Companies Are People, Too

Guiding Decisions and Behaviors – The Refectory and Company Culture

How does a restaurant earn AAA four stars for 16 consecutive years? The Refectory is the most award-winning restaurant in Columbus and has received Zagat, DiRoNa and Wine Spectator Awards, along with Five Stars from both Columbus Monthly and Columbus Dispatch. Housed in a former church, it is known for its ambiance, excellent food, massive wine cellar, and stellar service.  This is a place you celebrate the events that memories are made of – anniversaries, birthdays, closing the big deals. The Refectory is a brand that consistently delivers on its brand promise.

 

Award-winning restaurant

In a conversation with owner Kamal Boulos about the Refectory’s culture, he reflected on “who we have become and the thinking that drives myself and the two key people who have shared this journey with me for the last 35 years.” That team has done a lot of things right, from always being there to greet customers to giving back to the community and celebrating the achievements of community leaders. Like many small business owners, Kamal has focused on achieving excellence every day and only recently realized the importance of articulating the purpose and values that will sustain the business when the founders move on. He realizes that they will serve as a compass that guides decisions and behaviors.

“The first step was articulating them, and we are engaged in Step Two, which is communicating them to everyone.” Next, he will define behaviors associated with each value and weave those into performance standards. Kamal shared his five core values, which are “a work in progress”, inspired by Nancy Kramer’s Resource Interactive culture:

 

  • Pursue Excellence (in every area – our knowledge, how we apply it, work ethic, attention to detail, attitude, maturity and mindset)
  • Treat Everyone with Respect (if we want others to accept us for who we are, we must first accept them.  We can disagree with others without showing disrespect)
  • Be a Person of Integrity (be honest in relationships; resolve issues only with those directly involved)
  • Be a Giver (to those we work with, to those we serve, to our community, and to those we do business with)
  • Care! (about yourself, your family, those we work with, those we serve, the company we work for and the equipment/resources we use.)

We did not discuss Kamal’s mission and vision, but I saw this vision statement from Bali Intercontinental Hotel that is memorable and actionable.

 

Our Vision

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

There are some great resources for businesses interested in doing the work Kamal is doing. My favorite is Jim Collins’ vision framework and I also like Simon Sinek’s book, Start with Why and his Why University, which guides you through the process. It is extremely difficult and time consuming to do this work in a vacuum – a trained facilitator is recommended for objectivity, open dialogue and building consensus. If you want to put your toe in the water, have your management team start with taking the Companies Are People, Too organizational personality assessment.

 

Start With Why the book

Posted in: Brand Alignment, Company Culture, Organizational Development, Organizational Personality

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Company Culture and Sustainability – The Cause and Effect

Some kinds of leaders are more susceptible to losing employees and customers, and therefore unable to achieve sustainability.  This article will focus on the entrepreneurs and the flippers.  They may see significant gains in the short term without addressing culture, but in time, these businesses are like a house with no foundation.  It will crumble.

Very few entrepreneurs start a company because they want to create a best place to work and do business.  They have an idea they want to bring to life. They are taking a huge personal risk, and in the beginning, their priority is growth (i.e. see their idea work, recoup their seed money and start making money).  It may take awhile to pay attention to how their idea is being delivered and received. The risk of failure increases when they lose customers over bad service delivered by employees who don’t care.

Flippers of companies are very clear about their short-term objective of profitability and ROI—metrics that will attract a buyer.  A large advertising agency was acquired by a conglomerate and I watched the enthusiasm of the staff wane as salaries were frozen, lay offs were frequent, and they were expected to do more work with fewer people.  All of these actions improved the bottom line. These “churn and burn” organizations don’t care about culture as much as they do making money.  No wonder 85% of failed acquisitions are attributable to mismanagement of cultural issues.

 

In both scenarios, when short term gain trumps long term gain, a company can have great success up front.  In time, it is not sustainable.  There’s a better way to do business.

 

Centric, a Columbus-based consulting company, was founded by partners who wanted to be different.  From the day they began planning the business, culture was the driver.  They defined their “why” and their set of beliefs/core values right out of the gate.  And they made sure every person who came to work there shared those values and used them to guide their behavior.  Centric’s growth and profitability is off the charts.  It has won many accolades including Best Place to Work, which is all the more impressive since it is a virtual company.

 

Culture matters to the people. Where do you want to work – a company that cares, or one that is incongruent and doesn’t care about their people?  (It’s not rocket science!).

 

Culture matters to the end users.  Who do you want to do business with – a company with people who don’t care, or who happily deliver what it promises? (You do the math).

 

As the economy recovers, talented people will be in demand.  They will be incentivized by your competition to jump ship. To many enlightened business owners, this culture thing is a no brainer. To others, it’s a total revelation.  If you agree that when culture matters you will be able to get and keep employees and customers, how do you start?  By finding out what’s going on. Defining your company’s purpose beyond making money. Articulating your mission and your vision, and most importantly, your values.

 

To find out what is currently going on with your company’s culture, take this Companies Are People, Too easy assessment.  Contact me, Sandra Fekete, for access to five additional assessments and a phone conference to help you interpret the results.  It’s a great starting point!

Posted in: Brand Alignment, Change Management, Company Culture, Mergers and Aquisitions, Organizational Development, Organizational Personality

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Finding Your Organizational Identity

Remember the WWJD bracelets worn as a reminder to base our daily decisions on what Jesus would do? Because we know Jesus’ values, how he lived his life, and examples that he shared, the WWJD question is easy to answer across a broad spectrum of circumstances. We can be fairly certain we will make good decisions using this framework as our guide.

WWJDWhen your team is expected to make decisions that will greatly impact your company, what framework do they use? How comfortable are they that they will make the right decision? Will they opt to please the boss, or follow their personal preferences? Empowered employees need more than “let your conscience be your guide.” Ideally, everyone is well indoctrinated about the company’s core mission, vision, and values. There is no better framework…..assuming they can remember the company’s core ideology.

 

There is a way to embody these characteristics…literally. Creating a persona gives a human face to the otherwise intangible dimensions of organizational identity. What emerges is a fictional yet factual representation of the character of the company. Hoselton Auto Mall in Rochester, NY learned about their company’s personality with Companies Are People, Too. Using an Up Close and Personal exercise, they created Walt to personify the company. Everyone “met” Walt and knew his favorite food, most prized possession, best trip ever, cars he drove, where he goes for inspiration, what he likes most about himself, what it is he just can’t stand, what he does for relaxation…you get the picture. Walt was introduced at a pep rally to the entire team, who were given WWWD bracelets as a take away. Every existing and new team member refers to What Would Walt Do? as their framework for decision making.

 

Elford Construction’s “Pop” persona drives behaviors tied to each core value. The “Pop” award is given to the employee who best demonstrates behaviors that align with Pop’s core ideology.

 

You can find more examples of personified companies and get more resources to help you find your company’s persona on the Companies Are People, Too website.

 

The drive for consistency is strong in every successful organization. Decisions based on the values and preferences of the company deliver consistency, clarity, and alignment. What are you waiting for? Start your organization on a pathway to success today. Contact Sandra Fekete to learn more and take your FREE trial Companies Are People, Too assessment to get your company moving in the right direction.

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What does your tagline say about your culture?

I was astounded to learn that Avis’ iconic slogan, “We Try Harder” has been replaced with “It’s Your Space” in an effort to target the profitable corporate user segment.  New ads show businessmen driving Beemers, singing on their way to a meeting.  What does this have to do with motivating employees, living its values, or delivering a brand promise?  “It’s Your Space” makes a great campaign targeting a very specific audience.  But it is not a tagline. There is no manifesto written around it as there was for We Try Harder (which, incidentally was named one of the top campaigns of the 20th Century by CNBC).

The Avis we try harder Manifesto

What does your tagline say about your culture?  Is it motivating to employees–giving them something to act on?  Is it promising something to your customer that your entire team can deliver?  Does it align with your values?  Here are a few other great taglines that accomplish those objectives. Can you identify the company they belong to?

 

  • You’re in good hands
  • You deserve a break
  • Just Do It
  • Think Different
  • The Few. The Proud.
  • We bring good things to life.
  • When you care enough to send the very best.

 

Posted in: Brand Alignment, Change Management, Company Culture, Organizational Development

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Let Your Company Culture Inspire Your Brand

Does your external brand drive your culture or is it the other way around? Imagine turning your brand inside out, so your internal brand takes precedence over your external brand.

 

A few months ago, I had the opportunity to present a webinar for the Columbus Chamber members discussing how our culture (internal brand) influences our external brand. Put in human terms, we learned that in organizations, as in life, beauty is only skin deep; it’s what’s on the inside that counts.

 

It’s important for leaders to articulate and reinforce what’s on the inside — core mission, vision and values because those elements directly impact what happens on the outside — how well we get and keep customers. When every employee understands why the company exists, its purpose beyond making money, and what it values/believes, that internal culture guides decision making (choices) and behaviors (actions). Those choices and actions create a lasting impression, positive or negative, in the minds of the people who experience them.

 

Creating synergy between your company’s core (what it stands for and how it behaves) and its external brand promise and brand position is critical in the wake of consumers demanding authenticity and transparency from those they choose to do business with.  Actions do speak louder than words and social media makes sure we hear them — the good, the bad and the ugly.

 

During the webinar, we discussed in-depth the five keys to brand synergy:

 

Brand synergy

 

We discussed examples of organizations that are not fulfilling their brand promise and those that are living out their brand to the fullest. What companies have you encountered whose behavior is not consistent with their brand promise? (Delta, GM, Comcast, Bank of America.) What brands do you think of that live their brand promise every day in every way? (Southwest, Apple, Starbucks, Zappos.)

 

Your brand means nothing if your internal culture does not reflect it every day.  So, turn your brand inside out – see it through the direct experiences of your employees and customers. It’s the first step toward clarity and consistency in decisions and actions that empower everyone in your company to deliver its brand promise.

 

Watch this webinar.
Learn more about assessing your company’s culture.
Learn more information about brand alignment.

 

Posted in: Brand Alignment, Change Management, Company Culture, Organizational Development, Organizational Personality

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Connect with Employees to Connect with Customers

“A company’s culture and a company’s brand are really just two sides of the same coin. Brand is just a lagging indicator of culture.” Tony Hsieh, CEO Zappos.

 

“Your brand means nothing if your internal culture doesn’t reflect it every day. Imagine calling Zappos to place an order and getting a crabby person.  You can get beautiful shoes anywhere.  But Zappos has been the number you call when you want exceptional service—the brand promise you have bought into—that Zappos will “Deliver Happiness.”

 

When your employees deliver less than your brand promise, a few customers might give you a second chance when they have a bad experience.  But hardly any will give you a third chance.  If you know the lifetime value of your customer, you know the impact losing him or her will have on the bottom line.

 

That’s precisely why Companies Are People, Too helps our clients get and keep customers AND employees. The key is to make sure your culture (internal brand) is in sync with your brand promise.  When it is, you have happy employees who want to be working there and who give exceptional quality and service to your customers, who in turn continue to buy from you, refer more customers and generate profit that keeps the company sustainable.

 

How can you create an employee experience that is going to differentiate your brand and enable your people to consistently deliver the brand promise?  Most people don’t come to work excited about the prospect of making profit for their company. They need a connection to the brand promise, and it begins with knowing, embracing and living the answers to these questions:

 

  1. Why does your company exist?  What is its purpose beyond making money (mission)? Connecting people to a purpose is an important way of helping them feel good about your brand and research proves there is about an 85% correlation between the way employees feel about the brand and the way your customers do.
  2. What are the core beliefs (values) that guide decisions and behaviors? Not everyone is right for your brand. Find the people who share your values and then teach them the skills they need, not the other way around.
  3. What are acceptable behaviors? A value isn’t a value unless 99% of your people are doing it 99% of the time. That’s consistency! Performance reviews tied to values brings them to life.

If you want to connect with your customers, start with making raving fans of your employees.  Pay as much attention to the employee experience as you do to the customer experience, and your brand promise will be fulfilled.  For help articulating your core ideology, culture or brand promise, email your request for the white paper summarizing my book, Companies Are People, Too.

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