Monthly Archives: May 2014

“Using Failures to Drive Successes”


We are excited to host our Detroit 2nd Quarter Leadership Event at the Birmingham Country Club on June 20th with speaker Nick Nicolay. Nick is the President and CEO of Michigan-based Kar’s Nuts and will be speaking on the topic “Using Failures to Drive Successes”. Kar’s Nuts was founded in 1933 as a small peanut stand outside of Tiger Stadium in Detroit. It is now a nationwide, multi-million dollar company.

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Nick Nicolay, President & CEO, Kar’s Nuts

The company is best know for its “Sweet ‘n Salty Mix” which is America’s best-selling brand of trail mix. Under Nicolay’s direction, the company continues to work diligently to find innovative flavors, improve their social media impact and grow their market reach. The company is privately held, and has been run by two families throughout the decades.


Nick began working for Kar’s Nuts in various entry level positions while he was still in high school, moving into sales while in college. Upon graduation with his MBA in 1979, he worked for NBD as a Commercial Lender. He returned to Kar’s Nuts in 1984, eventually purchasing the company from his father in 1995.

The event will be held the the Birmingham Country Club on June 20th from 7:30 a.m. to 9:00 a.m. (Registration begins at 7, breakfast will be served at 7:30). For more information or to register online visit our website at

April Round Table Notes

April came and went quickly for us here at The Business Round Table. We had an exciting month of Round Table meetings and finished up with a dynamic presentation from speaker Tom Burt, Executive VP and COO of Duncan Aviation Battle Creek.

Below are the notes from the Round Table discussions. If you are interested in attending a Round Table Meeting or Leadership Event, visit our website for more information, or send us an email

Topic: “Establishing Core Values and A Winning Culture that Will Lead Your Industry”

 Tuesday, April 8th 2014

Core Values are the fabric of the foundation of an organization. They help an organization move forward.

  • They are a magnet and a filter. Big difference between those that are written and those that are filled.
  • Look up the core values of organizations that you like.
  • Honestly looking to see…who are we? If we put them on the wall and don’t follow them, essentially you’re lying.
  • They should describe who you are at the core.
  • Your core values are your culture. No one is perfect, but you have to recognize when you’ve strayed.
  • Falling back on those core values can save you during hard times, they are your backbone.
  • How do they shape your culture?
  • Profits are tied to core values.
  • Core values don’t necessarily equate good culture…how do you go from one to another.
  • The way companies handle problems is often cultural.
  • Responsible – internally and externally, citizens. But had a problem with accountability. This is part of responsibility but was overlooked. Needed to do a core value “tune up” to fit the growing/changing company.
  • Core values are a leadership tool, how do you use it? That’s the key, it still takes leaders. What the leaders do with the core values determines the culture.
  • Need to go over these extensively with new hires.
  • Starting with the new hires, need a lot of training as a new leader. Give the core values to people so they carry them. Put it in a simple readable format.
  • The values are communicated from the top down. Everything ties back to that. Problems are tied back to that.
  • It becomes a tool to solve problems between employees, clients, etc.
  • What about building core values that “lead your industry”?
  • How do you get there? It comes back to your people.
  • At the end of the day, customers come for a high quality product. That comes from people who have been there a long time and know what they’re doing.
  • Everybody feels responsible for this. Use the core values as a way tog et the right people on the bus. This will help you lead your industry…with leading people.
  • Companies put so much focus on talent and experience, but the fit piece comes from the core values. Does the potential candidate’s personal core values align with the company? If not, not a good fit!
  • Promote your people based on how they demonstrate the values.
  • Recognize your people when they are following the core values.
  • All about effective accountability – give them the expectations up front. This is a huge part of employee selection and training.
  • The goal is not just to have good core values, but to also have a profitable company. Need more than just a great foundation. Employees need to know what the end goal is. People need to see the reason.
  • Introduce the mission and core values together. The mission is where, the core values are how.
  • It’s all about balance, people, profit, responsibility.
  • The key is your people. Seat on the bus or change the bus?
  • Added leadership values, because we realized our leaders needed a higher set of core values to transition into their leadership roles. Apply those core values to those who aspire to leadership roles.

 Kalamazoo, Friday April 11, 2014

  • Have to have a set of values that you function according too. Provides a framework and guideline for people.
  • If you don’t pursue your values, they become apparent. Some companies create them, but don’t live by them. If you say one thing and behave differently, it’s worse than if you had said nothing to begin with.
  • This should be part of the strategic planning process.
  • Use them to address employee misconduct.
  • They give you something to aim for.
  • They need to be connected to the business. Relevant to what you do. If they are unrelated, they devalue the rest.
  • Incentivize employees following it. Put it in your employee evaluations. Reward them according to how they hold up to it.
  • Behavior needs to match them. Don’t build false expectations. This can be devastating if you fail. If you’re going to be highly visible and transparent with your core values, you need to do what you say.
  • Similar to your faith. Can’t be outspoken about your faith then not act on what you say.
  • You can fall back on your core values in bad times.
  • How do you establish core values? Who should be involved in the process?
    • Through your vision & mission
    • First place to go is employee and customer, customers will give you a good starting point.
    • How do you act when no one is watching? Hire people that will be able to represent the company in a positive way when you’re not around.
    • Frame your interview questions to bring up individual core value responses.
    • Personal core values are hard to change. A lot is based on where you grew up, what schools you attended. Certain values you can teach, but sound ethics & integrity I’m not sure are teachable.
    • Customers will tell you if your core values are demonstrated. Travels even faster via web.
    • Employees will affect customers the most, you can’t always be there. Hire good value people.
    • What are your personal core values? Can these apply to your business? Do you attract people with similar values?
    • It is your best interest to establish your values before launching the business. This gets so much harder to do in a larger corporation where change is slow and opinions hard to change.
    • Have to take a long term approach, this will not happen over night.
    • Most businesses will fail if they are not consistent over time with their values.
    • Your core values will not be an exhaustive list, but should represent a solid core.
    • Culture is really important – everybody is a salesperson
    • How do you get the culture of people to reflect your core values?
    • Has to filter down
    • Consistency
    • Interview process, evaluation process
    • Incentives, corrective action, take action when people don’t follow the core values.
    • Make them simple, but something than your mission and vision is based on.
    • Bench mark for improvement
    • Need to reach a point where everyone is on board and willing to push them throughout the organization.
    • Yearly evaluations are bad, being exposed to something you could have corrected a year ago is disheartening.
    • Nothing on an employee review should be  a surprise.
    • They are a daily interaction, if you see a problem…step in now an help fix it.
    • Takes time to identify a pattern in your people.
    • Honesty, if your not happy with their performance, tell them.
    • Culture is a daily thing, a lot of people aren’t aware of their behavior and how big of an impact it has on the culture of an organization, especially the leaders.
    • Culture functions as part of your sub conscious, you only even realize it is there when there is a problem.
    • A test of your culture is how you handle the bad times.
    • Leaders need to take time each day to propagate the core values. If you don’t have time you’re spending time on the wrong things.
    • Get into the marketplace and experience your company from another prospective.

Grand Rapids, Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Your Challenge:

  • Core Values do not change over time and should guide the organization
  • Developing core values has a tendency to be a one and done type of process (hiring expensive consultants)
  • Core Values seem to get lost in the day to day
  • Core Values are not linked to the strategy / mission / vision
  • Core Values are not embraced or even known by the organization
  • The Solution:
    • Rollout of core values should not be a singular event or even an annual event
    • Core Values must be very visible and easy to read and remember
    • Core Values must be reinforced everyday
    • Core Values must have some “teeth” in them
      • Hire based on these values
      • Fire based on these values
      • Compensation adjustments based on these values (but not solely)
      • Tie to the performance measurement system / employee reviews
    • Give your team a method / way to execute the company values
    • Tie core values to incentives or employee recognition programs
  • The Take Away
    • Define your core values
    • Promote your core values
    • Hold yourself and your team accountable to your core values