Extending Organizational Culture to Vendors, Customers, and Beyond
Great Place To Work® holds some of my favorite conferences, because all of the organizations that attend care about creating workplaces that are truly good for people. All companies in attendance, no matter the industry or size, are united in this cause and are more willing to share what is working in engagement.
Our table at the recent Great Place To Work Small & Medium Business Conference had a great discussion about culture transcending your organization, a topic I've thought about it a lot since then.
It's an interesting test. Can customers tell when they are talking to someone from your company versus one of your competitors? What would your employees' personal and professional networks say about your company on Glassdoor? Do vendors see you as a "Great Place With Whom To Do Business"? The type of relationships groups like customers, vendors, and your team members' support systems have with your organization are important clues when wondering if you're really living your values and articulating your purpose.
It's hard enough to create an engaged workforce, to engage your customers, and now vendors and your employees' personal networks need to be honorary members of your culture too? Maybe!
We're a vendor. The best relationships we have are when we are treated as an extension of our client's team. For example, I can always tell I'm talking to a Fool (someone who works at The Motley Fool) because I'll get a return email with something like, "It's so great to hear from you!," as if I'm an old colleague.
Another example is from when we worked at Visionist, named by Great Place To Work as one of the Best Workplaces in Technology. First of all, as a government contractor to the intelligence community, they are doing very cool technical projects that protect our nation, that they can't talk about to the world. That creates a humility that permeates the entire company. We heard several stories about leadership taking a vested interest in the success of their employee base. Visionist's interactions with us as a vendor were a direct extension of this: they care about our success, too. In our very first meeting, they asked my cofounder Scott and me a lot of questions about our business to see if they could offer advice as fellow founders.
We just heard a great story from Driversselect, who invite their vendors to their holiday party. Upon receiving their invitation, a new vendor called them and said, "I think there was a mistake. You sent me an invitation to your holiday party." These "outsiders" to your culture aren't really outsiders at all, though most are used to being treated as such. Perhaps making a concerted effort to involve these tangential relationships will yield results: loyal customers, vendors who go above and beyond, families and friends who further their support of your talent.