Monday, June 4, 2012

Binding the tribe: The ties that bind in 5 easy core values

As you will learn over the course of this blog, the key factor in achieving triple-digit growth all melts down into one definable difference -- the quality, passion, knowledge, and shared values of the team. It's cliché to reduce it all to people. But at Stroll, we are obsessive about the people we attract, and their ability to think strategically and tough it out when things get difficult.

To bind our tribe, we started by reducing our company to five key core values, guiding principles of our company that every employee knows and can repeat. These five core values serve as our organizational compass, a way to chart our future and share our vision among ourselves. They drive who we hire. How they attack their work. Who is rewarded, and ultimately, how our business has managed to grow at a compound annual rate of 73 percent since 2002. What they are:

1. Strategy-mindedness. Simply stated, strategy-mindedness is being an expert on what's going on throughout the company so employees can do their jobs better. At Stroll, we are big believers in employee transparency, and we share every material fact about the business with employees. They know our numbers every day. They understand the challenges. They revel in our successes and work to overcome the challenges. But they can only do this when they understand the broad vision of the company, its go-forward strategy, and their role in it. We unlock their ability to think strategically to overcome a challenge and to constantly optimize our standard operating principles. Great ideas percolate to the top when employees understand how small incremental improvements can be compounded over time to unleash huge growth gains for the company.

2. Mental toughness. High growth is a high wire act. We are constantly running at our limits, bumping up against the boundaries of our own creativity, capital, and know-how. That's the very definition of high stress. We want employees who can remain calm and carry on, regardless of the pressure. In a world in which we can grow more in a month than most companies do in a year, the tendency is to give into emotion, lose objectivity. But in reality, by remaining cool, relying on the team, and working with a plan, you can achieve much more than if you lose control. Stay tough.

3. Ownership thinking. At Stroll, we empower employees to think and act as an owner and to take corrective action that is in the best interest of the company without needing permission. When our employees see something that is not in our best interest, they speak up. Take action. By being transparent and sharing information, we ensure that the team understands that it's up to them to achieve our loftiest of goals -- to exceed $1 billion in sales by 2020. Only they can take the actions needed to get us there, and they do it as any owner would -- through decisions that ensure the good of the company, and in turn, the team.

4. Results oriented. Another cliché? It's one thing to say, "We're results oriented." The problem is that most organizations never teach their employees how to achieve the broad results that a high-growth company truly needs to achieve its goals. It's more the Pavlovian approach to motivating employees. Employee sees prey. Employee captures prey. Employee gets reward. At Stroll, it's much more scientific and valid than that. Instead, we teach our employees how to source and apply the best practices to getting the prey with ever increasing efficiency. Some of those best practices come from me, and my obsession with learning about the outside world. At heart, I am a seeker and teacher. I am constantly outside the company, networking with thought leaders, reading their books, attending their seminars, and befriending them in order to glean new ways and workable solutions. But we also urge our employees to source their own best practices. We pay for the books they want to read. We budget and send them to industry conferences. We constantly push them to bring us new ideas that can ensure the end result and keep moving our growth trajectory skyward.

5. Being the best. Our final core value relates to the professional every employee aspires to become. And to help our people realize that status, we specifically define our measure of the best. Put simply, we want employees who lead the industry, not just follow the pack. We want to develop our own though leaders, professionals who, instead of simply attending conferences, speak at conferences. We want employees who don't just download and read white papers. We want them to author white papers. And rather than simply reading about the industry, we want our people to appear in the media our industry is reading. We want them out front, ahead of the crowd, setting the agenda. We want them to be the best, so we establish the criteria and measure against it. When you master your craft, you're prepared for whatever comes your way. Megan Starr, Stroll's HR and Recruiting Manager, will be discussing some of these HR best practices in upcoming posts.

In previous posts, I spoke about the importance of creating the culture and how this step is often more important than the product, service, or innovation a hypergrowth company ultimately delivers to its customers. Next, we'll talk about goal setting and the role it plays in creating triple-digit growth.

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