The customer is the most important priority…right? As the leader of a small start up company, I was under the impression that as long as I priortize the customer everything else would fall into place. It is said that more waking hours are spent at work than at home (DEPRESSING). In a nutshell, you are married to your company and those you work with (EVEN MORE DEPRESSING). Once faced with this reality, I determined that my approach to leading a household could be useful in leading a group of people at work.
I was once given the advice, “never allow your household to revolve around the kids…prioritize your marriage and the kids will adapt and unknowingly learn through your example.” BEST ADVICE EVER! Kid centered homes have, somehow, taken over households across America. “Giving your kids a better life than you had” has turned into an obsession that, I believe, is producing entitled narcissistic humans. I digress… In my house, I take it upon myself to prioritize my wife, first. Yes, I have kids and yes I would lay down my life for them but my wife is #1. If I can show my kids the love, work and sacrifice it takes to be in a relationship AND if I can make their mother happy (the one whose #1 priority is the kids), will I not have done my job as a father?
Thus far, I have structured my leadership role, in business, much like my marriage. My staff is my spouse and the customers are the kids. By prioritizing my people first, I am showing them how to transfer that love to the customer. My goal is to create optimal environments where making mistakes, achieving success, and professional growth coexist. Of course, I talk to customers and my end goal is to create superior customer experiences, but once I realized that I cannot do it on my own…that I will get further by training a group of people who want that same outcome…I found my place as a corporate leader. With this said, I have three words I use to guide me when Loving People…my people.
H.A.G. (nice, right?) Hospitality, Anatomy, Grace.
Create great experiences. Like I said before, I make it my mission to create environments that are comfortable and lend themselves to creatvity, growth and efficiency. To this day, myself along with my wife and kids, clean the office at FabACab. Not only did I want to use this as a teaching opportunity for my 7 year old, I also saw it as a way to serve my staff by preparing the workspace before their arrival on Monday morning. We fill and replenish the drinks in the refrigerator, stock the shelves with snacks, gum and mints as well as scrub toilets and sweep floors. Sure, we could hire someone to do the same thing, but I enjoy serving them in this small way. I credit my mom for instilling in me the art of hospitality. We always joke that my mom is “the hostess with the mostess.” Making everyone feel important and at ease. She thoroughly enjoys creating experiences for others to thrive. Whether it is a dinner, a holiday or simply staying the night in her home, be prepared to walk away replenished. Hospitality establishes credibility and pleasant environments promote growth. By showing what true heartfelt love is, through hospitality, my staff will unknowingly transfer this love over to our customers.
Have structure. I love the definition of Anatomy in reference to corporate structure: “the arrangement of and relations between the parts or elements of something complex.” It doesn’t maTer how small or large a company is, without the appropriate anatomy, the greater whole won’t work. There has to be a structured map before the group can collectively operate. We launched FabACab with 4 people. Before launch, I ensured that everyone had a title and job description. Everyone thought that I was crazy because we barley knew our own business, but I was determined that everyone would know their responsibilities. Now, reviews and revisions to the job descriptions happen every 6 months… continuously evolving and learning the anatomy of our corporation.
Expect mistakes. For someone (like myself) that sets out for perfection, disappointment is a certainty when starting a business or leading a group of people. Be willing to accept the outcome but without change, mistakes can be detrimental. As long as the mistake doesn’t continue to repeat itself, much can be gained from “learning the hard way.” When we launched FabACab, we thought we had it all figured out. We soon learned that we did not, and quickly learned how to extend grace to one another. If it weren’t for grace, we would be out of business because we made a lot of mistakes. Now, I require that we discuss and take away a change from every mistake. This model has allowed steady and sturdy growth.
At the end of the day, I don’t pretend to have it all figured out. What I do know is that my staff is underpaid and overworked BUT they are happy, loved and feel valued. I stopped by my office one night last week and half of the staff was still working… 3.5 hours past closing! No complaints, no hesitation… They truly LOVE our business and make it their mission to see it succeed. With all of the “get rich quick” schemes and “titans of industry/self help books” on the market, it’s easy to lose sight of the simplicity of good business. Simply Love People, but start with your Your People.