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Case study - Customer Intimacy and Empowerment Program

Canary Butter, Hamilton


Canary Enterprises is a fast growing specialist butter manufacturer in Hamilton. Bruce Holland was asked to design and facilitate a strategic planning process for them. Two of the strategies agreed were to become Customer Intimate and to empower their people.

Following this Bruce was asked to help them implement these strategies. As a result he designed and facilitated a program that involved every staff member in 8 half-day workshops held every two weeks apart.

After the last of the 8 half-day workshops, Bruce interviewed Murray Seamark (one of the four owners and the director in charge of manufacturing) about the Program, including:

  • What happened
  • Benefits
  • Costs
  • What he would do differently next time
  • What he would say to someone else considering something similar.

The interview

The recording is low quality because it was made at Hamilton airport with planes taking off, announcements being made and people speaking in the background, however, Murray's story is interesting and definitely worth listening to if you are considering something similar.

Summary of the benefits

The Program was only 8 half-days, and many people would think that this wouldn't be enough to make much difference; but, according to Murray it did. Here are a few of his direct quotes:

  • From a Director's perspective I can really see a way now to get closer to the customers, and get our team closer to the customer.

  • We now have a major competitive advantage because of our uniqueness and we can capitalise on it.

  • To start with we had several separate groups: the office group, the various shifts were different groups, Directors were on the outside and other groups. Canary has come together as a whole team.

  • They (staff) no longer leave their hearts and minds at the door. They will now do stuff for you that you would not believe. People feel valued and that they can make a difference. So they do make a difference.

  • We have tapped into the strength of like-minded people, producing high quality product that is designed specifically for a customer in a customer intimate way.

  • We now have people doing things in their own time that simply would not happen with a bunch of grumpy guys.

  • Overall the benefits we have already seen; we have already recovered our value, because, now when the pressure comes on the guys will rise to the challenge, where prior to this they would have said: 'What's in it for me?'

Other benefits Murray talked about:

  • Increased openness in the team
  • Closer team
  • People in gum-boots and overalls contributing in unbelievable ways
  • The worst performer became one of the best performers
  • Increased interest in the way the company works
  • More trust
  • Deeper conversations
  • More meaning to the work.


What comment would you make to some one else who was considering using Bruce Holland, Virtual Group for something similar? Include any praise, issues or suggestions. Ratings are from 1 (poor) to 5 (one of the best I've been to).

  • The process was insightful and reminded me of exciting times at a previous job. this bought direction, confidence and belief to our ability to succeed. Go with an open mind and be prepared to be challenged. This process has bought direction to our company. It has identified our strengths as a team. Overall score: Five out of five. Murray Seamark, Manufacturing Director, Canary Enterprises.

  • Pre-work excellent. Well run, right amount of intervention and guidance to ensure desired end is met. Very useful means of defining objectives and achieving consensus within a team. An inclusive process. Overall score: Four out of five. Ross McCullum , Consultant, Canary Enterprises.

  • Insightful, thought-provoking and satisfying. Enjoyed the pre-reading. Like the way things kept moving along. Comments to someone else: Don't wait. Be ready to get out or the box and answer/ ask hard questions. Overall score: Five out of five. Kylea Heaton, General Manager Operations, Canary Enterprises.

  • Workshop was structured in a way that took all participants through a process that delivered the end result that we were looking for. Bruce is an excellent facilitator with great experience in leading a team to develop their own conclusions. Overall score: Five out of five. Derek Bartosh, Director, Canary Enterprises.

  • Overall impressions, very good. The pre-reading was thought out and provoking and intriguing. The process of the workshop built to a nice conclusion. Very favourable results indeed. Good on you. It was a really enjoyable and thought provoking. Comments to someone else: It will be hard work. It will challenge you, but will also be rewarding and directional. You will have a plan. Overall score: Five out of five." James Gray, Director, Canary Enterprises.

  • During my last words I was conscious of not speaking for too long and with Murray having presented a Canary shirt to you I was working on the basis we had "said" a very sincere thank you for your work with us- so if I did not reinforce this during my last words let me say so clearly now- a very big thank you to you- as we agreed last week we have come a long way and sure we have a long way to go- but a great start made with much of the progress thanks to your fine efforts. So, Bruce a sincere thanks to you- it was fun working with you through the programme and I know all of the team are also similarly thankful. James Gray, Director, Canary Enterprises.

Back to the Staff Empowerment Process

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