So often, a company’s staff training and development focuses on skills and procedures not attitudes, training teams to process rather than problem-solve. Shifting our own attitudes to behavioural development can reap big rewards, as one family business is finding out.

Boutique communications agency apt marketing & pr is a family run business with two generations working together to showcase client stories and underpin businesses’ financial success. Established in Cheltenham in 2000, the agency works with clients all over the country, primarily businesses in the hospitality, leisure & tourism market, or those operating a membership scheme within their respective industries. With the average client retention rate over three times as long as the industry standard, this small but incredibly flexible business is now reaping the rewards of a new approach to their leadership.

Victoria Petkovic-Short is a director of the second generation of family in this business and comments, “2019 is a Game Changer for our business, as we implement new strategies that have boosted productivity and effectiveness, and prepared the business better for our succession plan over the next five years.

“We’ve always operated a “no blame” culture, pulling together as a team to ensure the job gets done, but what’s become clear over the last few months is that “no blame” has become synonymous with “no consequence” thanks to the Senior Management Team’s (SMT) ‘hero leadership’ style. We step in and ‘rescue’ rather than encouraging others to problem-solve and as a result, we were delivering top quality to our clients, always, but behind the scenes our sense of urgency was low, our rate of rework was too high and our productivity was slipping.”

Victoria concludes, “Through my learning on the LEAD programme, what’s become clear is that you can train your team as much as you like in your processes and procedures, communicate your expectations, and highlight areas for improvement, but all it does is elicit temporary change. Instead, we’ve taken a step back and established a bounded empowerment framework which focusses not on “do this this way”, but entirely on our expectations and aspirations, and creating an understanding of what team members can do alone, and what they need SMT input for.

“By gaining the buy-in of the team, rework dropped 70% almost overnight, the team is exhibiting a “have a go” attitude and our productivity is at its highest ever rate. They’re also commenting on the change and exhibiting happy, flexible attitudes that cope better with the unexpected. Clients haven’t seen a change in quality, but they have definitely seen a change in our positivity as we’ve become a happier, less stretched bunch.

Productivity is one of the greatest issues facing companies in the UK. Clearly, Victoria and the team are rising to that challenge in their service focused business.

Working with their LEAD learning, the next step for the business is to implement a strategy for sustainable growth, working with clients they like and can be effective for. Victoria will succeed her mum Angie Petkovic as Managing Director, with Angie taking a long-term position heading up the Board by 2022.

This article was first published in Stewart’s monthly Game Changer column in Gloucestershire Echo & Citizen & on 23 May 2019.

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