When Daniel Moore became president and CEO of Cyberonics Inc., a medical device company focused on epilepsy and other debilitating neurological disorders, in 2007, he faced a company that wasn’t growing and had several issues in need of fixing.
“The company had lost more than $50 million in each of the two prior years and owed $132.5 million dollars,” Moore says. “The first problem was a financial problem and the long-term viability of the business. The first job was to turn that around. Had we not done that, the company would have been out of business in 18 months.”
Cyberonics was forced to do layoffs to stay in business and dropped from nearly 600 employees to 430. Since then, Moore has emphasized a unified vision and a strong, open culture to get the now 530-employee company, which saw fiscal 2011 revenue of $190 million, back on track.
“You have to start with the vision,” Moore says. “What do you want this to become? Before I came into the company there were several members of the board who were new board members and we ensured that … we all shared the same vision.”
The company had been going in another direction which had led to some of the company’s challenges. It shifted gears and focused on epilepsy as a business. It was important for them to all be on the same page.
“The alignment has to be there at the top first,” he says. “I have been in situations where the board is not in alignment and if the board doesn’t have alignment, then the senior team is allowed to not have alignment and that trickles down throughout the organization. If you have the alignment and you share a common vision for what it is you’re going to do, that allows you to layout a plan in order to get to success.”
Communication during this process is crucial for alignment throughout the organization to occur.
“Once you have alignment on here’s what we’re going to do, the second part of that … is saying what you’re not going to do,” he says. “If you do those two things, say what it is you’re going to do and then what it is that you’re not going to do … I think you’re on your way.”
During turnarounds and periods of change there is often opposition to that change. It was vital to Cyberonics’ turnaround to allow for constructive debate and a culture that stressed that importance.
“You want to have a culture where people are free to express their thoughts,” Moore says. “You want to have a culture where that debate is encouraged.”
Constructive and spirited debates are often a good thing. You have to understand that your idea or direction isn’t always the best or right way to go.
“You have to ensure that you have an environment for which [constructive debate] can happen and opportunities for it to happen,” Moore says.
It is up to the CEO to make sure the culture of constructive debate reaches everyone in the company.
“Speak to the benefits with sincerity, letting them know you believe we will be best if we utilize the intellectual capacity of all of our team members and help each other grow and develop by learning through sharing ideas,” he says. “If you don’t believe that openness and constructive debate are good and you have all the answers, there is a bigger issue and you’re that issue.”
You have to demonstrate the culture you want to see within your company and ensure it’s happening.
“Don’t put people down in discussion,” Moore says. “Acknowledge their input and let them know when you agree and they’ve changed your position and let them know when they haven’t and why.”
Whenever possible, show your employees they can change your mind.
“When you can show real world examples people see that you are willing to not have the final say in every matter and that you, as CEO, are not always right. It gives them confidence for future interactions.”
HOW TO REACH: Cyberonics Inc., (800) 332-1375 or http://us.cyberonics.com/en
To create a strong culture and one that directly affects the growth and performance of your company, you need strong employees.
“Get good people on the team and they will really make things good overall,” says Daniel Moore, CEO of Cyberonics. “It’s about that team coming together with their individual functions and putting it all together into the broader team.”
To get the most out of your employees, you need to make sure they are being challenged enough in their roles and have an opportunity to grow as the company does.
“To grow and develop people, you need to be honest with people as to where they are and you need to be honest with people as to where you see them being able to go,” he says. “We hold people largely accountable for taking control of their development plan. We create an environment where they can grow and develop, but they need to be the point person in their growth and development.”
Employees will only be able to grow if your company is behind them in that growth.
“You want to ensure you have an environment where people can get a variety of challenges. You want to provide that environment that allows for growth and development and you want to make sure people understand that it’s their responsibility to be in charge of their development.”