I guess I am supposed to be discussing integrity. I say this because it has been highlighted for me twice in the past three days.
The first instance came in the form of a client who is looking at contracting a new commissioned sales person. The candidate has passed all the hiring criteria and looks like a perfect match. He is even working on a couple significant sales before being contracted. The complication came when the candidate informed my client that he was in the midst of a nasty divorce and asked if his commissions could be paid in his girlfriends name for a few months so they could be “sheltered” from the divorce. At first this may appear to be a fairly innocuous request. After all who cares who the checks are made out too…..right? Wrong!! At the end of the day this becomes a simple matter of integrity. Either you as a leader stay within the bounds of the law and treat everyone fairly or you don’t. If you are prepared to grey the lines in this instance how can your team trust that you will act appropriately in other situations? And don’t kid yourself; you can’t hide these kinds of decisions. Your people will know what your decisions are and will be considering whether or not your actions are consistent with what you profess to believe. With consideration there was only one answer to this request; It can’t be done!
The second issue of ethics arose when it appears that a group of partners I am involved with on a particular project my have chosen to over look the laws and bend some rules in a manner that could result in significant financial gain to them. It could be argued that at the end of the day there is little harm to the other partners and if no one knew about the situation it just wouldn’t matter. The problem is that if they are doing what appears to be the case their actions are unethical and show a complete lack of integrity. And if this is the case the issue becomes the same as the issue in the first example. If they can’t be trusted in this instance then what other of their actions lack integrity?
As a business person or for that matter as any person, about all we have is our integrity and as a wise old friend of mine would have said “it’s kind of like pregnancy; you either have it or you don’t”. Integrity can not be a sometimes thing.
I had lunch today with my great friend Jackson Ohe. Jackson is a successful business person I really respect. He is smart, experienced and always willing to share ideas. I learn something every time we talk. We ended up talking about networking and each of our recent experiences with it.
We both agreed that networking is an invaluable skill for anyone in business. It is something that you take part in at all times. It just becomes part of you. To be a really good networker (if that is even a word) you have to understand that it is about giving unselfishly at every possible opportunity. You have to give freely of your experience and knowledge. When you do this an amazing thing happens. Your network gives back far more than you ever contribute. The even more amazing part is that what you receive almost never comes from the same people you give too. The connections, knowledge and help you need just shows up when you need it.
I know many of you are going to be thinking that this is true of much more than just networking and that this subject like many of those I cover comes back to “The Secret”. I didn’t realize it until I was writing this but you are right! Networking is just another example of how everything in the universe works but I find it easier to understand a little bit at a time.
As companies grow, change is always going to occur. Growth itself is impossible without change. But as changes are taking place, you can never afford to lose sight of what made you successful in the first place.
Losing track of a company’s core values often occurs when major changes are thrust upon the company from the outside. A common example of this is the sale of the company. I am always amazed when prospective owners conduct comprehensive due diligence studies on a company and make a decision to buy the company because they see so many things they like about the organization, and then after they take control they set about to make changes that will alter the very things that attracted them in the first place. They really respect the experience of the management team and then revolutionize the style of management. They like the culture within the organization and then change the way employees are treated. It is not uncommon to see new ownership systematically destroy the value they paid for.
New ownership is not the only thing that can cause major changes that negatively impact upon a business. The simple dynamics of growth must be managed very carefully to ensure that core values don’t get lost in the procedural changes.
The secret here is to identify the core values within an organization and then make sure those values are kept in focus at all times. All decisions must be weighed against those values so that change can be accomplished without destroying the greatness within the organization.
I was reminded this morning how important it is to take responsibility for our actions. There are many people who have an autonomic response of finding outside reasons for everything that happens in their life. They find excuses for the big things and the little things. After a while this becomes ingrained.
As a leader it is critical that we always accept full responsibility for our lives. We need to do this inwardly and it is imperative that this is what we model for others. Accepting responsibility is not just an action or a habit, it is a lifestyle. It is the personification of an entire belief system. It is “the secret”.
We are responsible for our lives. We are responsible for everything we experience. Accepting and understanding this is the key to a boundless freedom, joy and opportunity.
This topic now has me thinking of how the little actions and habits in our lives are an outward demonstration of our belief systems. But that’s a discussion for another day.
Last night I was telling my son, Cam, about my weekend in San Diego and the amazing experiences I talked about in yesterday’s blog. Our conversation ended up focused on creating “WOW” experiences. Cam works at Intuit Canada. Intuit is a great company with a fantastic culture and they actually have a process for creating wow experiences for their customers.
The first time I heard about wowing your customers was during a presentation by a past president of Burger King. I don’t remember his name and a Google search isn’t turning up anything. He was the Key Note speaker to the International Door Association’s (IDA) Expo about ten years ago. Through the nineties one of the great business doctrines was about exceeding your customer’s expectations. We had come through focusing on your customer’s needs, to meeting their expectations, and had now developed to exceeding those expectations. This presentation at IDA was my first exposure to the idea that exceeding your customer’s expectations was no longer good enough. You had to create situations that shocked them; you had to “wow” them!
Another way of defining these wow experiences is that your customers have to have experiences they brag about. My “wake up call” experience I discussed yesterday was just such an event. The great part about my discussion with Cam was his explaining that Intuit doesn’t leave this to chance, that they actually have a process to assure that they are creating these wow moments for their customers. This is the process of not leaving exceptional customer service to chance but rather having it become so engrained within your organization that your people do it on purpose. To achieve this level of service you must have a culture that is so customer service oriented that everyone on your team is constantly seeking innovative ways to benefit your customers.
Using that cultural definition as a bench mark, how does your organization measure up? How often do you create stories your customers brag about? How often do you wow them? The even more important question is do you leave this to chance or do you recognize the value of wowing your customers such that you have a defined process in place to assure that it happens regularly?
I spent three days last week at the Pechanga Resort and Casino in Southern California. It is an exceptional facility. Everywhere we went the service was fantastic.
I was there to make a presentation to the California Operator and Door Association (CODA). I arrived in a rented car from the San Diego airport about 8:30 Thursday evening. After navigating the five lane, NASCAR I15, finding the resort was in itself a rewarding experience. From the moment the valet welcomed me at my car everything was impressive. My suite was far beyond anything I would have expected. I had dinner Thursday night with my great friend, Mark Stuenkel, in the resorts Italian dining room and the service and atmosphere were both perfect. Then Mark and I headed to the casino and discovered what is reported to be the third largest poker room in the USA. The people were all friendly and even the dealers seemed happy to be at work and made us feel welcome. We even managed to win a little that night.
My presentation was Friday afternoon. The presentation room was the nicest I have ever had the pleasure of working in. It sat 175 people in tiered theatre style seats with a state of the art audio visual system. The room was probably one of the major factors contributing to what I believe was one of the best presentations I have ever delivered.
Dinner Friday night was with friends in the resorts top dining room. Everything was perfect; the service, the menu, the wine, the ambiance and of course the food.
My expectations were constantly being exceeded. They didn’t miss a detail. The big things were perfect and the little touches were amazing. Each night when I called for a wake-up the next morning, I was asked if I would like a second call ten minutes later in case I fell back to sleep. This may seem like a little detail but I have probably stayed in over a hundred hotels including some of the best in the world and have never before been asked this simple little thing.
The crowning touch to this experience is that the place was extremely busy and every guest I saw seemed to have a smile on their face. As a student of business it was great to experience first hand that truly exceptional service does pay off.
By the way: Thanks CODA, I would be honored to return to present to your association any time.
I am off to California today to speak at a trade show tomorrow. My topic is “The future of their business is in their hands”. I am going to discuss competition in their industry, margins, the internal and external forces affecting their businesses, staffing and other issues that are top of mind for everyone in their industry.
In reviewing my notes last night it hit me that I could be giving this talk to any industry. The topic really applies to everyone. If you focus on the things you can control you will control your own destiny. So what are the things you can control? I recommend focusing on these following items:
Target Markets- What markets are you going to proactively pursue?
Customer Base- Who is your ideal customer and how do you access them?
Advertising- What is the most cost effective method of delivering your message?
Attracting and Training the right people
Pricing- Where should you be priced to fit your target markets?
Quality Standards-Is your company the best it can be?
Each of the areas listed above is controllable. You can make decisions and act on them that will affect each of these areas. Too often I find businesses focused on things they can’t do anything about such as; the economy or their competition.
Ignoring the things you can’t do anything about and focusing on the things you can control will give you control of your own destiny.
I was reminded this morning of how important it is to have a company driven by principals. Financials are important after all the reason to be in business is to make a profit. Making money is a good thing. But if numbers are the prime focus of your business you will never be truly successful.
I had the opportunity to speak to the management group of Vector Industries this morning. This is a group of amazing people. They are focused, driven and will lead their group of companies to amazing heights. One of the subjects we focused on was James C. Collins book “Good To Great”. Collins really drives home that principals are the driving force behind every initiative in great companies.
Vector’s people believe in things like integrity, empowerment, teams and passion. These core values will be what make this a great company.
Are you the best that you can be? Do you regularly step back from your business to evaluate how you are performing as a leader and how your business’s performance measures up over all?
We all slip into a comfort mode from time to time. This is just what happens unless we consciously choose otherwise. That’s what makes being the best we can be a constant challenge. We don’t have to do anything to slip into complacency, it is there waiting for us. But we have to make a conscious choice to perform at a high level and we need to make that choice over and over again.
I recommend having a regularly scheduled performance review just like you would for any other team member. Schedule a time to objectively review your company’s over all performance and be careful to measure yourself against what is possible rather than a historic pattern.
Great companies and great leaders don’t happen by accident. They happen because there is a plan to make them that way.