Beloved companies aren’t afraid to be themselves.
- They give employees permission to drop the “corporate veneer.”
- They encourage employees to take the best version of themselves to work and into their relationships with customers.
Beloved companies work hard to eliminate the feeling of “big company” and “little customer.”
From The Container Store, who urges their people to act so flexible that they give a “Gumby” award, to WestJet’s self-effacing title of “Big Shot” for their executives, the people inside these companies take their work seriously but not themselves. They revel in letting their warmth come through.
Setting the tone and giving “permission” to be this real are often the leaders inside these companies, who make it okay for everyone to do the same. At LUSH, founder Mark Constantine sets the tone for the conversations with customers. At Headsets.com, founder Mike Faith is the zealot. Even after their founders leave, beloved companies work to keep the vibe going. Trader Joe’s has stayed entrenched in their culture, even after founder Joe Coulombe retired in 1988, and then even when it was sold to German entrepreneur Theo Albrecht. In the hand- off between three CEOs—from Coulombe to John Shields and now to Dan Bane—Trader Joe’s has stayed true to who they are, to what connected them to their legions of fan-customers.
The language and communication a customer receives from the beloved companies is straightforward and uncluttered. This communication is often so unexpected that the messages they send take on a viral life of their own, such as the order confirmation sent to customers by CD Baby. Humility, at times humor, and, almost always, lack of pretense or protocol define personal interactions with people inside the beloved companies, because they’ve been encouraged to be themselves. You only have to be on one or two Southwest Airlines flights to know how much the company celebrates the humorist in their employees and encourages them to bring that to work with them.
By being willing to work “without a net” of corporate language and protocol, the beloved companies opt to build relationships between people.
These decisions and actions embody what is behind the beloved companies who are authentic and real. They take what informs their personal decisions with them into business. They let their roots influence decision making. People call upon their personal experiences to inform their behavior. And they blend it with their business acumen to accomplish extraordinary outcomes.
Companies who decide to be real pull customers and employees to them.
Where Are You Today?
- Do leaders blend who they are as people with how they lead?
- Would you want to read your invoices, bills, or contracts?
- How are customers greeted when they call your company?
- Are people scripted or guided?
- Do you discuss customers or contracts? Insurance policies or families?