Meet Miguel: He’s the new project manager you hired two weeks ago. When asked during the interview why he wanted to change jobs, he told you one of the top reasons was that he had heard yours was a great company for employees and customers alike. That (along with a little bit more money) made his mind up.
On the other side of the desk, you had heard through the supplier grapevine that Miguel was a hard charger who’d do just about anything to keep a job on schedule. He made sure the necessary materials and supplies were on hand and supervised every stage of the install.
Rained out for a day? He’d keep the crew there a few extra hours the next day, and sometimes the day after, to make up that lost time. It seems like a great fit when you invite him to join the team.
But soon it becomes clear that Miguel’s nose-to-grindstone strength has a disadvantage in his role as project manager: He’ll do just about anything to avoid contact with customers. He’d started out in homebuilding, where he rarely, if ever, interacted with the homeowner.
You hired him for his gumption and skills, but now it's clear that some of those don't mesh with how your company does business. Your process requires the project manager interact with the homeowner from the minute he receives the job folder to the end of the job.
The end is key, because it's when he conducts a walkthrough and asks the customer to fill out a satisfaction survey and write an online review. That process helps you generate a roughly 50 percent repeat/referral rate.
So it’s clear after two weeks that if you don’t somehow reconcile these two approaches, one of two things will happen: Miguel will get frustrated or intimidated and leave, or your repeat/referral rate will suffer.
Your company’s homeowner-centric culture what separates you from competitors, so it's important that Miguel learn how to operate within it. Culture, however, is a vague word. A hammer is a hammer, but what is a "company culture"?
There are all sorts of definitions out there, but let’s start with this one: “Company culture is the personality of a company," according to Alison Doyle, of The Balance. "It defines the environment in which employees work.” That culture, she continues, includes “work environment, company mission, value, ethics, expectations, and goals.”
To go a little deeper, let's explore what "value" means. According to Forbes contributor Erika Andersen, value comes down to “what’s important to you about how you conduct business” and how employees “interact with each other.”
Customer service is important to your company, for instance, because with a good repeat/referral rate, you’re spending only 5 percent of revenue to get new business rather than the 15 percent you could be spending if previous customers didn’t send family and friends your way.
An owner can either create and shape that culture, or allow it to find its own form, but be intentional in what you choose. “Organizational culture comes about in one of two ways,” writes Brent Gleeson, also for Forbes. “It’s either decisively defined, nurtured, and protected from the inception of the organization; or—more typically—it comes about haphazardly as a collective sum of the beliefs, experiences, and behaviors of those on the team. Either way, you will have a culture. For better or worse.”
This Is The Way We Do Things
So superior customer service is what your organization is about. Long-term employees know it and live it, but what about newbies such as Miguel? Unless you or another team member explains things, Miguel may get off on the wrong foot and soon leave with a bad taste in his mouth. Not only have you lost a potential superstar, but these days it’s tough finding someone with great skills and a serious work ethic.
If you don't take the time to familiarize him with your organization’s goals, and explain how those relate to the overall company vision, the procedures are going to seem arbitrary. "Why do I need to check in with the homeowner every day?" Miguel might think. "I’m here to get this roof on."
It may seem to him that how you do things only keeps him from accomplishing the thing he does best: finish jobs on time and to spec. At other companies where he’s worked, customer satisfaction ranked low on the priority list. Sticking to the schedule was at the top.
Know Where You’re Going
Lots of definitions of vision exist, but if you have a picture of your company in the future—you see your business as the area’s go-to roofer for owners who only want to deal with professionals, for example—you have something that “describes what you are trying to build and serves as a touchstone for your future actions,” writes Susan Ward, also of The Balance.
A vision statement gives you an immediate sense of purpose as well as, Ward says, “the framework for all your strategic planning.” Few business experts dispute its importance. “From Disney’s ‘to make people happy’ to Instagram’s ‘capture and share the world’s moments,’ well-crafted vision statements are at the heart of every successful company,” Paul Fernandez points out in Business News Daily. Such statements “encapsulate the core ideals that give a business its shape and direction and provide a roadmap to where it wants to go.”
So write out your vision statement, and add it to relevant company documents and the website. If employees have question, address them as necessary. It becomes a lot easier to explain your company's unique vision to new employees if you don't have to start from scratch each time.
For your company's vision, you might settle on: Customer service is not the top priority for many exterior remodeling companies. Getting the job done usually tops the list, but we know that's only half the job. The other half— taking the time to communicate with customers, treat them courteously, and deal fairly with issues as they come—is the one that generates new business.
On A Mission
So, let’s say your vision is to be that go-to roofer for customers who expect the kind of professionalism from a contractor that they’d get from their doctor. Since a vision needs to be achievable, how will you do it?
This is where the mission statement comes in. “Good mission statements should be clear, concise, and useful,” notes a blogger for Top Nonprofits. Keep it simple, and make sure you have a way to track and measure if it's working (customer reviews are key for this).
Let’s say you settle on, “To provide homeowners with jaw-dropping service.” That gets straight to the point and can easily be put into practice. Now that that’s in place, how do you communicate it to not just the customers, Miguel, and other new staffers, but to all employees?
There are lots of ways, including adding it to your onboarding materials and website, as mentioned earlier. Marissa Levin, founder of business coaching company Successful Culture, suggests nine others in an Inc article, including setting up a formal training that “conveys the company’s commitment, and also dedicates the time needed to explain how the values originated and what their significance is to the company.”
Show them how it makes the critical difference in achieving business success. For instance, reinforce the message in your sales process, and in communications to customers and employees. And, Levin writes, “incorporate the values into your hiring process.”
That your company prioritizes customer service should not be something Miguel discovers after a few weeks. It needs to be front and center when you’re hiring him, and during the onboarding process. You can also recognize, at company meetings and in emails, employees cited by customers in reviews. And if those reviews are highly favorable, why not cut them a check?
Don’t forget that your own behavior sets the standard, too. All these strategies will let Miguel know that because your company operates differently, the expectations are different as well.
“For employees to become true brand ambassadors, they must know what a company stands for, not just what a company does,” writes Maree Jones, of Luckie ReThinkTank. “Only then can they communicate that message to other employees, friends and family, potential employees and external stakeholders.”