That Scary ‘A’ Word and How It’s Changing Me and My Business.
Recently, we here at Groff NetWorks have been talking about where we are going, why we’re going there, and how we are going to get there. I want to talk to you all about where we are going and what we’ve discovered/been challenged by so far.
Internally, we sat down with the team and we started talking about some of the key aspects for our business to get to the vision we have set. What are some of those key aspects for our business in order to get there? How are we going to get to some of our high-reach goals? The first aspect that we started reviewing (and have had a significant amount of success on in the past) is improving service: we prevent more reactive tech support problems and we improve our clients’ businesses through efficiencies and providing better solutions. Fairly straight-forward, but it requires a continual improvement focus.
Then we spent some time on ‘WHY profit?’ – We talked about profit and why that matters. We even polled our employees and asked what does it mean for them that a company is profitable? The bottom-line for them is: it matters, so the individuals and team are better cared for. And what’s a result of when they are better cared for? Our clients are better cared for. But, as is a challenge for some businesses to understand, it starts with providing value, NOT with receiving a payment.
Which turns us again to the question of purpose. Why are we doing this? Why are we in business? What is Groff NetWorks’ purpose? Our purpose is explicitly stated in the following: “Turn Problems into Empowerment so clients can focus on what matters most and change the world.”
This brings us to my main point today, which is something that we’ve honestly struggled with for a long time. And now it gets a little bit more uncomfortable, a little bit more to the heart of my/our weaknesses.
In order to get to where we are going, we need to focus on accountability. Yes, that scary ‘A’ word. For us, we talked about how do we build the accountability ‘muscle’ – where everyone in the building is being held accountable and holds each other accountable. This is actually starting to get more traction in our business, little by little, overcoming years of neglect and atrophy.
You see, in the past, honestly, I had been so good at avoiding rocking the boat, (it’s in my nature to avoid conflict), that I recently realized that I literally couldn’t see or recognize when I was or we were completely missing the mark – AND I got so used to feeling like I could do nothing about it, especially in the business, that I didn’t speak up, but just watched the train-wreck happen around me, all the while feeling helpless.
Getting along with everyone and being buddy-buddy is great, and that’s the culture that I created years ago in the very infancy of this business.
‘Hey, Jack, will you be a fine fellow and help me with these couple of clients? …Great. Let me know if you need any help.’
‘Hey Jon? Glad to hear you’re willing to come on board – we have a few clients more than we did last year, we could really use your help.’
And so forth. And that worked OK, until about five years ago. We were approaching 10 employees, crossing the million-dollar mark and we weren’t happy. I wasn’t happy, and some clients weren’t happy either.
So, now we are looking at having grown into a completely different kind of company, providing a completely different kind of value. That is, it is completely different than just the guys would show up on-time, fix stuff quickly and answer the phone ‘Johnny on the spot.’ Sure, we do that and we do that even better than back in the ‘good ol’ days’. But that’s not where our value lies.
So, I want to continue to strive for what is a world-apart difference in culture. Now, I am personally learning what the picture is and trying to paint the picture of a more healthy culture: What is better than just being ‘buddy-buddy’, ‘don’t rock the boat’, etc.? (Yes, being friendly – but) – What is better but THAT AND doing great things together? What does it look like to be a high-performing culture? It involves pushing each other and stretching ourselves, with everybody owning where each falls short and getting back up when we miss and striving again to accomplish these goals. It’s about not being afraid to call someone out when they aren’t pulling their weight, or even being called out myself if I’m doing something that I shouldn’t be – OR, more importantly, NOT doing something I should be. So, I am setting the example and asking my employees to follow me as I follow some fairly challenging examples. Sure, we can have sympathy with each other and where everyone else is in life and business, but let’s encourage each other to call a spade a spade and say, “You are missing the mark on this; how can I help?” This is not always going to be top-down. This can be peer-to-peer and sometimes even UP the chain of command. To put this in terms of two of our very important company values: That’s what ‘continuous improvement’ AND ‘truly solving problems smartly’ are all about.
This is about being diligent in solutions on improving the health of the business; improving each other’s professional health and making sure ‘it’s done right or made right, with humility’ (another part of our core values) – owning the short-comings of our own and our team and getting up, recommitting and striving again.
Through all these sorts of things we’ve been talking about internally here at Groff NetWorks (improving service, profit and accountability) we can become a greater company, which enables us to make a greater impact on the work environment here, and this in turn produces a greater impact on our clients. We will provide higher and higher value to our clients. This enables them in turn to be able to provide a higher value to theirs. They change the world, and thus we help change the world.
An interesting aspect came to light during our discussions about accountability. Some people feel uncomfortable calling out a boss – that it would be seen as jeopardizing career development and being seen as a complainer and such. However, that sort of culture is not what I have developed here. That culture is not humble. A humble culture would give the benefit of the doubt to the one who is bringing the issue up. As long as the motivation of the giver is right, and using some tools that help keep the conversations objective (like the ‘Issue Clear’ process we’ve implemented), then it will do nothing but improve our ability to perform better. In fact, I am willing to commit to give the benefit of the doubt to any of my employees who are willing to bring up an issue to me. I know we can’t see the effects of some of our behavior or always have another person’s perspective on things. Everyone has blind spots that we need help addressing in each of our lives.
Iron sharpens iron. The more our company is willing to lean in with each other, the better we will each get individually and as a result we will get better as a company. In fact, with a shared commitment to improvement, we can know and believe that this constructive conflict is part of the path to higher performance, producing greater trust, commitment, accountability, and….results. If you want to join us on this road to more accountability, you can contact us on our website or call us at 518-320-8906.