September Speaker’s Presentation on Crisis Leadership Comes Out on Top

| Written by: Lauren Antista

September Speaker’s Presentation on Crisis Leadership Comes Out on Top

Members at the September membership meeting attended Advice Straight Up: for Business Leaders and Entrepreneurs speaker series presented by the Jim Moran Institute for Global Entrepreneurship (JMI). Speaker Colin Brown, president and CEO of JM Family Enterprises, Inc. presented on “Crisis Leadership: How to Weather a Crisis to Come Out on Top.”

JM Family Enterprises, Inc. holds special significance for JMI, as the parent company to Southeast Toyota Distributors, LLC the most successful automobile distributor in the world founded by Jim Moran.  Colin’s presentation detailed a time of great crisis for JM Family Enterprises starting with the recession in 2007.  The company would rely heavily on its associate-centered (employee-centered) culture of “consideration, cooperation and communication,” to get through several years that would challenge the very stability and survival of the company.

After 17 years of consecutive growth, JM Family Enterprises was faced with a dire situation. From the outset, they communicated frankly with their associates that they would be operating in a different world then the one they were used to. Merit increases and bonuses ended, topped off by a hiring freeze.  As the recession deepened, more hard decisions had to be made without giving up the company’s values and identity. This was done through the filter of their corporate culture.

Layoffs started with voluntary “hand raising” to resign in return for severance pay. 120 volunteered.  This was followed by further downsizing by 475 associates done in a fair matrix review process.  Employees were evaluated for cultural compliance, longevity, performance and performance ranking.  Those let go were approached personally and compensated.  No lawsuits result from this difficult process. Remaining employees also faced pay cuts through a tiered system, starting at the top, along with cuts in work hours for hourly workers.  Amongst all these drastic transitions, Fortune magazine sent a survey to the associates for ranking the company.  The company moved up from 33rd to the 28th of the “100 Best Companies to Work For.” “They knew we were in this together, and they knew we would restore what we could,” Colin said.

As things seemed to be leveling out for JM Family Enterprises in 2010, the company would be hit by further complications in the form of Toyota recalls and a tsunami.  But, Colin maintained that through all the trauma, the company kept true to its values and culture and, “makes and reinforces who we are.”