I subscribe to Nathan Lozeron’s Productivity Game newsletter. For those interested in the productivity topic area, his website and newsletter are worth your time.
In his latest newsletter he included his video book summary for Delivering Happiness by Tony Hsieh, the founder of the phenomenally successful online retailer, Zappos.
In the video Lozeron explains the three pivotal decisions that Tony Hsieh used to make Zappos culture great, thereby making the company incredibly profitable. Those are:
- Hire and fire on your values. Define your company’s core values and hire and fire based on them regardless of a person’s skills or performance. This keeps a company always truly aligned with important core values.
- Create a culture book. Gather and publish for everyone to see, internally and externally, the raw, unfiltered feedback from employees about the company culture, good and bad. This ensures the culture, what Hsich considers the key ingredient for a company’s success, remains in alignment with the core values.
- Onboard everyone with customer service. Regardless of the role for which a person is hired into the company, make the first phase of their training and experience to be directly helping customers.
The video is short and worth watching, and I plan to read the book, Delivering Happiness.
As I watched the video, I realized that for someone who functions as a solo business, the concept of building a company culture might not seem to apply, but I think it does. Those three concepts simply need to be modified to fit the nature of a business staffed by one person.
So, here is my reinterpretation of the three key decisions explained by Lozeron as they might apply to a solo business endeavor.
- Define your values and be fastidious in abiding by them. This means defining, and adjusting over time, your core values as they pertain to you and your business. Then constantly reassess if you are living up to those values. And, just as importantly, are you aligning your customers to those values? If you are catering to a customer who runs counter to your values, do you want to sell to them? Keeping your core values always in mind, and ensuring that you are living up to them and trying to abide by them with everyone with whom you interact, will result in higher quality experiences for you and your customers.
- Every year do a deep dive assessment of the last 12 months. Did you live up to your core values? Are you fostering a business culture that makes you and your customers happy? Write it down and publicly publish what you have done both well and badly. For those areas in which you can improve, let the public and your customers hold you accountable for being better the next year.
- Always return to customer service. It is easy to get caught up in the day-to-day operations of your business and lose track of who you are ultimately serving, the customer. Perhaps set aside an occasional day to focus entirely on reviewing your recent customer service history and figure out how you can make it better. Maybe send your customers a brief survey asking them to be entirely honest about how you can improve your service to them.
Much of what is written about planning, launching. and operating a large business applies to small and solo businesses too. Rework any advice you read to apply to a small business situation and you can usually use the same advice.