Principia for After-sales

Principia for After-sales

In this week’s guest post, blogger Ryszard Chciuk offers us his Principia for after-sales, and brings us more ways to improve this valuable part of our business.

In Principia for Business I presented my personal view on the foundations of every organization. It was not a summary of the pile of publications on that subject I have read. In fact, I did not find there too many useful tips on how to build a durable and efficient organization.

In this and a few next posts, I am going to describe my own way of defining and implementing the idea of the main principles (values).

One of the main tasks of the founder of a new organization is to define the set of the most important principles binding its members. They should also know the long-term goals (have a look at the post about our vision). After that, they are able to find the proper ways to get closer to the goals. You will help your people in that process by telling them HOW you want to run your business to be different from the competition.

Another two important questions are: WHY you are starting up (Ron Slee explained his WHY in Why do we do what we do) and WHAT you are going to do for the wellbeing of your customers, employees, suppliers, environment, and yourself. Without a clear and public answer for those three questions a new entity is mined and the time bomb is ticking. It is my belief this is the main cause of going bankrupt by so many companies.

When I began to build the best after-sales organization in my country, Simon Sinek was not ready with his great TEDx presentation How Great Leaders Inspire Actions (54 million views since 2009). Just common sense told me that I should establish the main principles for my new team (apart from the long-term goals and mission). Some consultants say it should be done by a group of people. I dare to doubt. Only slaves must obey the rules established by their owners but free people always have a choice to work or not, for a given company. Its founder is entitled to set the main values. However, it is a must to discuss the meaning of values with all employees when somebody breaks any of the main principles. It is also helpful to celebrate when an employee finds a new way of better fulfilling any value.

The main values are important for employees when they have to take immediate action without the support of their superior. Very often they are not even aware that a required ­– in a given situation – behavior is described in detail in one of the dozens of special procedures. The older the organization, the more not understandable procedures, often written in a lawyers’ language.

Big companies define their values on a corporate level. In our case, they were: Quality, Safety, and Environmental Care. They seemed to me too general for the after-sales team I had the honor to create around twenty years ago. I defined the main principles as follows:

  1. Integrity
  2. Care of people and environment
  3. Profitability
  4. Excellence

It is not very common that the after-sales department has its own main principles (values) and purpose (mission) but I believed what I was doing was right. A few years later I found confirmation in Built to Last. Successful Habits of Visionary Companies by James C. Collins and Jerry I. Porras: There’s absolutely no reason why you can’t articulate a core ideology for your own workgroup, department, or division. If your company has a strong overall corporate ideology, then your group-level ideology will naturally be constrained by that ideology – particularly the core values. But you can still have your own flavor of ideology, and certainly, you can articulate a purpose for your own sub-organization. What is its reason for being? What would be lost if it ceased to exist? The concept of the core ideology embraces both mission and values.

It can happen the top management of the dealership does not know how they are going to run their business and does not bother about any values. Then CFO, Sales Director, and After-sales Manager lead their teams in accordance with completely different, opposite values. For example, CFO cares mainly about profit, Sales want to increase the number of sold machines, and After-sales are focused on customer satisfaction. The most dangerous is when they do not know each other preferences. Daily conflicts between managers are stepping down to the lowest level of the hierarchy. Employees do not collaborate with their friends working for another department. It is possible to avoid that problem. The managers have to look each other in the eye and tell each other the meaning of their main principles. Of course, their values have to be aligned with those the company founder believed in. Otherwise, it is a great waste of time to work for that kind of organization.

Next time I am going to share my point of view on the potential conflict between private and company values, how to write value definitions, the importance of constant reminding of the main principles…

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