Many years ago, I realized that in order for my business to be a company, it needed to have a solid structure in place to maintain the workflow, manage growth and, of course, manage people. As my company grew, so too did the systems and procedures.
While creating these systems was critical to managing efficiencies and growth, I realized there was still work to do, and that was on our corporate culture. I knew that in order for us to go faster, we needed to go slower and work on defining our company culture.
I think it’s true that a company’s culture mirrors that of the founder, CEO or the leader. At most companies, the culture is something that just happens; it’s a collection of personalities and acceptable behaviors that permeate the halls without ever being spoken. Too often, company cultures go undefined and take on this life of their own — usually to the detriment of your clients (and bottom line).
About three years ago, I took an honest inventory of the culture at my company and didn’t like what I saw. I have to be a little honest here; we had a good culture — it just wasn’t great. I knew that we could do better, but I also knew it was going to take work to make it better.
In researching how to create a culture, I found myself frequently coming across Tony Hsieh’s work. Tony is the founder of Zappos.com, the world’s largest online shoe retailer, and a true innovator in workplace culture. There are countless books on creating culture, but his book gave an insider view of how they created a fanatical environment where both employees and their clients received an unforgettable experience that created loyalty and fueled stellar growth and success. I’ve found that achieving success is a lot easier when you can model others.
No culture should be designed solely from the ivory tower. So we created an anonymous, open-ended survey and asked our employees to define what they thought was our culture. It was certainly surprising. All I’ll tell you is that no one employee knew what our culture was and no two definitions were the same. It was clear we were not on the same page.
When we began defining our culture, we started with two core values and decided to slowly roll out more as time went on. The first two we did were “Deliver WOW Through Service” and “Embrace and Drive Change.”
The most impactful core value was the first one we implemented, “Deliver WOW.” There is nothing better than being WOWed whenever you make a purchase or during a random activity. It sticks in your mind and leaves a memorable impression that can last years. Why can’t everyone do something every day that WOWs someone? I’m not talking about just WOWing clients; I am talking about also wowing a co-worker or colleague. I believe that internal staff should be treated like clients, because that attitude should be the norm, not something you put on when dealing with a client.
Delivering WOW became a mantra here because we lived it every day, and it was reinforced monthly by creating an ongoing award and incentive program.
Each month, we have lunch brought in and we meet as a company to review the feedback, discuss the nominations and distribute the prizes. For me as the owner of the company, it is one of the most enjoyable days of the month, when everyone gathers to compliment each other and share wins and successes. It is honestly one of the most positive company meetings I’ve ever attended.
The results have been amazing for InsuranceNewsNet. While we always have been known for exceptional service, this program has yielded increased camaraderie and morale, decreased mistakes and — most important — happier clients.
Before you go home tonight, ask yourself, “Did I WOW someone today?” or “Did my team WOW someone today?” If the answer is no, you know what to do.