Building Your Culture From The Top Down

Over the years, I’ve had the opportunity to buy services from exceptional companies with great employees. Some significantly impacted our business and molded how we treat our service providers. Unfortunately, I’ve learned what NOT to do more frequently than the opposite.

Our company is a step above what most would consider a “best in class” service provider. That isn’t just a proud business owner boasting that he has the best company out there, we participate in metric-driven surveys with hundreds of other providers confirming this position. I attribute most of our unicorn status to our core values and culture. I remember going round and round, trying to figure out which values best represented the type of business I wanted us to be.

For reference, you can view our values here:

In our company, disregarding any of these values could get you a pink slip.

Making the shift from above-average to unicorn status took years. We had to weed out employees holding us back, we suffered when those exiting employees were critical to our process, but now I’m excited and proud of the culture we have built.

Recently, I worked with a local firm on a large project for our farm in Nelson County. If you know me, I’m sure I’ve told you all about this property because I can’t help myself… I love it! All gushing aside, the group I hired have completely dropped the ball, costing me months and an impossible amount of money to put into perspective. Just a total, epic failure. The whole mess could have easily been avoided if the leader of this firm had clear and stiff consequences for breaking core values.

Here’s a general breakdown of what’s happening:

Our point of contact got overwhelmed working on too many projects, ours included, so he handed our project off to one of the junior employees without giving us any warning. The new guy was friendly and very responsive in the beginning, working hard to prove he could do the job. Eventually, this new contact started having difficulty, he was just in over his head. Having noticed his struggles, I reached out to my original point of contact for some help and direction…

He refused to take my call!

My contractor and I both tried to call the original contact again and again. He failed to respond on every occasion, so we asked the junior employee what was going on. The junior contact admitted he needed assistance, but said his supervisor refused to provide any. The senior employee not only abandoned our project but the junior employee as well! That is when I decided to call the owner of the business. “Are you going to help us, or do we need to find another provider?” The owner insisted he would help get the project back on track.

This got me wondering…

Is it ever okay to not reply to or return a call from a client? Especially one in the middle of a large project? Is it ever acceptable to not be supportive of a junior employee all but begging for help?

If either happened in our business, I can’t imagine how I would react. Seriously, I freak out if the phone rings more than twice. ANSWER THE PHONE!!

One of the first things I tell new employees is their responsibility to ensure no one goes to voicemail. Voicemail is where you send annoying salespeople without a value proposition. Side note: I take calls from salespeople, and if they don’t have a strong value proposition I tell them to call back when they do.

Our culture is to answer the phone enthusiastically. When someone calls, chances are they need help or would like to hire us. Everyone in our company is clear on how I feel about answering the phone and promptly returning calls. EVERYONE. It’s ingrained in our culture as part of our core value – Wow! Every Client – Every Opportunity.

My service provider obviously doesn’t have a client-centric culture. They are just one more mediocre company in a long line of unremarkable businesses. They do not care if I go to voicemail. They don’t even care if I get a callback. I’m no more important to them than a sales rep calling to see if they want a product demo, or worse.

Fight mediocrity in your business. Be clear on your values and build a fantastic culture. Your clients will thank you!

-Randy Sklar


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