When Elizabeth Barry came into Delta Systems Inc. as president and CEO, the company was in good shape. The business, which designs and manufactures switches, electronics and wireless control systems and provides turnkey contract manufacturing/EMS solutions, was doing well and had no reason to change. But Barry saw so much more in the company than what it was doing and knew that if it could change, it could grow and become better.
Barry started the process with changing some of the senior staff members in the organization.
“That kind of change kind of brought more change, because once they came into their own departments, then they started making changes,” she says.
But when you’re bringing in new senior team members, what should you be looking for? In Barry’s case, because she wanted to grow, she needed people who also wanted to grow.
“Companies grow and get bigger, and management styles change,” she says. “Some people are better in smaller companies, and others are better in bigger companies. I was looking for those who were ready to work and help us grow to the next level.”
She looked for people who had skill sets that would enable change — both in terms of revenue and culture. That meant looking for people who had worked at a larger company and understood the barriers and the gates and would work to break down the silos. Additionally, if someone had led an organization through a complicated or discouraging change, such as a bankruptcy, and moved it forward and made it better, that was encouraging, as well.
Whatever it is, she says you have to look at your senior team and determine if they’re the right person to move your company to the next level.
“You have to get to the point where you feel a department might be better served with a change with a new person in there,” Barry says. “The days of someone staying at a company for 20-plus years are kind of over. They need to have different experiences and different situations, and staying with the same company might not afford you to see what’s out there — state-of-the-art approaches or different approaches — that someone who’s stayed at a company too long may not be able to see and adjust to. They might not have had the growth that is needed to move the company to the next level.”
One of the other keys to leading change at Delta was for Barry to get buy-in.
“You just have to get it started and show them that it’s going to work and everything is going to be fine,” she says. “Then once the change starts happening and it isn’t too disruptive or they get used to the disruption, then it feeds upon itself.”
She says it’s also important to listen to the naysayers.
“You’ve got to hear both sides of the argument,” she says. “As much as you want everyone to follow you and do everything that you feel is right, you need the voices of reason to say, ‘But have you considered?’”
She says she wouldn’t be properly doing her job if she didn’t at least hear the opponents out in the process.
“As much as you don’t want to listen to it and you don’t want to hear it and you don’t have time for it, you’ve got to do it because you’re probably being negligent if you don’t listen to the other side,” Barry says. “Putting the blinders on never served anyone too well. You can be lucky and make it through a few situations, but there are those situations where if you didn’t listen to them, you might be blindly going into something and regret not paying attention to the voices that you’re hearing — the naysayers that are out there.”
Most of the time, people will come around, and if they don’t, then that’s OK too. Barry recognizes that some people will choose to leave because they don’t like the new company, and that’s OK too, because she knows that where the company is going is the best place to be.
She says, “If you truly believe that these are changes that are needed, then you just have to stick with it.”
How to reach: Delta Systems Inc., (330) 626-2811 or www.deltasystemsinc.com