Glen Wakeman: Company Values Create The Culture

Glen R WakemanDefine your 10 commandments. And then always live by them. You are always on stage and always being watched. Be careful of the rules you make and the example you set. Everyone will follow your lead.

Articulate expected behaviors. Always hold yourself to the highest standards but do not be afraid to also be human and allow yourself to make mistakes. In order to mitigate the impacts of those mistakes on your company’s culture, express what you expect from others. They need to do more than just try to be you. Challenging people can really bring out the best in most so ask others to comply with the professional standards you have established. Staff meetings, one-on-ones and town halls are all good forums for clarifying expectations.

Treat the values like the Constitution. They should be a source of strength and pride for your organization. They should provide for continuity but be able to adapt to the times, if needed. Revisit your values each year with your team and make sure they remain relevant. If so, carry on and if not, make adjustments. Dedicate a session to just this to ensure there is depth to the discussion and importance to the topic.

Do not underestimate the importance of creating a coherent company culture. You want people to be at their best, especially when you are not around.

Delegate When The Controls Are In Place

To delegate does not mean to abdicate. You are still on the hook for the results. Contain risks if need be and be wise about when and whom you empower.

Establish authorities for key decisions and key people. Knowing who should decide what and when, is a key task of a leader. Be thoughtful about your delegations because they can be disruptive, empowering, risky, or energizing. Much has to do with the framework you establish and the understanding of the person who is taking on the role.Thus ensure that individual is not only able to decide but also understands clearly what you are asking them to decide. Always ask them to repeat back to you the problem, solution and expected outcome to avoid surprises.

Review reports on all facets of your company so that the surprises are as minimal as possible.  An ex-President once said ‘trust but verify.” That is a key component of the delegation formula. Ensure you are getting the results you want from the risk you are taking by checking the decisions are showing up in the numbers. If so, reward. If not, reassess. Waiting does not make things better.

Perform audits on a routine basis to double-check whatever you are reading or being told. It is best to do this systematically and independently, for example via audits which can clarify things much more easily. Be considerate though when using audits as they can convey a lack of trust. Audits can also help with accountability and ownership of issues. Always remember you are dealing with people and therefore you must listen and talk.

Also reinforce ownership by having feedback sessions with individuals and teams on a routine basis. They all need to hear from you. If you can get this right, you can raise your company’s IQ points by the hundreds, have more satisfied employees and a better run company. Do not try to do everything by yourself because there is plenty of help out there like this.

For Better Results, Do What The Data Tells You To Do

All achievers are hopeful and optimistic about their next great success. It is part of our DNA. But a dose of objective reality is a useful antidote to anything close to a delusional grasp on your progress. So here are a few tips to keep in mind:

Use Scorecards to keep track of the key variables that drive your company. A scorecard is a management tool that synthesizes key data like growth, operations, talent and financials in one easy to read page and gives you a snapshot of your company’s performance. It can provide you a quick and easy to understand 360 degree view of your company. It is entirely data driven and can help you get into the habit of making key decisions with data as opposed to your gut feel, aka, opinions. You don’t need to know everything to navigate a start-up; but you do need to master the important things that are essential to your company’s performance. The best way to use it is to review it daily, share with your team in staff meetings and realign priorities as you develop your business.

Perform external research to keep you current with competitors, customers and trends.  Don’t become so internally focused that you forget there is a big world out there with creatures that want to eat your lunch, want more from you or are just plain changing. Try to learn something every day about the environment you operate in and you stand a much better chance of adapting and flourishing. Looking at other’s websites, getting exit interviews of customers, and attending conferences are all practical ways to assess trends in your segment. Re-position your activities if necessary but using external data to inform your decision making will help you keep your value proposition sharp.

Review financial statements on a regular basis to make sure you have a handle on your profits. It’s all about the green at the end of the day. So make sure you know what’s going on with yours. Don’t guess. Use financial tools. Focus on the 3 key drivers of your success: revenues, expenses and cash flow. Get daily reports if you can but review your numbers monthly. Look for the unexpected changes in cash, revenues or expenses, both good and bad. There is plenty of help out there like this (link).

Built For Comfort And Speed

When a project is made, it should be with the intention of being sold. It can be tangible or intangible. It is the consequence of a process with the purpose of creating a good or service that satisfies a customer’s needs.This can take many forms. Some examples include:

  1. A tangible good, commonly known as a widget. Delivery and logistics for objects need to be expensively planned in order to reduce your risk of failing on your value prop and having costs get out of control.
  2. This is a highly-personalized experience that will depend on your ability to match demand with content and human factors. Both the message and the messenger are important and should be thoughtfully planned.
  3. There is a big difference between data (a commodity) and information (that adds insight to the data). Buyers of data will always go to the lowest cost producers with the most scale. Information providers can charge for the value of the insight. The latter will result in a far greater margin product. The point is to know the difference between the two and market accordingly.

All great companies are founded in great products. Creating a great product is a fundamental part of launching a start-up.

Money For Something

Sales are money for something. Sales are an exchange of goods or services for units of value. They are a referendum from your customers on the usefulness of your company. Every transaction affirms or denies their views or your company’s value. As a start-up, sales are a part of everyone’s job. And everyone should follow the same formula:

  1. Know your customers’ expectations. Be prepared to clearly explain the benefits of your products from the customers’ point of view. They may not agree or understand everything you are offering and may object but you can overcome objections by addressing them directly. If they have to work to figure out what is in it for them, chances are they will not make the purchase. It starts and ends with listening.
  2. Exceed your customer’s expectations. Comply with the basics and then think of something extra for your customer.  Make it happen and you will be repaid with repeat purchases. This requires a full understanding of customer needs and thereafter, where you fit in to their plans.
  3. Sales is a process of listening, building, adjusting, exchanging and listening again. It isn’t just being talkative or persuasion. It is a profession that requires listening skills, analytics, discipline and follow through. All are characteristics of a good leader; not simply a likeable person.

Developing satisfied customers are a fundamental part of building a growing company.