Family Business Quarterly
Northeastern University center for Family Business
The Northeastern University College of Business Administration CEO Forum and the Center for Family Business were honored to have Carol Lavin Bernick as the featured speaker at a recent joint meeting. She and her husband, Howard, run Alberto-Culver Company, the $2.9 billion public company that Carols parents founded in 1955 and turned over to the new generation of management in 1994.
In her presentation titled “When Your Culture Needs a Makeover” Carol described the process of changing their corporate culture and its positive impact on the business. While many family business authors and researchers speak of the importance of sustaining culture in the face of transition, Carols experience was very different.
She transformed the value system and took a high profile, successful, publicly-held enterprise with family roots to a whole new level. Since 1994, the start of the cultural shake up, the Company’s sales have more than doubled, pre-tax has tripled and employee turnover has been cut in half.
Family business members were invited to stay after Carols formal presentation for a more intimate discussion about business families.
In her presentation she mentioned the four ideas that she used to transform the culture:
1. Make culture a core driver of the companys success, make it important, identify and build off the positive culture aspects already in place and change what is necessary.
2. Create the position of Growth Development Leader (GDL), to mentor a small group of people. GDLs help communicate the change through the organization.
3. Survey employees on a regular basis to identify areas for improvement and provide constant feedback to management.
4. Celebrate successes constantly through a reward system.
The success of the Alberto-Culver culture change has been recognized in a recap of the experience for an article “When Your Culture Needs a Makeover” that Carol wrote for the June 2001 Harvard Business Review. Carol has been featured in Business Week, Forbes and Savvy magazines. She has twice been selected as one of America’s 50 Most Successful Women.