Thursday October 16, 2008
By Jo Harley
The learnpurple reason for being is to work with organisations to help them to be great places to work, as I am sure you will have picked up if you are a regular to our blog. We do this via a number of innovative products and services aimed at engaging, developing and retaining people.
We are therefore in the very enviable position of having some amazing and exceedingly fantastic clients. We are fortunate to work with some of the top brands in the service industries. All are passionate about their people and all are aware of how important engaging them is to the business and how this can directly impact the bottom line. I won't name any names here, as they may be feeling shy, however I often have people asking me just how we've managed to work with so many fabulous brands.
When I thought about it I realised it's because we live and breathe our values in everything we do:
Achievement; Freedom; Fun; Improvement with originality; Relationships, Make it Simple, Image and Transformation.
In seven years (yes, it was our birthday recently) we have worked with over 300 companies to make their workplaces a better place to be. We never cold call and we don't direct market or advertise. As one of our people once said, we don't really even have clients; we have 'friends of learnpurple' and therefore the job is never about sales or account management, but all about making new friends, making them happy and keeping them like that; and doesn't that sound like fun? But how exactly do we utilise our values to engage, develop and retain our, oh so delightful, clients? Although it's not the first on the list, as we were talking about friendships let's start with:
We build friendships with people that sustain over time and job role, if someone can't use us in their career right now then you can bet if we make enough of an impact they'll be back when they can. So if we have a great relationship with someone, they'll remember us when it counts. We are always quoting the age old adage 'people work for people not companies' and the same is true when people choose whom to work with.
People buy people not companies, the concept of relationship selling is a very old one - remember Dale Carnegie who in the early 1990s lectured on the idea that it is possible to change other people's behaviour by changing one's reaction to them. Even more important now is to tie that in with taking every person you meet and treating them as if their needs are top of your agenda, as you never know where they may turn up next, or what they may be doing in three years, there is never any excuse to be rude or dismissive in business (or in fact anywhere) and following this ethic will allow long and fruitful relationships with a wide range of diverse and interesting people. Of course it helps if you like people, are interested in them and are fun to be around. But how do we meet these fabulous people? This moves us nicely on to our next value:
Does the word instil a sense of dread?
Being tasked to go and talk to as many people as possible and achieve something from it? It did me, until I reframed what networking actually was and started thinking about it as having a whole lot of fun dressed up as an excuse for work. As long as I am with someone else - or have planned to meet a friendly face, what used to be a dreaded chore has now become one of my favourite things to do. Perhaps that's because I am lucky enough to network at some of London's top venues; pretty much always glammed up to the nines with champagne in hand, oh and with my (business) partner in crime. However, although we do have fun, it's always with the prospect that we will meet new people, cultivate old relationships and be in the forefront of both new and existing clients' minds. There is always a 'give me a call' or a 'we must do lunch' thrown in somewhere throughout the evening. And it doesn't hurt for our existing clients to know we are the top of the game by being nominated in conjunction with them for an award or two along the way, which brings us to our third value:
We talk, no, make that shout, about what we have done - a lot! It's not very English, or very modest, but we are very proud of our achievements and we let people know (remember the awards in the last paragraph?) not only does a sense of achievement help us motivate the purple people (its near the top of all our personal values too) In a blog that's fast becoming one of cliches, success breeds success. Our entire PR is neatly framed (in purple, of course) on our wall in the office. We celebrate our achievements with our clients, even having a person here at learnpurple who specifically writes awards entries with and for our clients. It's our clients and their achievements that make us who we are. We aim to achieve great things with each and every one of the businesses that buy in to what we do, and we do this by under promising and over delivering, a delighted client is a loyal and content one. And we love being appreciated for what we do. We are lucky being a bijou company that we can do this, and that's by giving both our people and our clients our next value:
Whilst a very positive concept, to be honest this can occasionally be a little negative too. Well for us anyway. The amount of freedom and flexibility that we offer our clients (and our people to deliver on it) sometimes means we are up 'til all hours, or certainly not making as much profit as we could if we were strict and inflexible. But this is the joy of what we do, every client is different and we would hate to treat everyone the same - and this means amending what we do and making sure people are happy. We are with many organisations when we say that the customer is not always right, but as long as what they want doesn't go against any of our values or integrity (or is illegal!), they usually end up getting exactly what they dream of. We all know we have the freedom and support to walk away from any client at any time if we felt it was appropriate, however luckily (touch wood) this hasn't been the case. So how do we keep up with the ever increasing demands of our technologically savvy, people aware clients? We initiate our next value:
Improvement with Originality
OK, I am not great at change, if it were just my business we'd be still be running software that was so out of date it would be laughable and only have one (very good by the way) associate not 40 plus. Luckily, for everyone, it's not, and I have over the years learnt that change can be good (if not slightly scary) and all together necessary to grow, and this is a good thing for all our clients. We work very hard to be in the know about what we do, and keep up with the industries we work within, so we can continually change and adapt and pass that knowledge on to our clients. We also ensure that any changes are for the better and not just for the sake of it, and understand that an improvement for one client may not be for another - again it's down to treating clients, like your people, with individuality. It may seem that treating all our clients as individual could get rather complicated, and this is where our next value comes in:
Make it Simple
We do many things, with so many different people that we have to, for ours and our clients sake, keep things simple. We aim to make things as easy and uncomplicated for everyone. For example doing little things so clients don't have to think about them- always making sure we take away the pain and certainly not add to it. It's usually an interesting journey and we do often end up coming back to what we recommend in the first place, which is to keep everything as easy as possible for the people that are using our products. We have the advantage of being able to look at our client organisations from the outside and can help find better ways of doing things for them, which is hard when you are actually in the business. And how do we ensure that we are sticking to this at learnpurple? Simple, we really listen to what people say when they first join us, before they get into the 'this is just how we do it' mentality. It works for us. If however, you keep things simple then you also have to make them look fantastic.
It's all about Image, our penultimate value
This isn't just about how we look, although having a resident image consultant and designers is a great bonus, but how we present ourselves to the world. We encourage clients to do the same. Is no one in the business taking the 'people stuff' seriously? Then up the internal PR machine. A good example of this is when clients use talent toolbox - our on line review tool. At the end of the process we get some amazing, interesting and useful top line figures and facts, but there is no point having these if they are not used. Some of our clients work with us to produce posters and suchlike to let people know that their time and effort is appreciated, and more importantly taken note of. Again, entering your company for relevant awards will keep you in the public eye - checking what's coming up via http://www.boost-marketing.co.uk/awards/. I think however, the most important part of 'image' to us is to act like the company/department/person you are going to become, not the one you are already. We have a big company mentality, despite not having thousands of people working for us and this makes us professional, focussed and always thinking about how we are portraying learnpurple and our clients. Our last value; really our company purpose, is:
By continually transforming the people in our company, and our company, we are helping to transform our client organisations into better places to work for their people. As long as we have this always in the very front of our minds we are going to be successfully retaining all our clients, developing with them and attracting more of them to the purple way of thinking. Simple really. What are your values and do you and your people live by them in everything you do?