Is your company fake? I don’t mean in a fraud sense, but in a trying to be something it’s not. Maybe you just wanted to shake things up a bit. Maybe you are trying to keep up with the competition, so you tried some changes. But…did you overdo it? Trust me, customers can tell if you are trying to be fake. They can tell if management is being fake. Employees will spot something fake real quick and you may lose them because of it.
What company are you trying to be?
Years back, I had a job with a company that sold airplane equipment. In an effort to be more hip and with it, (think Microsoft, google, tough mudder etc.) they attempted to transform the general work space into an open room where everyone was in team blocks. They wanted ideas to flow freely, they wanted massive group collaboration just like awesome innovative places like google. There were a plethora of problems with that.
Why it failed!
Airplane company was not google! Their attempts to be someone else flopped! The attempt to create an open space to brainstorm ideas only distracted the employees. They had daily meetings to see where everyone was with their goals. (There was no assistance if you were not meeting the goals set by corporate, but you were chastised.) This lead to employees being further behind with their work and demoralized.
Attempts to be someone else backfired
The ideas were not flowing but the stress, frustration, and burnout were! Trying to make your engineers into someone they are not, does not work. My manager who wore no shoes was not ‘cool’ he was weird. Airline company was designed to make and ship airline parts, not make cool new phones and gadgets for computers. Safety should trump ‘cool’, but it didn’t. Airline company was trying to be ‘creative’ and ‘innovative’ and was missing the mark. The creativity post shows why some companies fail at fostering a creative environment here.
The end result
The pressure to ship parts on-time was stressed far more than the actual integrity of the parts. I’m talking airline parts here 🙂 Customers got fed up with faulty equipment constantly being sent to them and fired this company. Airline company’s work environment was so stressful that the turnover rate was sky high, along with employee burnout, and dissatisfaction. One positive, bringing home a paycheck every two weeks. Eventually, the company merged with a competitor and they no longer exist. Many employees there lost their jobs.
Figure out the core competencies and run with that! Exactly what do your customers want as well? Are your customers looking for the next big thing? Or are they looking to you to provide a specific reliable product? Make sure your culture, and employees, fit that expectation, or you’re out of business!
If you want to hire a robot, buy a robot!
When I was in college, I worked for a large coffee chain. They were very successful and were growing very fast! One of the big things was consistency. If you order a drink at one store, you should be able to get the same tasting drink at another store. This was understandable, I could see that from a customers point of view. Corporate (or at least the regional managers in that part of the country) began forcing uniformity, in well….the uniform….which employees had to go find at goodwill or wherever. Let’s say… your shirt wasn’t tucked in, you could get written up. Shoes had to be ALL black or you would get in trouble. (We had on aprons and were behind a counter.) One manager insisted that you be smiling every second, or she would send you home. If they wanted robots, why did they hire people?
What this turned into
Micromanagement took over. No employee wants that. The core parts of their mission statement were being ignored, and it affected customer service. Employees were disgruntled and were leaving because of the environment. This company was growing so big so fast, that there was a lack of corporate oversight of some of these branches. Employees were being kept who were good at sales but stole money from customers (or the tip jar). Coffee company was supposed to be a fun, and great place to work. Happy employees make happy customers who return! Corporate knew that. The managers hired didn’t know or didn’t care.
The economy tanked, and so did their stock prices. Competition came in, and suddenly the customers were going there instead. They sold a less expensive product, which tasted fairly similar. That was fine with the customers, who no longer had any desire to remain loyal to a branch full of unhappy robots.
This one has a happy ending 🙂 The company recovered and is once again doing well! On a corporate level branches were being looked at under a microscope. Bad managers were let go, and good ones were brought in. Coffee company implemented the aspects of their mission statement that made them unique and competitive! They no longer require their employees to be robots at work and allow them to express their creativity. It is, after all, a coffee shop 🙂 In return, this made for happier employees, which translates to better customer service. Coffee company brought in machines that make the employee’s job easier, and allow them to always make consistent drinks. They are able to focus on R&D and have good promotions for them 🙂 Coffee company has earned their customers back!
How to avoid their mistakes?
- Growing too big too fast, can be dangerous. Make sure all aspects of your business are running in a way that is not only profitable but matching your mission statement. Ensure these aspects of your mission statement are difficult to replicate so your competition can’t swoop in and take your customers.
- Figure out what you want out of your company, and what it really takes to get there! If you want an innovative environment, make sure you are willing to really do what it takes to get there. Hire employees to be innovative and support them. Otherwise, it just comes off as overbearing!
- What do your customers want? Do they want new innovative products, or do they want you to continue supplying them with consistently high-quality products? They are your bread and butter!
Don’t worry, if you are in this predicament it is fixable. Just be sure to fix it 🙂 You will be fine. Customers can be more forgiving than you think…sometimes 🙂