Posts Tagged business transformation

A business ethos that transcends industry

Posted by on Wednesday, 5 February, 2014


I was recently listening to a podcast via Bet On You in which my friend Ted Pappas was interviewed about  Big Bottom Whiskey and what inspired him to start the business. In this 45 minute conversation (it’s an interview but has a deep conversational tone that Ted cultivates well), he discusses a lot of the early trials and difficulties in the path and choices for the business. But, while I believe early failures are good and critical to success, what I believe is even more important is the latter part of the conversation when he begins discussing more of the ethos and philosophy behind the respect, camaraderie, and cooperative efforts which Big Bottom Whiskey is leading in the industry. Which gives me an opportunity to talk about it from my own perspective not only as a tenant to Big Bottom Whiskey with my own company Tualatin Valley Distilling, but to also expand the ideas beyond just the alcohol industries.

Ted’s ethos is about mutual benefit, respect, and helping others succeed in their passions. It is a direct result of this attitude that Tualatin Valley Distilling is a possibility and as a result of this shared vision, we also strive to help as best we can. As an alternating proprietorship, our visions are aligned and keep us focused on what matters: making great products that we all believe in; working together towards common goals.

It was while listening to Ted in the interview above that I realized our shared ideals, philosophies, and vision wasn’t specific to just the whiskies world. Rather, I started thinking of some big “what-ifs”: What if social business wasn’t seen as a zero-sum game. What if we all worked cooperatively, with a shared ethos of respect and camaraderie as social business professionals, while seeing competition as positive drivers for improvement rather than negatives to be conquered or fought.

What does this look like to a social business professional?
First and foremost it means seeing social business as something other than a marketing tool. Social business is in itself an ethos as well as a tool.
Secondly, the guiding principle of being a social business means engaging in conversations and listening to your audience more than talking  AT  them. It is conversing WITH your audience and building relationships using the tools of social platforms like twitter, google plus, tumblr, Facebook, and others. It is more about relationship management than marketing, working with your clients more than selling to them. It’s about building that community and collective intelligence to move us all forward in our collective and individual goals.

This spirit of cooperation and mutual benefit is alive and well in the Oregon spirits industry, one in which the Oregon Distiller’s Guild is helping to drive the recognition of Oregon products to the benefit of all. It is this same focus, this same attitude which can help redefine what social business does and how we do it.  Ted has proven that the ethos within his business model works (as he touches upon in the podcast about listening to his consumer base), and I am hopeful that my own work in social business can help exemplify how collaborative knowledge sharing can also drive success in both my day job as a global social business strategist as well as a small business co-owner creating products for our local market.

Until that day when my own success stands as self-explanatory, I will continue to drive the open and transparent, collaborative, inclusive, and humanist ethos within all of my work; whether it is in strategy or production. I also hope you’ll jump on board and also adopt a strong collaborative ethos as well… after all, I can’t collaborate alone now can I?


image credit:  Some rights reserved by Gauravonomics

Building a better business: Hiring ducks and eagles for the right jobs

Posted by on Wednesday, 5 September, 2012

I’ll get to the title metaphor in a while, but first, let me start with a brief story about the hiring practices of a company long gone and a support team that has survived.

Back in the day, when I was a new wet-behind-the-ears Technical Support Engineer, I was hired into a team that exhibited a brilliant hiring practices. A practice, which was so powerful, it caused me to back out of an employment opportunity at the last hour. The money wasn’t better in this new job, the benefits were comparable, the companies on even ground, and the role itself was exactly the same. So what was it that swayed me? It was the team interviews.

When hiring into this new job, I interviewed with no fewer than five team members including the supervising manager. Sure, it was a daunting process, but what I saw as a result of those interviews was a deep commitment to the team by the team. Each one of the support engineers with whom I spoke exemplified the ownership they felt over their own success as a team and the desire to ensure whomever was hired in shared the same attitude. I also saw a team that had been together for over 5 years in the same roles; a time span of remarkable length in the support industry at the time. This was a group devoted to customer service at their core, a team which collectively understood the need to hire in members who shared that same driving desire to help. This is what swayed my decision, and I considered it an honour to join them.

Over the years working on this team I had opportunity to again be involved in the hiring process, this time from the other side where I got to ask the questions. I soon realized the depth of responsibility I had to the team as well as the candidate; after all, it would do none of us any favours to hire in the wrong fit for the role. But what was the *right* fit and how did I do my best to see it? I’d sit down with the candidate after having looked over their resume in preparation. I’d glance over their resume once more, then toss it aside. Admittedly, perhaps a tad cruel to do to a nervous interviewee, but it helped bring my purpose and point to focus as I noted to them: “I am not too interested in what tech skills your resume tells me about. We can teach you tech, we can teach you the products. What I care about more are your soft skills; your abilities to communicate and provide exceptional service to the clients, as those are skills I can’t teach you….”  The interview would commence from there as we chatted about scenarios and I listened intently, not to what they were telling me, but how. Did they have the drive to help? The ability to communicate effectively and with empathy? To be warm, but professional? Those were all the things that made this team so great and what we needed to protect and foster in the team moving forward.

I’m happy to say that through some ups and downs, the team stood strong and remained together through the years, having just come upon 15 years for some of the core members. This isn’t to say there hasn’t been turnover, and in fact I left a few years back to pursue my own goals in the content creation and knowledge management fields. But the core team still stands strong and solid as it ever has been; a testament to the ideals that make their team a truly best in breed group.

It is this kind of focus, this inherent empathy for the customer and driving desire, or even need to help. They are problem solvers at their core with a fundamental capability to understand a client’s plight and work tirelessly to solve their issues along side them. What some may call “going the extra mile”, these tech support engineers see it as doing what’s right, making sure their clients are successful in their endeavors. That is empathy and caring in big business, and that is what we need more of in today’s markets. It is achievable, but it all comes down to hiring the right people for the right jobs, not just a body to fill a seat who happens to have the technical skills to accomplish the tasks. The right people not only have the skills for the tasks, but the capabilities to see beyond the tasks and truly empathize and care about the client’s success and struggles.  Hire to your needs, but also to the candidate’s strengths and abilities. It isn’t easy, but the rewards and your future success depend upon it.

All this dove-tailed nicely this morning into the following link and inspiration for this post that I liberally borrowed  from Luis Suarez’ G+ share. (If you aren’t following him there I urge you to do so, as he is constantly challenging the status quo of business today and *will* be on the forefront driving change whether the focus is on social business specifically or business transformation in more general aspects.)

This video below wholly captures (in just the first minute) the main component we looked at when hiring new people into our technical support crew back in the day, and more concisely explains why that same crew saw the lowest turnover rates for most any technical support group in the industry.  Please, take a moment, or three, and reflect on how these platitudes directly impact business today:

You Can’t Send A Duck To Eagle School:

Further, when the video is over, I urge you to reflect on how we can continue to drive business in the right directions through empathy and caring to become more authentic, transparent, and effective at achieving our goals.