known as a “BHAG” or “North Star.” The BHAG (Big Hairy Audacious Goal) defines a high-level, aspirational, long-term objective that motivates a team and provides clarity around the work they do every day. The S4S team set theirs as “$1 billion in economic impact by 2030.”
It was around this time that Buddy began dabbling with the idea of professional coaching, although it was a big investment that the organization did not have budget for at the time. Nonetheless, Buddy knew that his team needed a structure that would consistently align them with that North Star goal and drive their work to make a long-term impact.
They began using coaching minimally, and quickly realized that it was a necessary investment if they wanted to reach their full potential. They began working with Petra Coach, a service for coaching, consulting, and mentoring organizations who want to scale.
Through their coach, they were introduced to the Align software.
Initially rolled out just to the executive team, Align soon became a pivotal part of the organization’s planning and operations. The software provided the structure Soles4Souls desperately needed, facilitating clarity in annual and quarterly goals.
“We’ve come a long way since 2012. There is no question for me that without Align and coaching, there’s not a snowball’s chance in hell we would’ve gotten here.” – Buddy Teaster
The “Aha” Moment
Align enabled the team to maintain laser-sharp focus on its objectives and fostered unparalleled collaboration across departments. They were better able to understand their BHAG and bring it to life by tying daily tasks to the long-term objectives.
The leadership team was now heavily involved in annual planning, setting quarterly goals, and assigning relevant tasks among the rest of the staff. It was at this point that the team clearly saw the benefits of Align, as it began not only assisting in, but driving the way they work.
“We finally had a structure that allowed us to say what the most important thing is, and that probably saved the organization.” – Buddy Teaster
Furthermore, they saw a clear connection between the discipline Align provided and their core values.
“We have four main values: Being transparent, entrepreneurial, accountable, and that the work we do is meaningful. When we finally figured out Align, it hit three of those four.” – Buddy Teaster
Align is designed to enforce transparency and accountability by aligning teams around common goals, keeping the most important data front and center, and encouraging ownership of various goals and targets.
The team immediately reaped the benefits of Align’s communication tools especially.
“It was the first time that everybody had a sense of what everybody else was working on. We didn’t have a way to communicate that before. The communication piece was dramatically better.” – Buddy Teaster
The team had already been utilizing daily and weekly huddles, quick meetings where team members share updates about their priorities. Align’s huddle tools and templates provided them with the habit reinforcement they needed to maintain these meetings and ensure they follow a productive structure.
The team also found benefit in Align’s ability to narrow focus on the most important tasks that pave the way to achieving the vision. They began using the Top Priority Calendar, which provided a visual way to break down goals into daily tasks.
“I think it makes you better if you stop for a few minutes and think about what the most important thing for the day is.” – Buddy Teaster
The Top Priority Calendar tool in Align is a customizable calendar unique to every team member. They can easily input their top priority for each day, and check it off when they complete it. The idea is to reinforce focusing on one thing and understanding how it moves the needle toward the bigger goals. An employee may have three things they want to get done in a given day, but there should always be one single most important priority. As long as this priority is achieved, the day can be marked as productive.