E-g Focus on Values series
As we pass our 19th anniversary and head into our 20th year as a business, we felt compelled to bring a little of the intimacy of our quaint company out into the open. Or as Don put it, “letting the internal leak outside a bit.” And so, we launch our “E-g Focus on Values” blog series!
There are no “big personalities” here, and so we’re not strutting around presuming we’re the authority on any of this stuff. But we do feel compelled to invite you in, so to speak, to catch a glimpse of what makes us tick. We’d like to answer the questions, “What are E-g’s primary motivators?” and, “What does E-g value most?” Then you can determine for yourself if placing such a high value on these principles has contributed to any success that we’ve enjoyed over the years – and whether these values, and the motivators behind them, resonate with you.
Service, Serving, and People
News flash: we’re a consulting company! In broader terms, we’re in the “Professional Services Industry.” So, you’d think that valuing people would be pretty standard stuff. But let’s face it: how many of you have experienced not only sub-par, but truly atrocious service in the “service industry?” Unfortunately, just because a company is in the service industry doesn’t necessarily mean that its owners or officers value the People that they’re serving, or the People that work there. Sometimes, entrepreneurs are in the service industry simply because it can be lucrative. We’ve found this can be true even in technology consulting.
I’m sure you’re already aware: Starbucks is constantly listed at or near the very top of Fortune magazine’s “Most Admired” list. They’re not just at or near the top for the Food and Beverage industry. They’re near the top across all industries. But someone once told me that they overheard a Starbucks employee complain about the “stupid customer” at one point. Now, from the outside looking in it can’t be more obvious: if not for the “stupid customer” there would be no SBUX for the world to admire.
But if we force a little humility for a moment, we know that we’re each capable of getting tired, letting our guard down, losing focus on the things that really matter, and then saying or doing something that goes against how we’ve been brought up – something that goes against our own personal and/or company values. This is why we’ve decided to cover company values a little more frequently within E-g, because we know without intentionality, we’re all capable of blowing it. And it’s part of the reason we’d like to open our culture up to the culture around us.
As with any good conversation, it’s important to define terms. How many times have you sat across the room from someone after a lengthy conversation, in full agreement with one another complete with smiles and nods, only to find out later that one of you significantly misunderstood the other? (It reminds me of the “you stay here and make sure he doesn’t leave” scene from an old Monty Python movie, or the classic “Who’s On First” Abbot and Costello routine.) We need to be clear about our communications in general. But the importance of clarity grows when we’re talking about an organization’s values and culture, which are the heartbeat and conscience of the organization.
That’s why it’s so important to us that we’re clear what we mean when we say, “E-g values people.”
We’ve seen it before. Some of us have experienced it first-hand, where a professional services firm will value the people called “customers,” but will burn out the people called “employees” in the process. That’s not valuing people; that’s valuing customers … and it could be simply valuing customers for their money.
We don’t mean to be cynical about that, because mere cynicism is rarely, if ever, helpful. However, it’s a strong conviction of ours to truly value all People – not just the paying customer. And this conviction comes from a powerfully central place for E-g’s owners. Good leaders don’t go around saying, “Value people because I said so,” or, “Value people because it seems like a good thing to do.” You need something more substantial than that, a motivation with more conviction that goes beyond “because I said so” and something more enduring than what “seems” good to do today (where tomorrow things might “seem” different).
Why Value People?
For E-g’s five company owners, we are convinced that there is a living God who created humanity in his own image. That conviction alone brings with it the implication that all people, regardless of any categories we may place on them, have immense, intrinsic value. We also believe that this same God became a man and give his own life for humankind – which we see as the ultimate expression, in all of history, of love and value for People. Finally, we believe that People endure beyond this life as we know it, and we should place the highest value on true and enduring treasure. We are convinced that each and every person we meet is a true and enduring treasure.
It’s because of these core convictions that valuing and loving People is profoundly central to who we are as individual owners; and this is where the abiding value of People comes from, at a company level. This is where “Why value these things most?” is answered and rooted.
Having said that, we are a happy company of folks from all kinds of backgrounds, of other faiths and people of no faith. And we are united by many strong ideas and convictions. But to work together here as E-gineers we absolutely must be united in valuing People, even if not for the same reason as the owners’ faith.
Humility Teaches: We Can Always Do Better
We delight in serving our customers. And so, we’re deeply impacted when we mess up, when we miss the mark, and when our customers are less than thoroughly pleased by not only what we deliver but how we deliver it. Truth be told, we’ve had to find creative ways to make things right, even when it hurts. But making it right is the right thing to do. There’s a cost to valuing people over profits. But when the conviction runs as deep as this, we can confidently choose to do right and risk the consequences.
And again, it’s not just about the customer. Of course, we also delight in serving our employees – it’s why we’ve gone to great efforts to make E-gineering a best place to work. Yet we’re not satisfied with those accolades because it was never merely about the accolades.
It’s understandable that all successful company leaders will be motivated to attract and retain excellent talent – going to great lengths to make the office into a fun and inviting yet productive place to be, as well as putting together extraordinary programs and opportunities for employees to connect outside the workplace.
But our motivations aren’t simply means to those ends. Because of our central and profound value for People, we’re constantly trying to find ways to express our love and value for E-g employees and their families that transcends conventional business goals. We have a phrase around here – “The Billion Year Plan.” It’s our reminder that this life, and all of reality, is on a long arc. So, in each and every moment, we want to reject any temptation to compromise in that moment and make decisions – such as authentically valuing people – that we will be proud of if we were able to look back on that moment a billion years from now. That might sound strange, and that’s ok; it’s just a construct to help us remember that every moment is just an infinitesimally small dot on the long arc of this universe’s reality and this life.
Sometimes we mess up with employees, too. We’ve had to humbly apologize and ask, “Is it ok if we start over?” when things have gotten tense or difficult in some conversations. Wipe the slate clean, ask for a do-over, and go back into the conversation as mature and humbled adults. When you truly value people, these things are possible. But these steps don’t even occur to someone who only pretends to value people and is more motivated by profit and prestige.
Well, that’s a good start on “why value People?” I feel like we’re only getting the conversation started, but the People here tell me that long blog articles aren’t super attractive to most People. So, this is my compromise!
How about you?
Do you place a high value on People? And if so, why?