On lunch breaks I sometimes catch Colin Cowherd’s radio broadcast, and a couple days ago he was following up on some analyst’s assessments of NFL football teams who keep turning the ball over. This year the Jets, Chiefs, Eagles, and Cowboys are having a hard time keeping possession of the rock. To paraphrase, Cowherd said, “I don’t think fixing turnovers is like turning on a light switch. It’s really about the culture you create.” You might see the high-flying Cowboys with their flamboyant owner (who creates their culture) or the trash-talking, blue-collarish Rex Ryan’s teams be loose with the football. Would you expect that of a Bill Belichick team, or, to use a college example, a Nick Saban coached team? What has Nick Saban brought to Alabama? He’s brought a buttoned-up, under control, professional atmosphere and his team plays like pros. The players follow the coaches personality, and his personality lines up with the culture he creates. For all their success, the offense is underrated, and we can assume that’s just how Saban would prefer it. Championship teams in professional and college football let their actions speak louder than their words. In short, they create a culture–a brand–modeled on efficiency, focus, consistency, and plain hard work.
But that’s football. In the corporate world, a famous example of brilliant success founded on the secret sauce of building a foundation on culture, is Tony Hsieh’s Zappos. Your culture is your brand, he says. Long before I knew his story, or the book, Delivering Happiness, I just knew as a consumer I always came away feeling good from my experience purchasing or returning anything to and from Zappos. Literally, I had a positive customer experience. Not lip service in which the corporation sends me some form to fill out, followed by a “customer service representative” who may add how important it is to him or her that they “get it right” and how important the rating system is to their own performance review. Is it Zappos’s system? Well, sure. But the insight Hsieh had was that for the customer to be happy, the employees themselves need to be first and foremost. While that couldn’t be easy with a company of 2,000+ employees, something seems to be working from the inside-out. Literally, everyone is satisfied and they’re profitable! Why can’t all retail be like this? In August, I ordered a couple pairs of jeans from Boden because they had some cool styles that you can’t just find just anywhere. But guess what? The items pictured in denim weren’t really the product they were selling (cords). I don’t shop much, but apparently, that’s pretty typical. Really? Then, I read all their rules and conditions for returning and how sometimes the customer will have to pay for returns, etc. I wanted my Zappos experience back! The long and short? They finally provided me with one pair of the correct jeans in a slightly different color and it took two months to finally receive them.
That’s where we’re headed with C&R Press. We’re working on innovative models of efficiency and profitability, sure. Those are the “How” questions, as Simon Sinek might say. As we re-organize and look toward the incredible opportunities in the wild west of these publishing times, we’re starting with “Why” questions. Answering those is where you connect to your passions, strengths, culture, and build the team and company you really want.
Here’s a video blog my own brother, John Prevost, did recently on the topic of how “process” only seems like the way to fix company problems, when really it’s all about the culture.