This post was originally written for the virgin.com blog in 2010.
We spend roughly half our lives working.
Lots of people see their work as just a way to earn money they don’t like what they do for eight hours a day and they work to finance the better part of their life, spare time. Many companies have a similar purpose to make as much profit as they can, preferably as fast as possible. But is this the right approach?
Profit, profit profit! But what about the other two?
I see a lot of companies who only have one purpose: to maximise their profit. Thats it. The more money you make, the more you can buy, the faster you can grow. Of course, as an entrepreneur myself, I know its important to have your figures right. But making money as a goal is simply not the only reason why I started my company eleven years ago. Indeed, its one of the last reasons.
I believe that the other Ps of the triple bottom line, namely people and planet, are just as important. Making a positive difference to peoples lives is one of my personal goals. Im using the vehicle of a company as one of my tools to achieve this.
It’s great to make people happy, even one at a time, just because you can. Happy people care more, more about their families their friends and eventually about their world, our world. This is something we all want, isnt it? Everyone can have his own share in this. Start small, start within your own abilities.
Happy people at work really works
If you want people to be happy at work, there has to be a culture where people can be themselves, where they feel confident, safe and respected, where they can be happy. Just a nice place where you want to work. This works both ways if people feel great, they are much more likely to do things for each other. If they like what they do people talk about this and share their stories. It’s the best advertisement you can get as a company. Culture as your new USP.
Welcome to the new open world of the internet
Due to the Internet people and companies are becoming more and more transparent. If someone has a bad experience with a company, he or she has lots of tools to publicise this. With social tools like Facebook or Twitter, the news will be spread very quickly. But the reverse is true as well. A great story can reach thousands of people within a few hours.
It’s not possible for you as a company to keep track of all the outgoing messages. Probably you can set some rules at work, but when someone is tweeting a rude message to his followers while hes drunk in a bar, there is really nothing you can do about this. And believe me, you don’t want to.
Its much more efficient to work on your culture — if you get your culture right, everything else will come naturally. Your culture really is one of the most important things of your company, it’s who you are, its why customers choose you. Build a great company which you would want to do business with yourself. If you get this right, your culture is right.
This all starts with your employees, because together you are your culture. So hire people who fit into your culture. For me it’s no problem to hire a Secretary who cant type if she fits into the culture. Ill ask her to go for a two-day typing course and the problem is solved. Think about what could go wrong if she doesn’t fit in to your culture while answering the phone for your company.
Im a big fan of Tony Hsieh, CEO of Zappos. Zappos is an online retailer which sells shoes and clothing. They decided not to be an online retailer, but to be the company with the best customer service and the best customer experience there is. When they hire new people, they offer them $ 2,000 to quit right after their first week of training. They want to be sure people have the right attitude and don’t go for just a paycheque. They have to believe in the vision and core values of the company. This is a great example of how culture can work for a company.
Five lessons, five tips
Its all about creating the right conditions. Culture is something you cant copy, every culture is unique and in any company its already there. Remember you cant build a culture; you only can focus on creating the right conditions. The five lessons I have learned so far:
- Define and share your own core values. It’s important that everyone commits to your culture. So create your own core values together with your team. Listen to people, ask them what they think your core values are. Remember that core values are not rules to follow, they represent who you are.
- Create commitment. Lots of big companies have their own values but don’t stick to them. It’s in their annual report or written on the wall on the top floor. This is completely meaningless. Make them important, really commit your company to your culture. Make them so important that you hire or fire people based on your core values.
- Define a higher purpose. Make people part of something which is bigger than yourself or your company. Innocent drinks, a company that makes smoothies, tell their customers there is a higher goal then just making money.
- Create a mantra instead of a mission statement. It’s much easier for everyone to understand. Mission statements are expensive, in every way. They’re not working anymore. Watch this inspiring movie from Guy Kawasaki and create your own mantra.
- As always, the devil is in the details. So make someone responsible for details. If you have time, do it yourself, its that important. Get inspired by Rory Sutherland in his Ted talk about why big problems require simple answers.
In the end, do what you like
In this world, there is no reason to do something you don’t like, so do what you like. There are possibilities everywhere. Find something which is near to your heart and go for it. Work is more than earning money, just as a company is more than just making money. It’s the best of both worlds. Don’t earn money to live, but earn money while you live the best life you can.