How to Define Your Agency’s Core Values & Setup Your Team for Success - Smart Agency Masterclass: Podcast for Digital Marketing Agencies

How to Define Your Agency’s Core Values & Setup Your Team for Success

By Jason Swenk on January 6, 2016

In this episode we discuss:

  • Why defining your agency’s core values is the key to success
  • How to establish and preserve a great culture
  • 3 ways to setup your team for success

They’re really doing something right at Zappos.com. They’ve spent 7 years on Fortune’s 100 Best Companies to Work For, and today’s podcast guest Kelly Wolske with Zappos, reveals exactly what Zappos does to hire, train, and motivate their 1,500+ employees.

Kelly says customer service and creating a great user experience is key to everything Zappos believes. It’s important for the customer, but also for vendors, investors and employees. It’s at the heart of drives the business. So every employee, no matter what their position or role within the company, is trained in customer service.

Why You Need to Define Core Values

In the early years, the 3 founders at Zappos knew culture was important but they didn’t have a sustainable process for hiring because they hadn’t clearly defined that culture. They knew WHY they wanted to do what they were doing but hadn’t defined the HOW.

Tony emailed the entire staff and asked for input. He asked questions like “What are your values?” and “Who has the traits that embodies the Zappos culture?”. Sifting through all the responses were 34 common behaviors, traits and characteristics which was pared down and wordsmithed to 10 core values.

Here’s a great video with Zappos CEO, Tony Hsieh where he explains a few of the core values. They are:

  1. Deliver WOW Through Service
  2. Embrace and Drive Change
  3. Create Fun and A Little Weirdness
  4. Be Adventurous, Creative, and Open-Minded
  5. Pursue Growth and Learning
  6. Build Open and Honest Relationships With Communication
  7. Build a Positive Team and Family Spirit
  8. Do More With Less
  9. Be Passionate and Determined
  10. Be Humble

These core values are not just a list of ideals on a plaque in the office. Zappos operationalizes them in order to define the company and determine next steps. They hire based on these very core values and every one of the ten is touched on with interview questions. Some of their behavioral interview questions include:

  • Tell a story of a great customer service experience you’ve had. (Relating to Core Value #1 – if you can’t identify a positive customer service experience, you probably can’t deliver one either)
  • If you could choose a theme song to play every time you walk into the room, what would it be and why? (Relating to Core Value #3 – There’s no wrong answer, just want to see that you can answer it and be a little silly.)
  • On a scale of 1-10, how lucky are you? (Relating to Core Value #4 – If your answer is a 10 or a 1 on the scale you probably aren’t open-minded enough. Luck is not an inherent trait, it’s being open to an opportunity.)

Behavioral interviewing can be a great way to see if a candidate is not only qualified but also a good fit within the established culture.

Do Core Values Change Over Time?

At Zappos, the core value phrasing has stayed the same since they were introduced. These 10 still represent the traits the company embodies. However, Kelly has seen some things change, as they’ve gotten lax over the years. She says culture should be treated like a plant or pet – it needs to be cared for because it can’t feed itself. It’s the company and employees jobs to feed the culture in order to keep it alive and thriving.

How to Weed Out a Bad Culture Fit

Would you ever offer a new hire one month’s salary to quit? That’s exactly what Zappos does as part of their 11 week training program. In week 3 they have a private conversation with each trainee for feedback and offer them a month’s salary if they feel they aren’t the right fit for the job.

Why make such an offer? Well, not being aligned with Zappos culture doesn’t necessarily make you a bad person. The company feels no one should feel stuck or trapped in a job. And, it costs the company money to have the wrong employee. According to Kelly, most people don’t even consider the offer… which means they’re the PERFECT fit. Anyone who even entertains the thought is probably not in the right place. Only 1-2% of trainees ever take the offer.

3 Things You Can Do to Set Up Your Team for Success

  1. Have faith that you’ve hired good people and they are in the right role.
  2. Give people the authority to do their job. Allow them to be successful.
  3. Encourage and empower your team by removing obstacles. Or better yet, show them how to remove their obstacles and help them grow.

Enjoy Idea Sharing with Like-Minded Agency Leaders?

My Agency Mastermind group might be for you. I’ve worked with lots of motivated agency owners looking to grow and scale their business.

If you’d like to share thoughts, ideas, problems and solutions with people in your shows, check out my upcoming group.

We meet every two weeks, so it’s not a huge time commitment but the benefits are immeasurable. You can read more details here and I’ll let you know if the group is a good fit for you.

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