I collect good stories about business. I eat up examples of good people working at good companies who make good products and do customer service with excellence. I cherish every model company who actively treats people well, from team members to customers to stockholders.
I just can’t get enough of it. I find these stories undeniably encouraging. They hint at the many benefits of capitalism and the entrepreneurial spirit. They make me desire to find something — anything — and make it better.
But I apparently think about these things so often that I forget the other kind of companies still exist.
I love reading about companies like Zappos, Southwest, Best Buy, 37signals, Starbucks, KIND, and Gore. Companies like these do not care what the competition is doing. They lead and make progress and get mocked for it endlessly. They are weird and counter-cultural and foolish and other companies couldn’t imagine doing business their way. At least, until they are suddenly on top.
I closely follow the teachings of Zig Ziglar, Seth Godin, Michael E. Gerber, Stephen R. Covey, Rabbi Daniel Lapin, Donald Miller, Jim Collins, Simon Sinek, Patrick Lencioni, Dave Ramsey, Dan Miller, Ken Blanchard, and Malcolm Gladwell. They document what works and why. They only see the big picture of success in light of trust and connection. They openly admit their flaws and share their ideas for continual growth. They remind us to think of business as a fantastic opportunity to serve others well, one encounter after another.
So, when I come across a normal company, the contrast is staggering.
When there is obvious room for growth in a company but year after year it remains unrealized. When management becomes a bottleneck jamming the creativity of its people. When bureaucracy creeps in to corral stupidity. When policies prevent customers from being served for the sake of not losing money. When team members are called “employees” and they are not trusted to represent the company well. When procedures replace personal connection. When outsourcing and automated voice menus set the bar even lower than before. When money is the only criteria for the bottom line.
“Normal” is indifferent and shrinking and impersonal and cold.
It makes me sad.
But it also fires me up with a renewed desire to displace this “normal” with something abnormal.
In your opinion, what makes a company great?