Category: Company Culture


The Practical Guide to Implementing the Value of Defined by Three Customers

May 27th, 2015

First things first, we all know there is only one paying customer. For the purposes of our value, specifically the way we think, we define our three customers as employees, paying customers, and vendors.

3Customers-01-150x150Defined by Three Customers is about balanced thinking and decision making for all three customer subsets. This is a compass designed to help guide us—it’s not foolproof nor perfect. However, it’s much more balanced than an equation where no thought or care for one “customer” comes into play.

Are you wondering if/how this is relevant to you? I can prove it to you! Did you ever work for the manager that never let his or her people leave the department or post for other positions? The manager’s needs in their job tend to get in the way of the needs of employees or the employer.

How about the salesperson who seems to never hit their plan because they are telling the marketplace and their prospects that they have a monthly quota to hit? They don’t do it intentionally, mind you. They show it in their actions—they are not balancing prospect needs and wants with their own needs.

How can you live the value Defined by Three Customers?

  1. As an employee taking care of your customer who will eventually take care of you, do things for your customers to add value and they will come back!
  2. Challenge (in a good way) and get to your vendors. You would be surprised what they can do to help if you share where you’re taking your business and what value they can bring to you get there!
  3. Sometimes one “customer” wins and another loses in the short term. We must have a long-term view. We can’t always get the employee the raise nor the feedback they crave. A vendor can’t always give favorable terms on their business. A leader can’t always make a balanced decision—their short budget depends on the quick hit. The key is to stay focused on the doing right things right everyday and we will balance the scales in the long run!
  4. Defined by Three Customers is an equal number of debits and credits in the relationship bank account. Make sure you’re taking care of your stakeholders all of the time!
  5. Think longer term. Think about taking care of all groups. Imagine you will break bread with your three customers on a regular basis. When we think about long-term relationships, we moderate our short-term needs and wants!

What Would Happen if We Stopped Taking Risks?

April 29th, 2015

Lets start with the obvious, avoiding taking any risk is actually a pretty serious risk all by itself! This requires us to avoid phone calls and interactions with customers and associates. We need to skip team meetings and duck out of the break room, too. The longer we stand still and stay status quo the more likely we are to fall a step behind or even lose altogether—all while our competitors and peers march forward.

The Outside-In® Companies believe in our value of taking risks. We definitely don’t steer around or away from it, but why does it matter for our employees to live this value? Who really cares anyway? In fact, why should any service company encourage risk taking?

ID-100309958First off, risk taking is really about decision making, the lack of perceived authority, task discretion, and reward for doing so. Employees that do not make decisions often do so because their company’s culture discourages it. This is cultivated through the management team and their practices. This is quite often an unexpected negative outcome of a company that lacks a cultural plan to encourage customer centric actions with those that have direct customer contact.

Employees that don’t make decisions have little or no choice but to get the answer for a customer from those that have the power or information. Usually, the power lies in controlling that information and it is intended to be a business control that simply hedges risk. However, in this case, it kills the customer! This can be because of a lack of training and knowledge or a matter of policy and the preferred hierarchical nature of the company.

Close your eyes and remember when this happened to you, a roommate, someone from your household, etc. Is there anything more frustrating than when you’re on the phone with that utility, or in line at the retail store, or airport and the service associate needs a manager? All you needed was to make a return, change a seat, or get your bill in the correct name. The worst part is that the supervisor does not do anything fancy—they just need a stupid code or a key to take care of your return or to move your flight.

A culture that values its customers empowers and encourages risks that take place in the act of serving a customer!

Employees that are not encouraged to notice what their customers are actually saying and then do something about it are not serving the strategic purposes of the business. The front lines see and hear it all. How many times have you heard a clerk or phone representative say that they have told management about a customer opinion so many times but no one listens. Then their voice trails off and their interest and engagement level wanes day by day! If we listen to customers as employees they will tell you why they are angry about a program or policy change, what is never in the store, when service is slow, or when a product has been replaced that should not have been. We can always hear it as employees.

A culture that values risk taking creates an environment where employees have tools and formats to share what they hear and take action! This is customer centric and systematic cultural risk taking. What did you learn from our marketplace today? What did our customers challenge us with? What do they need and want from us? Ask employees for feedback often, give all employees a format to share, reward this flow of insights, then categorize it and teach what to do with it. Most likely your plan of improvement needs tweaking. Employees just need permission to open their eyes and be empowered to see what needs fixing. Empowerment and the confidence to stand up and share what might be the next product or service that enhances your company’s top line strategy are the keys to grow your business.

Risk taking is a cultural tool to encourage customer centric and entrepreneurial behaviors for all of your employees. You have a choice in your organization; you can either treat employees like leased resources, or you can act and create an environment that encourages entrepreneurial behaviors that enhance your customer’s experience with you.

Go sit and listen to your employees, have Outside-In® eyes and ears, and gather the information you need in order to decide how to encourage risk taking that improves the experience for your customer base. Or come visit our office and see it in action!

Job Opening for a Risk Taking Specialist

April 1st, 2015

At Outside-In® Companies we know that taking risks is a cultural privilege that we cherish. However, we don’t always live this value perfectly. In fact, we are working hard as a company to live this value more fully. The only way to do that? Do some culture work and get clear on what we want to see more of around here. Risk taking not only enables our productivity, but it also helps us provide our customers with the best experience possible.

Here is where you come in. The Outside-In® Companies are growing and we need talent. However, we need the right talent that fits our core values.

We are Risk Takers. We are willing to step out of our comfort zone. We use our collective intelligence to solve problems, weigh outcomes, and take calculated risks.

Here are a few examples of what we mean by daily risk taking:

  • RiskTakersThe office is out of paperclips, hand soap, or coffee and you’re not willing to do something about it. “Getting office supplies is not in my job description.” At Outside-In® Companies, we don’t shove that stuff off to someone else either. We make a quick decision and move on to the important stuff!
  • “I need to talk to my supervisor.” First off, we don’t use that title in a flat environment. More importantly, by waiting to speak to your leader you’re simply giving away your equality and authority. Figure out how to own a project! Taking risks also means owning your work and assuming responsibility.
  • “This sounds like I can do anything I want around there—sign me up!” Well, that is not true either. Making an uninformed decision is not how we roll. Gathering information, working with the team, and moving quickly is how we make bigger business decisions. We need people that know how to be on teams, are willing to work out disagreements, and are willing to respect different points of view.

Our business is the balance between innovation and creativity with our ability to organize in order to get work done. In order to do that we count on each associate to utilize their first-hand experiences and observations to see the business as it really is: something that needs daily attention and improvement. That is what Outside-In® is all about.

You should apply for a job with Outside-In® Companies if you:

  • Like to innovate and make daily improvements within your job, department, or company.
  • Are willing to problem solve.
  • Honestly believe in an environment that rewards and does not punish small risks.
  • Can gather the right teammates together to tackle large problems. Big problems and opportunities bog down fast moving Gazelle companies when not addressed in the right way.

*This is all true by the way! If you like our culture and are a risk taker, we have great positions and careers to explore with you. Check out our openings here.

If you’d like to learn more about the influence of company culture on business and talent acquisition, please join us at our next Outside-In® Talent Seminar on May 21st. Brad McCarty, Head Coach of the Men’s Soccer Team at Messiah College, will be presenting Creating a Culture of Excellence. Learn more about the seminar & register here.

Outside-In® Chronicles: Why is Bruce Springsteen Called The Boss?

March 11th, 2015

I recently attended my first Bruce Springsteen concert this past week in Hershey, PA. We talk about leaders only being leaders when they have followers. Well Bruce has followers. After all, he is the Boss, right? I bet you don’t know why he is called the boss. Well, back in the early (glory) days he was the one who had to collect the night’s receipts and be responsible for distributing the money to bandmates. At first, Bruce hated the name because of what boss typically means as a stereotype. I think it’s safe to say at this point he has tacitly accepted his moniker. And after watching him play for three hours and ten minutes with barely a sip of water? There is no doubt in my mind that he is in charge, in control, and on top of every little detail as a master showman can be. He is The Boss today but for very different reasons than way back when!

After watching his performance I can assure you he is a good leader. He has such high energy and regard for people including his bandmates and crew, the fans, and all those that he can help. (Bruce brought seven different fans on stage to jam with him, sing, and to share their cause). Without fear or thought that they might in anyway be there to hurt or harm him or others!

All of this Boss talk got me thinking. Do you like being called boss? I had a favorite administrative assistant who called me jefe, which means boss and I hated it. She insisted she meant it in a different meaning than the stereotype. Jefe meant that I was in charge and that she could count on me.

So I looked up the definition of boss. And guess what I learned?

Boss as a noun seems reasonable enough to me. Someone in charge of a team or organization. Each culture and its value is different in each group however, someone, is always responsible for a team—even in self-directed teams.

So how about Boss as the adjective? Boss means excellent or outstanding. If everyone can be the boss and live up to excellence or be outstanding then let’s all get name tags! An environment of results and outstanding can’t be all bad, right?

ID-10066133Now we are getting into it. Boss as the verb. To dictate. To lord over. To domineer. To push around. To browbeat. To create undue pressure. This is where the stereotype exists!

No one wants to work for a boss. Few people tolerate dictators or lords if they can help it.  No one wants second class treatment when they can be equally important. I’m sure that being pushed around or browbeat isn’t motivating for long. Bossing and managing by fear mongering works for as long as the Boss has power. Which is usually only as long as it takes employees to figure out what to do about it.

So unless you’re Bruce Springsteen, be careful about acting like a boss!

How the Outside-In® Companies Do The Whole Trust Thing

March 4th, 2015

Last week, my company celebrated a Values Holiday around our core value of Trust. Every twenty or so business days we focus our attention on reinforcing one of our twenty values. This is incredibly powerful stuff as “culture work” helps us all be mindful of expected behaviors in our workplace. I jump out of bed every single day because our values are ubiquitous to all the roles we play and all the people we meet.

Trust for me was learned behavior. Not that I was untrustworthy as a young person. I just did not understand that my very character was shaped by my words, thoughts, and actions. I remember being a young college kid just starting to date (the girl who I knew was the one, and I married her!) Kim held my up to high standard and I guess her perspective and opinion really mattered to me so I lived up to it. She simply taught me to be trustworthy by expecting it and as in any important relationship, I did not want to let her down. I think the challenge for all of us is to adopt this approach in more of the relationships in our life, not just the ones that we consider the most important!

So, I decided to do a survey on what constitutes trust in a relationship and I asked my team, “What type of actions and behaviors build trust?” Everyone has had different insights and experiences that shape them, however, all are valuable points of views. I hope you enjoy the trust thoughts as much as I did!

  1. ID-100250128Being reliable.
  2. Being up front with one another.
  3. Honesty.
  4. Constructive criticism.
  5. Do what you say you will do.
  6. When the person follows through, and does what they say they are going to do.
  7. When you do something to assist the other person, without having to be asked, or better yet, when they are not expecting it.
  8. Consistency.
  9. Reliability.
  10. Trust is something earned, not something that is given. Trust is earned over time as people prove that they are people of their word and simply that they are worthy of trust.
  11. Without a doubt, honesty builds a relationship more than anything else. Honesty is an essential building block, and without it you don’t have much, if anything!
  12. Honesty. Consistent, unwavering, believable honesty.
  13. Knowing someone on a personal level and their ability to be direct in communication.
  14. I am really impressed, and inclined to go the extra mile, when someone helps me even though it was not necessary or expected. They just helped me because they were being team-based, or simply generous. That makes me see the person differently and help them at any opportunity. It is more than returning a favor. It is more like I have elevated that person to a new level of respect. It doesn’t even have to be something done for me – it can simply be that I observed a person’s kindness when “no one was looking”. That is big for me.
  15.  Aaaahhhh Trust. Trust is like money yet more valuable. It takes time to build or accumulate, but can be blown in an instant of bad decision. What builds trust? Proving you’re trustworthy not by what you say, but by doing what you said you would do. In order to maintain trust, one must be honest, humble, and genuine.
  16. Being honest and following through while not “over-talking” others. By “over-talking,” I’m referring to talking at a higher level than necessary or for the audience to understand. Always strikes me as dishonest and that they are doing it to hide or shade over something.
  17. For me, the formation of trust occurs over time, and with effort from both sides. I think one of the reasons that our team works so well together is because we’ve developed a deep level of trust of over the past six months. We take the time to genuinely get to know each other, as colleagues and as friends. We build trust both at work and outside of work, even if it’s as simple as a 30 minute lunch where we talk about our families. An important component of building trust is earning it by following through on tasks, or being there to lend a hand without being asked. I trust that my team will support my decisions and be there if I need council. I also trust that they will not take judgement, and instead will help me to learn and grow from the situation.

Trust is a two way street. And my favorite insight from the team? Trust takes much more time to earn than it does to lose it. Gone in a moment as they say.

Take my personal challenge and try to answer the question yourself—how often do you live these suggestions in building trust? All of us can do better. What type of person are you when it comes to trust?

In order for trust to be built, you need a drive commitment from both parties. Both must be open to building and maintaining that trust. Formation of trust takes a long time, but can be lost in a matter of moments.

Trust is a regular deposit in a relationship—it must be balanced but always must be nurtured.

Top 8 Ways to Earn the Right

February 11th, 2015

ID-100249765You asked. You sent your request. You emailed, you called, you stopped by the cubicle. You said please. Should you whine, kick, and scream? Should you remind people of your self-worth and importance by using your title, tone of voice, or some other power play? Maybe you will threaten or refuse to respond to their email? Eye for eye, right? We all need to get things done. We need people to respond to our emails, come to meetings, pay invoices, and return calls. To say yes to your next step. To go on that date. To clean the room up. Every single day we must find away to get others to act on our behalf. However, they don’t always do it.

Many times, although not every time, it is because you deserve the response you got. You have not earned the right with that person—you simply want something done. There is so much going on, so many priorities, and much to compete with your need. How do you get anyone’s attention? This is the difference between average and good, between a bonus or nothing, and between being offered a promotion or being shown the door. Success is about the things we can’t see, it is about our interpersonal and relational skills.

Here are the top 8 ways to earn the right with your stakeholders (or just about anyone):

  1. Treat people like you would like to be treated. Of course this is common sense, but do you reply to emails in the same time frame you expect from others? How about returning phone calls?
  2. Respond no matter what the circumstances. Even if you do not have an immediate answer for someone, get back to them quickly and acknowledge their request. My wife often asks, “Did you hear me? I know your thinking but please acknowledge me.” I see staff get a request and scramble to find the answer or response and then get back to the inquirer much later than was comfortable. If they had just reached out to acknowledge that the other person was heard.
  3. Establish a cultural internal service level for yourself. How quickly will you get back to someone? Give yourself deadlines to improve the quality and speed of your responsiveness.
  4. Realize that in order to get something done it is easier to know the players. Invest time in key relationships with customers and associates at work. Do it proactively, with a plan, and in advance. Why? Proactivity always pays off. By the time you get to this investment you will need it.
  5. Read the book Business Relationships That Last. Ed Wallace is someone I consider a good friend. He wrote a terrific book on how every relationship can be viewed by a relational ladder—the process to relationship building.
  6. Know how much relational equity your organization has in the moment. How long has your company worked with this supplier? How long has your associate worked on this project? Your boss knows the team. What was the last meaningful attempt reset and invest in the people? Did your team deliver last time around? Score the situation and know your relational scorecard.
  7. Build your reputation and be the giver. Be the one that does the extras for the team.  Volunteer to assist team members and spend that spare time helping. Grab the extra project or workload. Invest in others.
  8. Don’t be the taker. I met some very successful soccer players when I coached. I have had sales people that sold more than their quota. And we all know those really smart, intelligent, and talented associates that never give and only take. They are always late, always delegating, and often behind. They are a hot mess and can’t seem to do a damn thing on their own and it shows. Do not be this person.

If you can’t get things done it is your fault. If you don’t hear back from others in a reasonable time, that is on you. You might need training. Perhaps you’re low on the relational ladder and you need to figure out how to climb a rung or two. My point is simple really: To get what you want you need to walk, talk, and chew gum like the other person. Lastly, you need to give and create value in an authentic way.

Image courtesy of ratch0013 at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

What Does it Mean to “Earn the Right?”

February 4th, 2015

How many of us know what earning the right actually means? Today, my son asked me if he could go to a friend’s house, and I shared a story with him instead of saying yes or no. I told him that when I want to hike all day on a Saturday with friends, I am certain to find out what I can do around the house on Friday night prior to my fun. His response was a perplexing one; he did not think that he needed to prove himself to anyone to get what he wanted. He simply wanted what he wanted. This may work with a teenager on occasion (especially when his parents get worn down from the barrage of constant requests), but it rarely works in business. The challenge here is that successful staff members figure out how earning the right works, while unsuccessful ones run out of here while the rest of the staff might just help them leave! Earning the right is one of the values that we have at the Outside-In® Companies. To be successful no matter how you define success? This is a prerequisite.

I was recently in a discussion with a colleague who had a meaningful, strategic dialogue with a long time customer of the Outside-In Companies® about how we could help them solve their workforce challenges. This is our wheel house. This is what we live for. This is what we want to do as workforce consultants all day long, every day. Unfortunately, we don’t spend all day doing this. Not all of our relationships challenge us to be our best and I sense that earning the right has 100% to do with it!

EarntheRightEarning the right is when you do the right things in a relationship to earn the privilege to ask for or expect something from someone else. This is relevant on your team. This applies if you work with other teams in the company and it certainly applies if your role is customer facing. Customer facing roles are based on relationships with existing customers, suppliers, new inquiring ones, and anyone that your business comes in close contact with.

In the world of business development and sales, the notion of earning the right is often a source of conflict for sales and service associates. Salespeople have to sell things, they need to ask for next steps and commitments and they must show forward progress. If you’re serving a customer the same is true. You must ask for commitments, information, time and calendar space, and you must be taken seriously to do the job.

Maybe you’re in a company and you need the assistance of others that are not in your team or division to help you get a project done. Although you are passionate and the project is urgent, why should anyone else care or help you? You will have to do more then plead and beg for a lending hand, that is for sure. The work starts well before your need arrives.

To earn the right, you must first understand that earning the right is on you, your cubicle mate, your leader, the founder, and even the janitor. It is critical to understand that we are always in the process of earning the right. Our actions and decisions can knock us down a few rungs on The Relational Ladder. This is a fluid and ongoing process. One that everyone uses (formal or informal) on whether we are going to say yes to anything.

This is why it can take months, years, even decades, to establish what is right with each other, prospects, and customers. Next week, we’ll be talking about the Top Eight Ways to Earn the Right!

Company Culture: Superheroes on a Mission to Mars

January 21st, 2015

ca1227df115dbb88This is the Outside-In® companies’ theme for 2015. I am Green Arrow, billionaire crime fighter extraordinaire. (We all like to play make believe, right?) I admire how he fights for good and backs the underdog—all things I aspire to do on a daily basis. Being Tony Stark or Isis at work has its perks, too. Our theme is fun and unique. However, our message is important and we want all to remember our theme and relate it to our plans and priorities. On our mission, we are very focused on being sustainable and relevant both as individuals and as a company. We really have three parts to this mission.

The first part is sustainability for our business. We want our profit to grow, we want to invest, and we want to remain resilient to economic ups and downs. We are striving to do all of these things while continuing to run our business in an Outside-In®, customer centric way. This takes success and bottom line results to execute. And we know this creates great opportunities for our people, our partners, our customers, and our stakeholders.

Part two of this mission is about our role in the community and planet around us. We care about people and our causes and we long to make a difference. What Superhero doesn’t look to our web page to see our focus supporting a different charity each month. This month, our focus is with SPARC Delaware. Helping today’s youth in the marketplace we serve with workforce skills and coaching is a direct way to lend some knowledge to our future workforce!

Our final part to the mission is about each of us as employees and our growth plans at work and at home. I know life and work can be both challenging and exciting. We want to energize and focus on our well being in many ways. We know part of this is about being Superheroes in all of our many roles as Mom or Dad, Recruiter or Leader, Board Member, Soccer Coach, or Civic Member. All of this takes energy and a plan and we are excited to help all figure out the best plan for them! This will take focus on health, exercise/nutrition, development and training at work, and a supportive culture that embraces modern workforce ideas that give staff flexibility while ensuring that the company also remains sustainable!

Your company doesn’t have a theme? Then how do you create alignment across the company and keep everyone informed on where the business is going and how you’re going to get there? Themes are not for every business, however, knowing that having fun is a big part of our culture we make it a part of our everyday lives. Traditionally, goals and plans are presented with PowerPoint presentations and Excel spreadsheets. Don’t get me wrong, these things work. However, all of us remember and retain important company information in different ways. Some like to listen, others absorb handouts and presentations, while others remember it through experience. This is where the annual theme appeals to all different types of learners!

What if There Was a “Back to Business” Holiday?

January 7th, 2015

ID-100263930Now that the holidays are behind us, I find myself waking up with the Holiday Blues. The holidays are a constant buzz of exciting activity and stimulation. All of us get so busy preparing, traveling, eating, and then recovering, that the world slowly limps into that first week or two of January. Even if you’re a Scrooge and intend to plow right through the holidays, the world around you is going to slow down so much that there will be less you can do to feel active!

Although the holidays are much needed (and well deserved) for employees, they are not very beneficial for the shareholders and customers of the business. The holiday season causes delays in production and hinders decision making due to limited staff in the office for meetings. Getting back into work and beyond the blues is easier said than done. It will take a few days to dig out from all of those emails, for schedules to free up, and for important meetings to take place. Then maybe decisions will be made and maybe next week business will be normal again.

The frantic pace that built up to the holidays when everything was either done by December 19th or left to January 2nd to deal with has officially dwindled. My point is that it has been a while since we have had a normal business week. I’m not sure we can all survive a five day work week after the frenzied rush before holidays and the post-season blues!

All joking aside, I think we are longing for some normalcy. Forget all of the January stereotypes regarding goal setting, New Year’s resolutions, and new annual business budgets that go live this month. There is so much pressure on performance both personally and professionally; yet there’s only so much we can do about it. I would like to see a business holiday formed inspired by the idea of going back to work now that the holidays are over. Everyone go to work that day and know that the playing field is equal and all businesses will be getting back to the grindstone at the same time—Imagine that!

Now that we’re back in action, we want the phones to ring, the emails to start flying, and for business to get back to normal. We all need this fast because before you know it snow and MLK day will cause the next business delay!

Everyone is a Leader—How Do You Lead?

December 31st, 2014

Everyone is a Leader is the hardest Outside-In® value to live and the most important value for us to get right! Culture is our secret sauce and our choke point. Our culture is “free.” Anyone can see it, read about it, experience it, and copy it. Then why is it so hard to mimic? Ego, success, habits, what exists, to name just a few. Giving everyone a chance to be a leader when there are so few good ones? Well, that just might be the point after all. Would you rather have one, or two, or many? I think getting all to embrace and understand the essence of leadership gives us a real marketplace advantage.

ID-100260051Imagine an organization and the advantage it could possess if its workforce dedicated itself to learning about leadership? Would growth be more manageable as key openings were easier to fill? Especially if you can fill these roles from within?

Living a value and being a great leader are obviously different. For our companies we want and expect:

  • All to have a say, especially in customer matters
  • All to learn how to make effective decisions
  • All to learn how to develop leadership capabilities
  • All to practice leadership skills

Leadership Mastery is a 10,000 hour pursuit. Thats 3 hours a day for a really long time—over ten years! Living the value of Everyone is a Leader frankly takes just as much organizational energy. But like I said if we do it well it is a free advantage that is extremely difficult to copy!

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