How One Ohio Company's Culture Transformation Drove Revenue and Profits Skyward

Bullen Ultrasonics’ President Tim Beatty, center, poses with Perfect 10 founder, Lynne Ruhl, right, along with members of their respective teams at the Goering Center’s 2017 Family & Private Business Awards.


 

Lynne Ruhl, Perfect 10 Corporate Cultures

A toxic corporate culture had Bullen Ultrasonics in dire straits a few years ago. The company’s president, Tim Beatty, knew it had to change if the Eaton, Ohio-based manufacturer of custom ceramic machining was to survive.

Tim and his team reached out to the Goering Center at the University of Cincinnati. That’s when I first met Tim and became aware of Bullen Ultrasonics.

Unfortunately more setbacks were to come for Bullen. Ten months later, in August 2014, Tim called to tell me that some important customer relationships were at risk, and three of Bullen’s top thought leaders had left the company. There was no doubt the business would end up in the red that year, and the environment at the family-oriented firm was having adverse effects on marriages and other family relationships.

It took a lot of effort to change the culture at Bullen, but over time, it has become one of the more respected companies in the region.

Tim and his team worked with Perfect 10 Corporate Cultures to instill the principles of a positive and productive corporate culture − the same principles at the heart of the Goering Center’s newest educational program for family and private businesses. The Communication & Culture Institute will launch this February, helping business leaders inspire meaningful change across their organizations.

At the Institute, we will show business owners how solid communication is the foundation of a positive work culture. Together with their senior leaders, as well as family members who work in or have ownership interest in the business, teams will discover how to engage and empower their employees. The outcome is a workplace environment that is effective and productive, putting businesses on a path of profitable growth.

In our six sessions we’ll focus on the following topics: listening; inspiring respect and trust; self-control, management and deception; effective confrontation; and conflict resolution. Teams will take time to practice and refine their newly acquired skills and will develop agreements and action plans to ensure good communication and the resulting positive cultural impact. You can read a complete description of the course sessions here.

Bullen’s Resulting Growth

This information helped Tim and the Bullen team to implement elements of a healthy culture.

Now, Bullen managers and employees work with each other to develop the narratives that drive the company forward.  For those narratives to be authentic and accurate, listening to one another and respecting and trusting the input of others are key. Ultimately, this creates a harmonious atmosphere where expectations are clearly communicated.

Today, the Bullen team practices self-control, effective confrontation and conflict resolution – skills gained and practiced through our work together – to inspire each other and over time, change behaviors across the organization.

While cultural transformation was inspired by Beatty and his leadership team, the action plan involved educating and empowering employees. Machinists, for example, for the first time learned how their work impacts gross margin. They started asking questions like, “I think on my machine, if I do this instead of this, I can save 15 seconds. Does that help gross margin?”

These cultural changes are still underway, but the impact is already measurable:

  • Two of the three key leaders who left returned to the company.
  • Revenues have soared 75 percent.
  • Revenues per employee are up 40 percent.
  • Profits have increased 190 percent.
  • Profit per employee is up 56 percent.

Bullen’s story is not unique. Of all the factors that impact a business, culture has the strongest statistical correlation to bottom-line results.

When a 2009 study by the University of Minnesota, University of Southern California, London Business School and Cambridge University measured 32 factors arrived at that conclusion, it shocked the corporate world. Most had no idea that culture had that kind of direct impact on profit. 

But even when a business owner recognizes the need for a cultural change, it’s difficult to pull off. That’s because 1) it’s difficult, without outside guidance, to change a culture you are part of, and 2) it requires a new set of skills.

These skills are not taught in high school or even college – in fact, most MBA students don’t receive this education. Goering Center’s Communication & Culture Institute was created for business owners who have the desire to learn the skills necessary to build and lead a healthy culture at their business and become more successful.

 

Learn more about Goering Center’s Communication & Culture Institute. Registration is underway now.