Think about it: What is the ultimate measure of success for a professional sports franchise? Is it a championship ring? How about a company? Is business success solely based on how many products you sell and how much profit you make?
For many organizations, these are the only ways to quantify success. But at HOLT CAT and Spurs Sports and Entertainment, we measure success a little differently.
We measure success by how well we’re delivering on the values that are most important to us. We call this approach Values-Based Leadership (VBL) - and it’s the common bond of passion and purpose that connects HOLT CAT and the Spurs. VBL keeps us connected to our fans, our customers, and our communities.
Values-based leadership is about shaping, growing and developing organizations by actively using a set of ethical principles that define what we do; how we do it; and most importantly, why we do it. It’s our DNA:
The Power of Values
We’ve learned that when you manage by core values, amazing things happen. You start measuring success by the quality of your relationships, your reputation for integrity, your contributions to the community, your environmental stewardship and by how much you enhance the lives of your employees, customers and communities. You begin to define success by how much you achieve and by how much you care.
The University of Adversity
HOLT CAT first adopted Values-Based Leadership in 1988.
What led us to embrace this approach? In a word, adversity. In the 1980s HOLT CAT had become one of the most successful dealerships of Caterpillar heavy equipment in the country. But with rapid growth came rapidly-growing challenges. Before long, the company was challenged by growth and success and overwhelmed by not knowing how to lead ourselves through it. Everyone seemed to be rowing in different directions. You might say our compass was broken.
We needed help.
Adversity can be a powerful catalyst for positive change. Challenged by the management crisis, HOLT CAT CEO Peter M. Holt (and future owner of the Spurs) turned to leading business consultants Michael O’Connor and “One Minute Manager” author Ken Blanchard for advice. Blanchard and O’Connor suggested a values-based approach. After discussing it with his leadership team and employees, Peter Holt decided to adopt VBL as the company’s foundational operating philosophy.
HOLT CAT introduced the San Antonio Spurs to Values Based Leadership in 1998, the year before the Spurs won their first NBA Championship.
The Epiphany -- and the Turnaround
With our VBL “epiphany” we learned that when you decide to make a set of ethical principles the basis for every decision you make, you end up making better decisions on a consistent basis. And when you focus on what you can give as well as of what you can get, a “virtuous cycle” is set in motion.
Values Based leadership creates an environment of involvement and interdependence among employees, customers, fans, community leaders --all your stakeholders -- so the activities of one group directly benefit the others. That way, everybody wins.
Our VBL journey began in 1988, and over the last 25 years it’s become deeply ingrained in every aspect of our business. It’s the compass that helps us navigate successfully through the tough decisions and challenges, the upturns and the downturns. It’s our guardian and our guide.
It has also led us to create a culture of caring inside our company, built on a spirit of goodwill, mutual respect, common purpose, and sensitivity to each other’s needs.
We’ve learned that if you create a culture where everyone inside the company feels valued and is accountable for our culture and our success, then caring naturally extends to all of your relationships outside of the company as well.
We realize that if our core values aren’t lived out every day by everyone in the organization, then they’re just words on a wall. But if they are lived out, and people take them seriously, then they can not only win hearts and minds -- they can win NBA championships.
It’s no coincidence that HOLT CAT’s fortunes changed with the advent of VBL.
Over the last 25 years we’ve grown from the smallest CATERPILLAR dealer in the nation to the largest. We’ve been recognized repeatedly for delivering outstanding service to our customers and outstanding service to our communities. We are an employer of choice, with a reputation for developing leaders.
In the last 15 years we’ve witnessed the Spurs evolve into one of the elite franchises – not just in the NBA, but in the history of sports -- with four NBA championship rings and selection by ESPN as the #1 NBA franchise -- and the #1 franchise of the decade out of 122 professional sports teams.
We think there’s a humble lesson to be learned in all this. When all is said and done, it’s not just winning championship rings that counts. It’s about building championship lives. And that’s something all of us can do, by helping each other, by doing the right thing, by giving back to our communities, and by always believing that we really can make a difference if we work together.
That’s the essence of what values based-leadership is all about. And why it matters.
The HOLT Management Team