Here comes another story. Of course. This one may be like one or more you have experienced in your company. It is a story about focus upon the customer, first. And about reinforcing the culture of the company in support of that important focus by senior management, and by all employees who see that leadership in action…
Some examples of celebration you can use
Growing companies give rise to many events that great managers will take advantage of to create and shape the culture of the company itself. Each new plateau in revenue growth, each time a month’s orders hit a record, each large order from the sales department, all of these and more give rise to opportunities to celebrate publicly. Everyone in a stressful corporate environment loves to pause and relish the latest victory.
My personal story of celebration
Each time our company would hit a new milestone, I would make a public announcement personally, then, with my payroll person in tow, walk the floors of the various company buildings handing out $50 or $100 bills to all employees as instant bonuses. You wouldn’t believe how much people seemed to enjoy the boss’s visits. The goodwill created and buzz that continued for days were well worth the small cost.
Everyone got the message: growth is great, and everyone is treated equally in celebrating. Each distant or foreign office was included, although not often enough with personal delivery services. This is different from “managing by walking around,” which requires no reason or structure other than the willingness to listen and learn from people on the line.
How about that bell on the wall?
Many companies have a bell hung somewhere in or near the sales bull pen, rung each time a sale is consummated. Managers should encourage everyone within the hearing of the bell to stop long enough to applaud, reinforcing the unanimity of approval for each new sale.
An event of extraordinary customer service
Victories that shape a company’s culture can take many forms. Years ago, an emergency phone call was directed to my office from our distributor in Australia. Their largest customer, Hamilton Island Resort, had just suffered a fire that destroyed the building containing their large minicomputer installation. No-one was injured, and there was a backup from the night before stored in a safe location. But there was no replacement machine in Australia, and each day that guests checked out without paying their bills amounted to a day where cash flow was at least temporarily reduced by at least $250,000, not a small amount as it accumulated.
Simultaneously, we had a new machine with identical specs on the shipping dock for a Florida installation at a property whose managers were pushing the company for an instant delivery. I made the decision without pause to redirect the shipment to Australia that day. Then I immediately called the CEO of the Florida customer to explain. Not too happily, he acquiesced.
Everyone within the company knew of the problem and of our instant reaction to aid our customer, even in the light of pressure from the Florida customer now back in line for shipment. We oversaw the successful installation in Australia the next day in a temporary building and our people helped key in data subsequent to the backup.
Customer first, always!
Everyone knew from management’s actions and their own efforts that the customer comes first, always. This story has a second happy ending. We engineered a rerouting of the Florida order a week later so that the computer to be shipped would be the 1,000th of its model. Before packing it in its large shipping crate, we held a party in the shipping dock for all employees, with streamers and cake and the world’s largest greeting card – hundreds of sheets of continuous form computer paper, which every employee from software programmer to shipping clerk signed with a message of thanks and goodwill for the Florida customer’s sacrifice. That week, we scored two great customer stories and more goodwill throughout the organization. And most of all, we reinforced the culture of focusing all actions and activity on the needs of the customer.
Victories come in many shapes, sometimes when least expected. Celebrate them all.