THE 2ND GENERATION CEO

LARRY COOPER

When a second-generation CEO takes on a company founded by the generation before them, this can be a very different scenario to usual scaling. Whilst they have grown up with the family business in their awareness, what they are now often looking at is really a vertical organisation, stagnant in growth, almost as if the company is stuck in a certain time period and has not evolved into the modern definition of scaling a business. That is exactly what happened to Larry. 

Of course, when he took over, Larry wanted to flex his intellectual muscles and put this company through its paces to prepare for a sustainable scale up. Today, Larry leads a company that is rebuilt on a strong foundation and is on his way to turn this company, established nearly 25 years ago, into a $7 million business. So, how did he do that?

“I came in with massive ideas for scaling and yet I realised that while the business had a very strong presence in the market, it really needed a shake-up. Starting from the top all the way to the bottom for it to stand the test of time and to even think about scaling. While I could see what needs to be done, there was no way I was equipped to actually make those changes happen, because what was required was a mindset shift. I wasn’t going to do this by myself and I knew I had to reach out to a mentor, a strong scaling up mentor to help me through this. I will always remember that day because that was a milestone in my own journey as a CEO and look where we are today.”

~ Larry Cooper

TRAINING OF THE NEXT GENERATION

Larry grew up watching his parents build their professional services business established in the Middle East. Larry had his education in two of the most respected Universities to lay the ground for him to return to take over the reins. And return he did! But first, let’s go back a little bit.

After his graduation, he did a short stint in a very modern fast growth start-up with a horizontal organisational structure with transparent and engaged work culture. There Larry learnt from the inspiring founder that when you run an organisation with brilliant people who feel safe and valued in that organisation, everybody gives their best and there is no looking back.

Armed with this brilliant experience Larry came home and set to work in his parents’ company. And boy, did he have his work cut out! He knew that his company was poles apart, being run as a vertical organisation and cumbersome to operate. Larry recognised the company had a strong market presence and was well-respected in the industry. For the company to now survive the next 25 years, something drastic needed to happen.

Larry’s parents were now ready to retire. Larry came into the company to work from the ground up, because that is one of the best ways to learn what is happening in the  business. 

 

Kudos to his parents for having vision to put their son through his paces. Starting from the shop floor to answering customer calls, his parents made sure that he occupied a space in every part of the business before working his way through to sit at the meeting table and have a voice.

LEADERSHIP TRANSITION &
SUCCESS IN THE FAMILY BUSINESS.

After three years Larry made two major observations. One, whilst the people in the company were very loyal and knew what their job was, they were of a fixed mindset and unwilling to accept change that a modern-day entrepreneurial venture brings in. Also their loyalties lay with the original founder. For a next-gen CEO, the biggest challenge is navigating the People & Leadership transition. The second being that the company needed a complete digital transformation because everything was still analogue.

Larry realised that bringing in a mentor or a coach was Step 1. Someone who had been there and done that, a guide and a cheerleader who would lend that hand of support through the challenges in climbing the scaling up mountain.

Larry was referred to Dare To Scale by one of our existing clients and our initial conversation, was for him to open up and just talk. It’s that offloading of all the stress that we go through that needs to come out in order to let the light shine out of that messiness.

Before we dealt with the operational issues he had identified, we had to bring him into the strategic thinking realm. Naturally, the first real milestone was to work on Larry’s own mindset, for him to recognise importance of separating himself from the company.

It involved unpacking some of the limiting beliefs that Larry brought into the business. The critical thing that is required as an entrepreneur is to operate with a growth mindset. Next came the discovery sessions with his people before taking any decisions. His takeaway at this stage was that he is a leader only when he has followers and for that to happen, really engaging with your people, giving them time, make them feel heard, to acknowledge the fears and insecurities the change in leadership they were facing. So, a great deal of work took place on developing the relationship. 

STRATEGIC PIVOTING IN THE BUSINESS OPERATIONS.

Parallelly, strategy had the spotlight. We worked together with Larry to begin defining what each of the elements currently look like in his business. In the Dare To Scale Five Elements, which are fairly standard, if you look at every single business out in the world, always start with strategy.

This is where the solid work on strategy started. What emerged, for the first time in 25 years, was the business’s growth roadmap. It was no longer reactive. It was now a proactive approach to knowing where Larry wanted to take the business. 

“For the first time, in the three or nearly the four years that I entered the business, I had a good night’s sleep after our session where the bare bones or at least the version one of that roadmap began happening” Larry said.

Now that he had the road map, the next step, of course, was to break it down into smaller milestones. Those milestones now began taking shape and through them came specific action points for each of those Elements. 

Once that entire Strategy Sketchbook was mapped out, it sat as a live document on his desk. That is when the fire was lit and Larry saw magic happen. 

SCALING UP: 15% INCREASE IN
THE ANNUAL GROWTH

Since then, every single year, Larry has continued to grow. He is scaling at a rate of 15% year on year, which for his industry, is quite the benchmark.  Entrepreneurship is an infinite game. Larry is now very close to  chieving and crossing his big milestone of turning over $7 million.

Here are some of the key takeaways for Larry:

  1. He evolved into an inspired leader to build an inspired team. He built team relationships based on trust, respect, belief, love and compassion, created an environment for the teams’ healthy personal growth and allowed them to be intellectually challenged and brought them together to form a like-minded community. The environment nurtured a sense of pride in everything the team did at both an individual and a group level.
  2. Ensured that a very strong cashflow was maintained. Cash is the fuel for growth and  cashflow statement is the fuel gauge. When Larry took over, he had discovered that the company was stagnant largely because of an inconsistent cashflow. There was an outstanding in the market of nearly half a million dollars. When Larry tabled this point during our sessions, we helped him built this as a theme for the entire Team to work on for a quarter. By the use of technology and the productisation that Larry brought into his company, him and the Team brought down that outstanding from half a million dollars to today where it is in a positive Cash Conversion Cycle.
  3. The most important thing for him personally, was two years ago when he threw a party for his parents to celebrate them as founders as they happily retired with a smile on their faces knowing that their company is now in capable hands. So as an individual, for him, that was a greatest victory which Larry had triumphantly mentioned to us in his ‘thank you’ email.

The joy was also when the whole team came  together knowing that they are headed towards a journey which is going to see them through the next 25 years. The pleasure on everybody’s faces told him that it is a brilliant journey worth taking up.

Today he is respected and loved as an as an inspired leader in the community and the city that he runs his company in. 

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