How do you define success?

The month of June has just ended, which means the year is officially more than half over, and the numbers are in. Unlike the past two years, business is going well! Gentle Giant is exceeding reasonably aggressive revenue targets, thanks in large part to changes in the housing market and improvements in the broader economy, and of course the reputation of the company based on the teriffic work, attitude, and professionalism of the Giants themselves. People happily ask about my feelings on the “success” of the company so far this year, and I’m certainly pleased that we now have more money with which to reward our employees and invest in the business. However, I don’t like the implication that during periods of time over the last 30 years when the company was not bringing in a good amount of money that we were not being “successful.”

Here’s why: Whether the company was doing a lot of work or a little, or whether we were to hire, train and develop many new people each year, or zero new employees, we have been successful at achieving what we need to do to pursue our mission, which is to create opportunities for great people, and change what people expect from a moving company. Even on slow days, Gentle Giant is serving customers, which means we have Giants working hard, in stressful, challenging situations, with the goal of making those customers “customers for life.” At the same time, those employees are developing skills, knowledge about how to communicate under pressure, and work as a team with crew members. They’re creating memories for customers who are undergoing major life transitions, and we’re a part of that. In turn, those customers tell others about Gentle Giant, and those employees have had an experience that will hopefully propel them forward (either at Gentle Giant or in a different line of work in the future). Then later, at times when market factors are better, like they are now, we become flush with work and have even more opportunities to pursue our mission.

So, how you define success has a lot to do with what you select as your driving force for your business. Is it just to make money? Well, in the long run, of course that is essential for a successful business, and in general if you work hard you will eventually make profit. But if success is defined in terms of what you can control, and to push yourself to do well every single day no mater what happens with the “uncontrollables,” making money will be a pleasant byproduct of your success, and it very well may happen to an even greater degree than if it was your central focus to begin with.

Why Movers (or other service providers you use) Should Have Fun

In companies where employees are responsible for the care and satisfaction of customers, it’s logical that happy workers equates to happy customers and a successful business. Would you ever want an disgruntled, unhappy, or otherwise disengaged service provider doing important work in your home? I wouldn’t. At minimum, you run the risk of having a person who isn’t going to do the best possible job they know how. At worst, they could take out their deep seeded frustrations on your home or your belongings, even in ways that might be unvisible to you (would you know how to judge good electrical wiring, plumging, or whether your mover wrapped and lifted your furniture “correctly”). You have to depend on the person doing the work to use their own judgement and discipline to do right by you.That’s why it helps to know something about a company’s workplace and whether people are happy, loyal, well paid, well trained, and intellectually challenged. If they are, you’re more likely to get good services. I am of course extremely proud of the great people and culture at Gentle Giant, which has led the company to win recognition as a Top Small Workplace and a Best Place to Work. I think the reasons we won those awards are the same reason we’ve received so many “Best of” awards. WE HAVE FUN, even while we’re working. What made me think of this is the fact that I’m helping organize the company’s annual summer party, where it’s all about getting together to relax and have a good time and bond over good food, games, laughs, and doing a whole lot of well-deserved-nothing together. That camaraderie matters on the job and off the job and creates a positive feeling for our company, coworkers, and the custoemrs who hire us and allow us to have these great experiences working and playing together.

But what if you’re not hiring a mover? Or what if you happen not to live in an area where you can hire Gentle Giant for your move? Talk to the people who answer the phone and guage how long they’ve worked there. See if the president or owner of the company has his own face on the company’s website. Ask for references from other people who have used a company. Were the employees friendly? Did they seem like they’d worked there long enough to really know what they were talking about?

My philosophy is this: Treat your people well, and they’ll treat your customers well. And hopefully those well-treated, happy employees will stick around long enough to pass those cultural values to the next generation of employees that you hire, so you can build and maintain your reputation for excellence, decade after decade.