I believe in principled actions. I believe in values-based leadership. And I believe both are fundamentals for creating business value, and, ultimately, profits.
I base this statement solely on theory. I have not done any research of my own on the subject, but I have reached out to Malcom Gladwell to propose that he and I get together and collaborate on the book that will define the issue. (Hey, a guy can dream right?)
So here is my baseless argument:
Let’s say you determine your new business’ values to be empowerment of employees to make decisions, taking care of the customers who care, and integrity above everything. You make all of your business decisions based on these three principles. When customers or job applicants come to you, they know what to expect. No matter what the issue, these three values define the business. Period.
Add in a little business savviness, and where does this put you? In the game, that’s where.
Here’s why: If you have a competitor who guns for the same exact market with a similar product and will do anything to make a profit, I believe you will win. Why? Values. Your customers can return items they’re not happy with without limitation. No time limit, no receipt. The other guys? You have to return within 15 days with a receipt and with the package unopened. That’s interesting – I can’t imagine the customer being able to determine the quality of the product and still have the ability to return given those requirements.
And your other customer that has placed ~10 orders in the past year forgot about their friend’s birthday two days from now and is ordering late. They tell your salesperson the story on the phone. How does your employee respond? She writes a note to your customer about the online feature that can send reminders about upcoming important dates, gets the order in the mail today, and does it with free shipping. (Without needing permission.) Your competitor? Overnight shipping is $14.99 and they aren’t in any hurry to get it out. They have a standard process, and it doesn’t change for anyone… That would be less efficient, and, hence, less profitable.
This is what I believe. This is how I will run a business if I’m ever the one in charge. And once I am, maybe Malcom and I will get together to show you the proof for why it works. For now, I’ll give you a pretty convincing argument: Chick-Fil-A is just another fast food chain with values.
(Thanks to Austin Kleon, Seth Godin, Tim Ferriss and a WSJ editorial article from the past two weeks for the inspiration for this post. It brings together ideas from all, none of which are originally mine… Aside from the made up values of our made up business.)