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Case All Star City

In: People

Submitted By whitbyplace305b
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Francine Jordache is the founder and the president of All-Star City Tours, a company that provides a variety of tours of great Canadian and American cities. She started the company in 2000 to respond to the need for tours for spouses and partners attending conferences in Canada. Organizations were looking for comprehensive packages that would entertain the partners of attendees while the conferences were in session.

Calgary is the home base for the company that has expanded its operations with satellite offices in Halifax, Quebec City, Montreal, Toronto and Vancouver. As Francine grew the company into new cities, she appointed Branch Managers to manage the teams there. Those Branch Managers continue to report to Francine. There are now 520 Canadian employees, including 375 part-time regional staff. In 2005, Francine developed a partnership with an American, Ronda Brice, to create a subsidiary to run tours in U.S. cities and they called the company American All-Star City Tours. So far, operations have been established in Seattle, New Orleans, Miami and New York city. Offices in Boston, Los Angeles, and Houston are in the planning stages. The number of American employees totals 150, with 90 percent of them being part-time regional staff who work on specific events. The rest are permanent tour planning Seattle employees reporting to the VP of Tour Planning (Bill) who is located in Calgary.

The primary focus of the company is to provide customers with a unique customized tour experience. All-Star City Tours company not only showcases the general tourist attractions and exclusive shopping in each city, but also covers such things as garden tours showcasing spectacular private and public gardens, unusual public and private art collections, and gourmet food tours (in which participants travel from one superior restaurant to another enjoying different dinner courses as well as local wineries where available). All-Star City Tour arranges custom tours to suit the wishes of customers. Recently when a medical convention was in Toronto, a tour of a state-of-the-art research facility was arranged and both conference participants and their partners enjoyed a musical concert and fine dining as well as scientific information forums. Everyone raved about the high quality and uniqueness of the event, especially the merger of scientific and artistic elements. This is a typical reaction to the tours provided. A key attribute of all employees is “out of the box” creative thinking.

Shares in the Canadian company are held by Francine, her husband (Pierre), and three “silent partners” who invested in the company. The parent company and Rhonda have equal ownership of the U.S. subsidiary. Rhonda is its president and Francine is the chairperson of the board of the U.S. subsidiary.

Canadian head office employees provide administrative and HR support to the U.S. operations. Francine and Rhonda expect to establish a full U.S. head office once business growth makes it necessary. Rhonda’s hope is to have this in place within the next year. Francine is not so sure it will happen this fast. Rhonda is annoyed some of her employees report to Canadian managers and not to her.
Francine’s senior team include the following people:: • George Freewell, VP Financial Services—Calgary (25 people) • Penelope (Penny) Kidder, VP Human Resources—Calgary (20 people) • Janet Browne, VP Marketing and Sales—Calgary (35 people) • William (Bill) Tremaine, VP Tour Planning—Calgary (60 people split between Calgary/Seattle) • Rhonda Brice, President US Operations—Seattle (attends meeting by video-conference)

Francine received a call from a contact in Belgium asking her to consider expanding operations into Europe. She had already been thinking of expanding into the Caribbean and has made some preliminary enquiries with existing contacts. Francine has concerns and reservations about expansion at this time. The head office employees have increased by 50 percent since the U.S. operation began. People are working overtime and she’s sensing some burnout particularly in Janet’s marketing and sales teams. People in Janet’s team are not interacting well with each other and other departments. Sales and marketing employees are frequently on the road and communicate mainly by e-mail and voice mail. Janet spoke to Penny last week; she does not know what to do about the constant friction between her sales and marketing team of 35 and Bill’s tour planning team of 60.

Lately they all seem to sniping at each other over who has overall responsibility to design, price, and plan tours. Janet and Bill’s relationship has become more strained as the volume of contracts for service has grown. Janet complains, “It’s at the point that I cringe when I see him coming my way. It seems all we ever talk about is problems between our teams. It has me wondering if I even like him anymore."

Bill is frustrated with the processes for bringing in new business and coordinating service delivery. When everyone was in Calgary, things flowed smoothly with his direct involvement in all projects. He has 60 people in his department located in two cities; 45 of them in Calgary and the rest in Seattle. He confided in Penny that he is feeling stretched to the limit and is tiring of the travel his job requires. “I haven’t enough time to get my team together to talk about our relationships and processes. We make things up as we go along. This is not the best way to get things done."

The most recent blow-up occurred over a tour that included visits to both Vancouver and Seattle. Both the Canadian and U.S. team members thought they should have sole responsibility for the project and it took weeks to reach agreement on how to proceed. While it did not directly affect the client in this case, negative feelings continued between the departments.

Yesterday Francine met with Penny, who has been trying to influence the other VPs to implement a new reward system that will include bonuses based on customer satisfaction measures and teamwork efforts. The current bonus system is based on overall company results; it is well understood and accepted by head office employees. Regional office employees have complained that since they only deal with local initiatives, their bonuses do not reflect what they actually do.

Penny also believes the senior team needs to meet more than once a month. In her previous job at another company, the executive team met every two weeks, created and communicated company goals and objectives and set clear performance expectations. Francine thinks Penny has good ideas and wants to discuss them with the whole leadership team. The problem is the executive meetings are already jam-packed with agenda items. Given her recent conversations with the other VPs, Penny suggested that the leadership team have an offsite team-building and planning retreat. Francine’s response was “We don’t have time right now.” Penny countered: “We need to find time. Leave it with me so I can come up with some concrete ideas on how we might be able to do this.”

George and his team of 25 people provide weekly reports on the company's finances, balance sheet, and other accounting data. Sometimes the leadership team discusses monthly financial information; but often, because of the length of the discussion of other agenda items, this receives minimal attention. George usually gets two minutes to say, “We’re doing OK; we’ve increased our profit." He feels that no one else besides his team even seems to care much about the numbers. The silent partners pay more attention to the numbers than the executive team, because they are concerned about overall return on investment. George and his team take pride in their accuracy and attention to detail. Rhonda’s phone calls asking for U.S. numbers irritates George. "Rhonda seems to believe that pushing me will get things done faster. I just ignore her and get on with things at my own pace.”

At the latest senior leadership team meeting, Francine, who had just returned from a whirlwind cross country tour of the regional offices, reported Branch Managers complained that the VPs are not paying attention to their needs. Near the end of the meeting, Janet blew up at Bill and accused him of not supporting the marketing and sales team to creatively fulfill all client requests. “Some of your guys are slackers. They wait until the last minute to do things. Customers want to know progress.” Bill countered with, “If you folks would just get your noses out of our business we could get more work done. Every time I try to bring this subject up with you, you have something more important to do.”

Francine is at a loss. Penny has suggested an offsite leadership team meeting. This might be a good idea, but everyone seems too busy. People aren’t talking to each other. “What’s happened? We used to be so cohesive. We can’t expand when we’re barely coping with what’s on our plates and everyone is fighting.”…...

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