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Tips from SCORE: Concepts to Keep in Mind to Create a Culture of Excellence

Published August 27, 2023

employees working together

Tom Peters was my management guru along with Peter Drucker. When Peters wrote “In Search of Excellence” it was like light bulbs going on one at a time with each chapter to create a giant focus on what makes a business great. He was followed by Jim Collins in his landmark book “Good to Great.” When you take these three masters of business culture that drive business towards excellence you have more than a traditional MBA in shared content.

Owning and managing a small business on Cape Cod is a study in survival, profitability, efficiency and productivity given the seasonality of our business climate. However, if you think in terms of creating a culture that focuses on excellence then you can look to the next step in the lifecycle of your business rather than day-to-day survival. You can look to one that exists in a yearlong environment, not just “the season.” What makes a culture of excellence?

Customer-first is not just a slogan, but an attitude

Be customer-focused. Everything in business starts with customers. What is the problem the customer is experiencing and how can you solve it. Strategyzer teaches us to identify the value proposition we are offering our target customers to address their pains. If we are focused on the customer and not us, then we are driving towards excellence since their needs, wants and desires are being addressed first. Customer-first is not just a slogan. It has to be how you and your employees live your business life.

Happy employees make happy customers. Happy employees means they find value in their work, they are engaged in the process of reaching your business’ mission and feel they contribute to the success of the venture. When they have a smile on their face as a customer enters your business, either physically or virtually, the customer has a smile knowing their needs will be addressed. By having an engaged workforce they meet customers where they want to be focusing on their needs.

Hire for culture, train for skills.

The president emeritus of Southwest Airlines, Colleen Barrett reports, “we hire for listening, caring, smiling and knowing how to say ‘Thank You.’” This is the culture of the airline. It is what flyers expect when they interact with an employee. It is their brand based on customer first values. You can always teach someone how to operate the safety systems, serve customers drinks and address customer travel issues, but you cannot teach them to be customer focused.

Leaders are people-oriented. Excellent businesses are people-oriented, not thing-focused. Whether it be customers or employees, leaders of companies that achieve excellence have people as their primary focus. They value customers who become loyal fanatics and employees who live the culture of the business’ brand.

Leaders don’t have bad days. We all know that businesses have good days and those not so good, or even bad ones. Excellent business leaders focus on positivity as they interact with both customers, employees and partners. We hear about glass half full and half empty attitudes. Leaders who view their world from the former perspective create positive environments that see challenges as possible, not impossible. They see the solutions in the problem, not negativity in the challenge.

Listen to the introverts, too. Just because someone is loud doesn’t mean they are right or even have something of value to say. Those that are quiet are most likely listening, evaluating and generating ideas on what next steps or solutions might be considered. A culture that values the “quiet ones” is one that is inclusive and encourages engagement from everyone.

Contributed by Marc L. Goldberg, Certified Mentor, SCORE Cape Cod & the Islands, www.score.org/capecod, capecodscore@scorevolunteer.org, 508/ 775-4884. Free and Confidential Mentoring, webinars and workshops.

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