Last year, I was invited to become a member of Entrepreneus’ Organization (EO), a global community of business owners. While the key focus of EO is the monthly forum, one of the programs I became involved with there was Accelerator. This program is designed for entrepreneurs who have a business that does not yet qualify for EO membership. Most of these businesses would be classified as first stage ventures that have already demonstrated success, in terms of revenue and growth. More importantly, these are businesses that are being built for growth.
Over the past year, I have grown truly passionate about this program. It provides quarterly full-day learning events that are networking and solicitation free. The participants get access to high quality material and business presentations on how to grow their businesses. All of this is done at a very reasonable cost to the participants thanks to the partnership with Mercedes-Benz Financial. More importantly, it occurs in a confidential environment. The single goal of Accelerator is empowering entrepreneurs with the knowledge and skills to help grow their businesses in a smart manner. Period.
Yesterday was one of the quarterly days. The topic of discussion was strategy. A core component of that is defining corporate values.
Somewhere along the lines, I have become one of the people who believe corporate values are more than just statements on a cubicle wall. I went from the person who mocked them as jibberish corporate bullshit to wanting to have a company with values and identity that people believed in and stood behind. For us, one of our core values is the realization that all of these switches, servers, firewalls, cables, etc. are not just equipment. They are the tangible representation of people’s livelihoods. Our engineers call this the “mortgage talk” since I give an example that this cabinet is so-and-so being able to make his mortgage payment every month. It is his livelihood.
During yesterday’s session, Paul Scheiter from Hedgehog Leatherworks discussed his corporate values. His conviction to these values has led him to post them to his website. One of which is the value “No Dry Humping!”. The meaning behind the value is that his company will never hard sell a customer. They will not overload the customer with sales calls, brochures, emails, etc. You become a customer because you love the product and want to be a customer. He treats customers they way he wants to be treated.
While this has to be the funniest value I have ever heard, it also reflects his passion and commitment to the customer and perfectly reflects his target audience – outdoor survivalists. I can not imagine a survivalist who would take offense to the message. Instead, the value speaks from the heart, entices a chuckle, and contains a story about a dog and the dog’s natural reaction. What survivalist does not love dogs?
Paul might be marketing genius for his target audience or, at least, his company’s values.
I have had the good fortune of working with Paul for about a year now. In my life I have never met an entrepreneur more committed to taking care of his customers than him. All entrepreneurs can learn a lot from him.
I've often found the idea of corporate mottos, slogans, and values to also be 'jibberish bullshit' as well. As one of your engineers, the famous mortgage talk had a profound effect on me, because it's spot on the truth. If we screw up bad enough, we could potentially cost a company a significant amount of money. The point is that, the mortgage talk is real, and it's something that all of us play an integral part in within Contegix. However, when you work for a major corporation (10k plus employees let's say for fun) I think the mottos, slogans, and values become dramatically watered down. Do you really think the janitor at Wal-Mart cares at all that people depend on Wal-Mart's dirt cheap prices that helps low income families survive? Coming from similar situation in life, I can tell you that janitor doesn't care, he's just there to make an honest buck. I guess what I'm getting at is that if people don't care, then the mottos are just that.. jibberish bullshit mottos. When companies balloon to absurd sizes, employees lose touch with the bigger picture because their actions hold far less meaning. If Wal-Mart screws a customer it doesn't matter, that customer -will- be back next week, even if their screw up ripped someone out of 50 bucks. Thus the mottos mean less, because the repercussions lack weight. I suppose a good question to ask yourself might be this.. Do you think the 'mortgage talk' would hold as much weight as it does now, if you had 10 times the number of current employees AND customers? My personal hope would be that answer is yes, but with more employees, more customers, and more money in play, the lower totem pole players in the company will see your mortgage talk as... jibberish bullshit :) Nice blog post, really good read, made me think in a bit of different, enjoyable, light. Oh, and hope you don't mind me commenting on your blog. Although, I know you read mine, so all's fair. :D