We are Defined by Three Customers.
We consider everyone we work with a customer – whether you are a client, an employee, or a vendor. All 3 perspectives add value and are integral to the success of our business.
Sometimes a value is perfect because it causes such debate and controversy. Defined by 3 Customers seems to be that value for our companies. The origins come from the desire to change the way company leaders and employees have typically thought about making decisions, and to alter the perception on who is considered most important in the business. Is it the vendor? Is it the customer? How about employees?
Just depends on your point of view I guess. For me it was simple to think differently. My desire was to create balance and equality – to value all the same, and to use this sameness to allow the business to have balanced thinking. What would the impact be for employee customers? For our vendors? For paying customers?
In the past, I have worked with customers that put their stock price and shareholders first, and it showed in how they treated employees in big and small ways. In big ways, employees were numbers and disposable. In small ways, their needs, wants, ideas, desires and passions, if important, seemed to come second. This is frankly still the case for many companies today.
The other common point of view is that there is only one customer. So don’t cloud the issue on this. A customer is a customer. An employee is an employee. A vendor/partner is just that—a vendor/partner. I see the logic to the argument. But our goal is not clarity in words. We aspire to show the world we have a goal to be different and to value that difference in how we run our company!
By the way, this goes on all day long – in every facet of our business, in fact. There is magic in this message. I am often told and challenged about the vendor/partner part. Why do we need to treat them special or go out of our way to stand out? When it comes down to crunch time and when you really need them they remember it. You take care of vendors by paying them promptly. By communicating effectively. By building unique relationships. Our goal is to pay our vendors in 10 days whenever possible. Some goals take longer than others. As we grow, build the business and cash, this will become a guarantee!
Everyone has a choice to work wherever they want and for their own unique reasons. I want a place to come everyday where I can brag about our ongoing commitment to run our business while taking into account our three customers: paying customers, vendors, and employees. Sure, we can overcharge our customers, and get away with it for the short-term. We can stop communicating with employees and tell people what to do—for a brief period. We can screw vendors by asking them to discount severely on one deal. But they won’t come back the next time. We face this ethics challenge each and every day. We have to find the equilibrium.
When you work in a growing, changing, stretching entrepreneurial company it is impossible to apply ironclad rules of thought to everything. This value has been challenged, and I have dealt with our imperfections. Try telling employees that you are Defined by 3 Customers when you need to discuss reducing headcount due to a recession. On the vendor side, I have taken the calls from our partners when they feel shunned or ignored when we were not direct enough with our feedback on their performance.
This is not about the pursuit of perfection. You will not always make the right decision. This is the nature of decision-making. We should all move to Vegas if we could get it right each and every time and win big. This is about your mindset. About having a belief that when you’re in a spot to make decisions or work on a project that you will think with all 3 Customers in mind as you wrestle with finding compromises and plans that treat all customers as if they matter for the long term!