As we go about our work day to day, many of us probably don’t stop to think about why we do what we do. But every now and again, when the time and headspace make room for it, we sometimes get to do exactly that. We ask ourselves questions like: what is it that makes us come to work? What motivates us to do that little extra to help our colleagues and our customers?
The leadership consultant Simon Sinek talks about exactly this. His TED Talk, which later became a best-selling book, is called ‘Start With Why’, and it covers the idea of ‘purpose’. It turns out it’s that little bit easier to get out of bed and come to work, or go the extra mile, when we identify with the values of the people we work with, and the company we work for.
And, when those values are obvious to others on the outside, it makes them want to do business with you.
So, we decided to develop the values we wanted to become known for and bring them to life. In late 2021, we engaged the team at TBM Solution with an open, honest discussion about what we collectively stand for.
All together now
That part was essential: this wouldn’t work if it was just one or two people telling everyone else what to do or how to think. Involving the whole team meant all of us were aligned on the same path, and it put down a solid foundation that will stay in place as the business grows.
We began by defining our most important values, and then we spent some time on adding more detail so we could bring them to life. We worked with an external consultant for this part, because we felt it’s important to get an impartial perspective.
Choosing some of the values was relatively easy. In some cases, it was just a question of listening to what our customers said. So, when they tell us that we’re nice people to deal with, we thought: let’s make that approach a value that we live by. We do this by being always contactable in person, whether by phone or email, and always being quick to reply. There’s always a human connection when you work with us.
That’s also true of our next values, partnership and respect. This is huge for our teammates and colleagues and for our customers. Respect builds trust and loyalty. We make a point of organising regular trips as a group outside of work to build up the rapport between the team.
Don’t let me down
For our customers, this respect might take the form of something as simple as sharing the knowledge we have. We’re trying to be more aware that our customers aren’t living and breathing logistics and fulfillment 24/7 like we are. They’re rightly focused on lots of other things about their business (it’s probably why they outsource to a 3PL like us, after all).
So, we might need to walk them through an aspect of shipping or labelling, but through that process we reach an understanding.
Partnership is a value that works for both the suppliers we work with, as well as our customers. We’ve actually turned away from partnerships with providers who were cheap but who weren’t prepared to offer quality.
We want to partner with companies that align with how we work: can we be innovative together? Is there a willingness to adapt on both sides? Do they have sustainability options that we can offer to our customers? Little details can be big clues: if they offer an account manager, that’s a sign they will care about our business. And that approach can go back through the value chain to our customer.
We can work it out
Our next value, commitment, is about doing what we say we’ll do. It’s also about committing to change and improve things: as we’ve worked with some customers for years, the supply chain solutions we provide now look very different to how they did at the start.
Other values, like accountability, took some time for us to choose. But after lively discussion, we all felt like we’d made the right choice. Sometimes mistakes happen: it’s a part of life. So we recognise that if something goes wrong, we won’t just stick our heads in the sand to try to hide from it. Let’s own it and learn from it, get out in front and see why it happened.
It’s a little like being an entrepreneur, just like many of our customers are. Getting knocked down many times is part of building a business, so you need to keep getting back up, knowing that you’ve learned something that will help you, as an organisation or an individual, to do better the next time.
Getting better all the time
Accountability works in conjunction with another of our values: being innovative. Once you’ve learned and evolved, you can start taking a different path through a supply chain. For example, our account manager Conor spotted that, for one of our customers, smaller orders were better suited to being packed into recyclable poly bags instead of into boxes.
It took two seconds to bag an order compared to 15 seconds to assemble and tape a cardboard box. Multiply that over hundreds or thousands of orders a month, and you’re potentially talking about a saving of hundreds of hours. We took the initiative to innovate and add value to our customer by giving them a saving they were able to pass along to their customers.
Not only are we blogging about these values, but we’re also living them. We’ve decorated our offices with inspiring quotes that are connected to each of the six values. They’re a daily reminder to all of us to keep striving.
In logistics and fulfillment, numbers are a big part of what we do. We can judge our performance on tangibles like pick rate, or successful first time delivery, but there’s also a place in business for the things you can’t measure but that matter just as much. We’re always striving to do better, and be open to learning as we do. Our values are who we are: get them right, and the numbers will follow.