I love it when I come across someone who is genuinely, viscerally, passionate about his or her business. Invariably, people like this never view their business as merely a business. Their purpose is always grounded in something deeper.
Jay Steinfeld, the founder and CEO of Blinds.com, is such a person. On the journey from running the business out of his garage to becoming the world’s #1 online retailer of blinds, Jay’s future took shape when he started to define success as, “being in the act of continuous improvement and improving the lives of others around me.”
Yes, the “C” word
For Jay it’s all about the culture. And culture must be intentional. If you don’t define your desired culture and design your business to support it, then don’t be surprised if the culture that emerges is not the culture you want.
Who to delegate to
He notes that the biggest struggle for many CEOs is realizing that the only person they can delegate this to is the person in the mirror. If the CEO doesn’t become the chief role model and celebrant for the culture, then don’t expect it to permeate the organization.
How to create it
Strong and consistent cultures are apparent in everything an organization does. Which is why at Blinds.com they make sure that policies and practices, measures and meetings, accolades and accountabilities all point people in the same cultural direction.
It starts with selection. Not just getting the right people in, but letting only the right people in. Until the company grew to over 200 employees, Jay would conduct the final interview with every, prospective new hire to check for cultural fit. Today, he still interviews all prospective managers for cultural fit. What does he look for? Given that one of the four core values is “improve continuously”, he wants to know if the candidate can demonstrate that they value improvement, and self-improvement. Do they constantly take steps to learn and stretch themselves? Do they seek, and are they open to, feedback in support of improvement?
Action, Not Just Words
When you read the company’s “Getting to the Core” booklet (as in core values) you see more than just a description of “improve continuously”. You see quotes from employees about what that means to them. You see employees’ answers to the question of how they have improved continuously over the past six months. More than that, you see their answers to how joining a company that values continuous improvement has changed their lives.
So, is all this just feel-good stuff? You bet it is! Imagine how good it feels to go from a one-person operation to the world’s #1 online retailer of blinds! But that’s not the validation for Jay. The validation lies in seeing people become better than they ever thought possible. In “growing a company with deep customer relationships and, ultimately, a culture that improves lives.”
Now, how do your efforts at cultivating culture stack up? Are you ready to continuously improve?