This three part case series explores the strategic and cultural implications of recognizing a major reconsideration of a multitude of long-held beliefs may be needed to ensure a firm’s survival. The business lines and corporate culture that had served this landed estate so well and for so long had been challenged by radical changes in the operating environment, industry and ownership assumptions. The company needs to look deep inside itself and clarify its purpose and core values. The A case presents the background and colorful history of this unique business, from 1299 to the year 2000, and lays out the challenges and options under consideration by the trustees, family owners and management. Much was at stake for Clinton Devon. To sell the estate lock, stock and barrel, spending the future counting newly-liquid wealth, was not an option congruent with the family’s heritage and philosophy. However, to do nothing meant the estate’s near-certain demise. Case B reveals the innovative and unexpected steps actually undertaken by this organization and the results that followed. The C case brings the story up-to-date with an assessment of the Estate’s strategic initiatives and results. New plans for the enterprise are reviewed.
1) Making decisions between two desirable alternatives may not be necessary. There may be a third way to accomplish both. 2) Reinforcing the notion that frequent, authentic communication with constituents, focused on long-term relationship building, is essential. 3) Engaging the workforce can uncover existing potential. 4) Hiring an outsider with fresh views and who shares the family’s values may bring the talents of a change agent to bear on the situation. 5) Understanding that a firm’s traditional industry and its culture and purpose can be de-linked without harm to the enterprise.
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