Marine Fabricator May/June 2021 - 40

ShopTalk Business

Strong business cultures
require strong leaders
By Clint Halladay

F

" We managed
to find our soul
hiding in one of
our core values:
'People Matter.' "

40 Marine Fabricator | May/June 2021

our years ago, the fabric of our
organization, SewLong Custom
Covers, was held together by
cheap cotton thread. Our company was
growing and doing well financially, but
our culture was in crisis. Our leadership
was fractured and distracted, employees
were frustrated, some were leaving. As
the " second-in-command, " I wasn't sure
what to do, but I was beginning to believe
that the thriving transformational culture
I read about in motivational business
books like EntreLeadership and Great
by Choice was nothing but a fairytale.
The truth is your company is only
as good as its culture, and our culture
was bad.You can build the best widget
in the world, but your business won't
succeed if your employees are only
there to punch their time cards.
Frankly, we were in our position due
to ineffective leadership-both mine
and that of our owner, Justin Jones.
I will tell you honestly that our
partnership hasn't always been easy,
and Justin's leadership hasn't always
been effective. I understand that the
pressures on each of us are different: I
have gotten stressed about not making
payroll, but never to the same extent
as him. And while I care deeply about
customers' experiences with our
organization, it's not at the same level
that he cares.
Four years ago, as his leadership
faltered, my own sense of helplessness
as a leader spread throughout the
organization like wildfire.

Happy accidents don't last
When I started at SewLong nearly
11 years ago, we enjoyed a healthy
culture-but it was good by accident.
Back then, we had a small group
of people who just clicked. There
were no intentional meetings,
no hard conversations and no
morning waterski sessions. We were
riding the highs of our innovative
craftsmanship. Justin was (and still is)
leading our industry with the project
management software he developed.
SewLong was experiencing great
success as an organization. This led
to new opportunities outside our
company, which led Justin to split
his time among many ventures.
At first, we handled this fine-or so
it seemed. Over the next three years,
our reputation outside the state grew,
and we began shipping products across
the country. But as Justin continued
to drift in various directions, his focus
was pulled farther from the shop and
as a company, we started to lose our
bearings. We added team members to
keep up with the increased demand,
but we neglected to consider how this
growth affected our culture. And so, bit
by bit, our culture declined. Our core
values and mission statement became
hollow and hypocritical. As a team, we
were growing and putting out more
work, but we were not happy.Yes, we
loved our customers and the industry,
but we started to resent the company
and each other.



Marine Fabricator May/June 2021

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Marine Fabricator May/June 2021

Marine Fabricator May/June 2021 - Cover1
Marine Fabricator May/June 2021 - Cover2
Marine Fabricator May/June 2021 - 1
Marine Fabricator May/June 2021 - 2
Marine Fabricator May/June 2021 - 3
Marine Fabricator May/June 2021 - 4
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Marine Fabricator May/June 2021 - Cover3
Marine Fabricator May/June 2021 - Cover4
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