By Chris Chirgwin, Lanspeed
Like many companies, we operated for several years with no real thought or effort put into defining, communicating, or being deliberate about living out our core values. It wasn't that we didn't have values or that we didn't filter decisions through our beliefs and principles, but we didn't grasp the magnitude of how core values could radically impact our culture and ultimately our growth.
Eight years ago, after our leadership team read Jim Collins books Good to Great and Built to Last, we decided to go through the exercise of defining our core values. Not surprisingly, it didn't take us long to come up with five core values that resonated strongly. This exercise helped us succinctly define what was most important to us. It was the DNA of our company and felt completely authentic to us. These five core values are:
- Be Humble
- Build Relationships
- Pursue Excellence
- Have Integrity
- Enjoy our Work
We knew that simply posting them on a wall in the office wouldn't make an impact. We had to communicate and infuse these values into everything we did on a consistent basis. Defining our core values was only the first step in this journey but was the catalyst for the success that ultimately was to come. We began implementing ideas and practical ways to daily live out our core values. Listed below are a few of the ways we have addressed each of our five core values.
Be Humble: In our hiring process, the number one attribute we look for is humility. This has proven to be a key marker of a successful employee and has resulted in low turnover, long tenure, a desire to learn and a unified team. In our company meetings, we share examples of how team members are living out humility in their daily work. We created an internal portal where employees can recognize and award the great work that other team members are doing.
Build Relationships: We encourage all our employees to take clients to a company funded coffee or lunch and build relationships. As the CEO, I make it a priority to take at least two different clients out to coffee or lunch each week. These meetings are typically not focused on business or their technology issues, but rather about getting to know the person and establishing a long-term relationship.
Pursue Excellence: We set quarterly goals and hold each team member accountable in the pursuit of being excellent both individually and as a company. This has led to each member of our team accomplishing on average around 15 significant goals each year, which has been instrumental in the growth of our business. Customer Satisfaction (CSAT) is also measured and looked at carefully, which drives quality, innovation and loyal clients.
Have Integrity: Our team members are empowered to make things right when something goes wrong. Mistakes happen, but it's what we do next that matters. We look at mistakes as opportunities to then do the right thing which in turn can create deeper loyalty and trust.
Enjoy our Work: We formed a three-team member Culture Committee with two primary objectives. First, they are responsible for organizing creative and fun activities throughout the year. Second, they are responsible for managing a "care fund" that the company set up to help anyone on our team if they had family or personal emergencies.
Taking these core values seriously and infusing them in everything we do has been a critical step on our path to success. It creates a framework and a filter for decision making, it attracts like-minded employees and clients, and guides us as we grow. These core values have played an important role in Lanspeed having twice been on the Inc 5000 Fastest Growing Companies list and twice being awarded the Central Coast Best Places to Work Award. Our vision and strategies may change over time, but our core values are the bedrock of who we are and these will always remain in place.
About The Author
Chris J. Chirgwin is the owner and CEO of Lanspeed, an IT services firm headquartered in Santa Barbara, CA. With over 25 years of technology and leadership experience, Chris has excelled throughout his career in providing businesses with a winning combination of deep technical expertise and sound strategic planning.