I was recently elected to the board of our wine makers’ club. The meeting was held while I was on vacation and it was suggested that if I wished, I was welcome to send a campaign speech to be read by one of the members.
My speech consisted of two paragraphs. First I said that it would really be a pleasure to serve on the board. The second was my “campaign speech” where I promised wine in the drinking fountains and free pony rides when we hosted the board meeting at my house. Board meetings are, by the way, open to the entire club and are generally social gatherings. We do, however, do quite a bit of work at the meetings.
In the past six months, I’ve actually honored both promises. I gave rides to at least one member, although they were offered to everyone. The trouble was that my ‘pony’ is actually a large draft horse. I think that Sam, the large pony, intimidated a few members, even after wine was consumed.
The second promise was honored, at least to some extent, when I put on a wine blending class. Instead of fountains, I had pumps in glass bottles that dispensed measured amounts of different wines so that people could measure what they created. It was a fun class and in the end, I did dispense the wine out of, well, sort of fountains. I guess that it depends on the definition of a fountain.
At my company, I have two very important philosophies. First, tell the truth. Customers call often and ask if we can do certain jobs and we will give them honest answers. Also, if we have a problem with any bit of work, and it was our fault, we tell our customers what happened. Honest answers serve us far better than anything else. This also applies to our employees. We will not misrepresent any part of the company’s operations nor will we allow for our employees to do that.
The second part is that we honor our promises. When work is promised, we take it very personally if it is not complete at the proper time. We can’t control every aspect of our surroundings, and know that. We take the responsibility for our commitments though.
I have no control over snowstorms that stop all shipments. While this year has not been terrible in that regard, we have had a lot of people out with illness, sick children and other issues. It seems as though our staff is never all at the shop at any given moment. And yet, we take the responsibility and not once have I blamed staff shortages for any job to which we have a committed due date. The thought that this might be a good excuse is foreign to me.
After several years of practicing the two policies, our staff also tends to work together tocreate successes. We didn’t always do this. The changes took place back in 2008 when I started asking customers and what was required of Team Mates in order to set us apart from other embroidery companies. The answers were clear and repetitive. “Honor your promises and tell us the truth” were repeated so often that even a stubborn guy like me actually started to listen. We changed the way that we did business, learned to track the progress of our orders and tell the truth to each other and to the public at large.
The result has been that people began to trust us. Over eight years have passed and the idea that we do this has become so ingrained into the company and to the people that work here and to our customers in general that we generate few complaints and more often than not, we are able to create great successes even through failures. People understand that if we didn’t deliver on time, something catastrophic and beyond our control has happened. Usually, rather than penalizing us, we are given help.
It thrills me how well people work together when we deliver on a promise or two.