A friend of mine told me a story about his wife and their 3-year old daughter, Emily, grocery shopping. As the story goes, Emily was riding in the kid seat of the cart that her mom was pushing. As they rounded the end of one aisle to make their way up another, Emily’s mom narrowly avoided a collision with another shopper’s cart. My friend’s wife was quick to apologize to the other shopper and moved on.
But, as she and Emily took a couple steps down the next aisle, the little 3-year old blurted out something she’d heard her dad say any number of times when he was frustrated with drivers on the road…“Butthead!”
Embarrassed, Emily’s mom felt extremely fortunate they were out of earshot of the other shopper. Even though I chuckled when my buddy told me the story, his wife was not amused and he most definitely heard about it when she got home from the store.
When my son was very young, I can remember a couple inopportune times when he’d say or do something he had picked up from watching or listening to me. I’m guessing there are more than a few parents who can also relate to that type of embarrassment. Kids say the darndest things—and so often it’s something they’ve picked up from us. Remember the “Oh fudge” scene from “A Christmas Story?”
Hence the expression, “little pitchers have big ears.” A reminder that as parents, or adults in general, we must be aware of who is watching us at all times because there’s a strong possibility that a little someone might repeat our behavior and language. That’s the way it is with kids. They learn from observing the actions of others.
As parents or guardians, we set the tone for the culture in which our kids are raised. That culture, the shared values and beliefs of the family, and respect for one another are what they will take with them into the outside world beyond the boundaries of the home. But, actions are stronger than words and a family’s culture is ultimately reinforced by the day to day, hour to hour and minute to minute example a parent sets through their behavior, actions and deeds. After all, family culture is established from the top down.
The culture of a company or business is formed in much the same way as it is within a family unit. The behavior, attitude and actions of staff members will mirror that of the company leaders.
Bruce Jones, Senior Programming Director, for the Disney Institute agrees. Writing for the Harvard Business Review, Mr. Jones says,
“Leaders must be intentional, proactive, and authentic when it comes to fostering an environment that supports the culture they want to cultivate in their workplace. Why? Because if leaders are not purposeful, the organization’s culture can become a “culture by default,” often dictated by the current workplace environment.”
One can have an innovative culture, a creative culture, or even a toxic culture, and it likely stems from the behavior and actions demonstrated by the leaders of the organization.
Leaders Lead The Way.
It all boils down to one vital message for you as a business owner or as the leader of an organization. To avoid embarrassing moments that can severely damage your company’s reputation as a brand, it’s imperative to lead the way; to be deliberate in how you define and shape a culture that establishes values and a structure that support your business goals. And then, to influence others to follow your direction through leading by example.
Treat your employees with the same respect, dignity and care as you’d like them to show towards each other and your customers.
Like family culture, behavior in a business environment has a trickle-down effect.
When your staff feels appreciated and cared for they are more likely to reciprocate through respect and appreciation of each other. They’ll also convey that same respect, care and appreciation to your customers. If you’re a sole proprietor without a staff, then the burden is on you to create an environment that mirrors the culture of your business, so your customers will feel like more than just a transaction.
Sir Richard Branson, founder of the Virgin Group, which controls more than 400 companies built around happy work forces says,
“Your employees are your company’s real competitive advantage. They’re the ones making the magic happen–so long as their needs are being met.”
You’d be hard pressed to find fault with that bold statement. As a matter of fact, research indicates that satisfied employees are more productive, more efficient, will work harder, contribute more, and have better attendance records. When entrusted with the power of autonomy, they’ll feel even more appreciated and become more loyal.
Corporate Culture At five Below.
A notable example of Branson’s business philosophy can be seen in practice at a retail store that has popped up in several locations across the country called five Below. five Below is one of the fastest growing retailers in the country with more than 630 stores in 32 states. According to the five Below website, the company even anticipated cutting the ribbon on approximately 125 new stores in 2018. That’s an impressive goal for a company that sells everything in its stores for $5.00 or less.
Unlike a lot of deep discount stores, five Below stores shout out fun. They’re a vibrant, colorful and high-energy destination that are also immaculate and well organized. When customers enter the store, the cashier is quick to greet them with a very warm and genuine, “Welcome to five Below.” The manager is always in view of the customers, typically stocking or sorting the shelves. If you need help finding an item, there’s a team member nearby to help you find it. If you decide to return an item after the purchase, the cashier will happily (literally, happily) refund it with no questions asked.
Here’s what I think makes five Below so unique.
Each store employs a Customer Experience Manager (CEM) whose primary responsibility is to promote a work environment that will “Wow the Customer” and “make a difference in the lives of others.”
I have no idea what the employees of five Below get paid per hour or what benefits they may or may not receive, but it’s clear through their smiles and attitude that they are emulating a company culture that is focused on the happiness and well-being of not just the customer, but of the company’s workforce and the community; donating substantial sums of money from their sales to charities with missions focusing on kids.
The top down adherence to that win-win-win, workplace environment at five Below is why it has become a regular occurrence for their team members to be engaged and proactive at delivering extraordinary experiences that transform casual shoppers, both young and old, into loyal, raving fans—who enthusiastically share the story of the customer experiences they’ve enjoyed with others. (Just like I’m doing with you.)
Your business can enjoy this same culture and level of customer and staff loyalty plus word-of-mouth marketing.
As a business owner/leader in the service or retail industries, the delivery of extraordinary customer experiences begins with you and the shared values and beliefs of the people within your organization.
Much like a parent, you are the most visible and most looked to example setter for the culture you want your “family” to project. That culture is solidified through your behavior and attitude—always respecting that “actions speak louder than words.”
In the words of Simon Sinek,
“There are only two ways to influence human behavior: you can manipulate it or you can inspire it.”
Employees who perform at the highest level within your organization are inspired by a cause greater than employment—they feel a sense of purpose, they feel secure and they feel that they can genuinely make a positive difference in the lives of others. That’s a culture that promotes employee engagement, value and respect. Those individuals aren’t motivated to “WOW” your customers through extraordinary experiences solely out of respect to your business. They also do it out of respect to the culture and “family” unit where they feel they belong.
If you promote a culture that encourages and inspires everyone to deliver their best work, you’ll find that they will do exactly that and that your customers will be happier for it.
How do you lead the way to reinforce the right culture for your business? As always, I invite your questions and feedback in the comments section below..
Ron Ruth | Keynote Speaker, Customer Experience Design Consultant & Coach, Founder of the #Inspiramaginativity Institute.
Contact Ron to speak at your upcoming event or to provide a personalized, Customer Experience training session for you and your team – email [email protected] or call (816) 224-4487.
“Ron is a fun and informative presenter who engages audiences with demonstrations of #Inspiramaginativity—a blending of inspiration, imagination and creativity— and a powerful tool for sparking innovative solutions to the greatest business challenges and for transforming satisfied customers into loyal, raving fans.” – Rick Brewer, WeddingBusinessMarketing.com