Home » “People matter but profit and proactivity do too” – says international business turnaround expert

“People matter but profit and proactivity do too” – says international business turnaround expert

by Media Xpose

The CEO of business turnaround firm the RTgroup (RT), Michael Dorn believes staff wellness is important to keep a workforce motivated, but this focus should never trump the basic discipline of keeping the company proactive and profitable enough to survive the current economic turmoil.

Dorn, who has worked inside the turnaround of some of the world’s most recognisable companies including Dell, Xerox, Linde and Afrox, and who was recently appointed as Chief Restructuring Officer of Nampak.

According to Dorn, people-focused businesses can do well, but only in the context of what he calls the Three P’s: People, Proactivity and Preservation.  He explains his thoughts:

1.            Yes, People matter

Dorn agrees that purpose-driven, people-centered companies attract the best talent.Talent-centric organisations (TCOs) understand that businesses are powered by people, and that staff training, support and development, where needed, should be ingrained in the culture of the company.

Having worked with some of the top companies in the world, Dorn has seen that talented people are not always motivated purely by money and will often opt to work for companies that are purpose- and people-driven. “People want to work where they can feel valued and know that they are adding value to society. Happier, more motivated people are usually also more productive, and vice versa. I do however think one must have the right mix between health and wellness, and commitment and performance.”

Dorn resonates with the insights of renowned psychologist Jordan Peterson who says all people need the feeling of pushing a rock uphill. “We all need goals, and hard work and reward are very fulfilling to most people,” says Dorn.

2.            But proactivity is incredibly important

“Organisations that focus only on the wellness of their people, won’t make it through the tough times. I think an increasing amount of individuals have a romantic notion of short work weeks, work days, work life balance and long holidays, but the reality is that none of that will be possible if the companies they work for are failing. The key to sustainable business has always been Proactivity and Commitment,” says Dorn.

Dorn believes the key to business survival and success is proactivity from management and staff. “Long-term business continuity really relies on people taking ownership and responsibility for keeping their service and product offerings relevant and excellent. There is a lot of competition out there and companies that become lazy, entitled and complacent won’t make it,” says Dorn.

“The best companies out there are always one step ahead of the curve,” says Dorn.

3.            And Preservation is the name of the game

According to the latest Mental State of the World barometer, where South Africa ranked lowest among 60 countries, mental wellbeing was directly linked to citizens’ access to higher education and employment, which directly correlated with their ability to lead a purposeful, secure life. South Africa has the lowest global rankings in terms of the levels of “distressed and struggling citizens”, followed by Britain.

“Right now, what we need in South Africa is to keep as many people as possible in employment. This will only be possible if businesses adopt a preservation mindset,” says Dorn.

“In this tough economy, companies need to think about the levers that can drive up productivity and job satisfaction. I believe the most important levers are people, proactivity and preservation. Companies should take care of their people, become proactive about staying innovative and relevant, and motivate staff to want to preserve the business. A large part of preservation is having the financial discipline to keep debt as low as possible and profit as high as possible, so that the company can stay in the green and not enter the red. By doing this, companies can be there for their employees, their communities, and the economy at large.” 


“Only the companies that prioritise a balance between People, Proactivity and Preservation can move forward through tough market conditions and keep surviving. In the end, only the companies that are able to be bold, ambitious and disruptive, can survive the tough times. Remember,  only the companies that survive will be able to give their people employment security and other support. In the current economic environment, companies have to face their challenges with courage and energy. It’s the only way forward,” says Dorn.

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