At The Good, we believe that business is about more than just profit. It’s about valuing our people more than the bottom line. It’s about being socially, environmentally, and ethically conscious. It’s about living our core values in every service we provide and every decision we make.
Like many organizations, we were knocked off-balance by the COVID-19 pandemic and the ensuing economic instability. Multiple clients wanted to pause or stop their services while they figured out what was going to happen with regards to consumer behaviors and manufacturing or fulfillment operations.
The global health crisis also shut down our office for months, which forced us to shift to a full-time, remote workforce. We came together as a team and found ways to not only sustain our traditional operations but also uncover efficiencies that helped us produce even better results for ourselves and our clients.
Within a few months, we found ourselves feeling confident in a remote work setting and started to bring on our first location-independent team members. For the foreseeable future, we would be recruiting candidates from the global talent pool, not just the Pacific Northwest.
We were able to weather the storm and, as time passed, we found that the global response to COVID-19 dramatically increased demand for digital commerce. This worked in our favor, and by the end of the year we were once again on a growth trajectory.
As we planned for 2021, we revisited our long-term goals and realized that some of the systems and processes that got us to our current level would not be sufficient to get us to where we wanted to be. That’s when we decided to adopt the Entrepreneurial Operating System (EOS), an approach to business management made popular by Gino Wickman and his book Traction.
Getting started with EOS involved a lot of self-reflection, brainstorming, and uncomfortable conversations, but it helped us realize that as we examined everything from our organizational structure to our operating procedures, we also needed to refresh our Core Values to better reflect our future aspirations.
This created both an opportunity and a necessity for us to reshape our core values so that they would better support our distributed team and ensure that every new team member we welcomed would be a good cultural fit.
Ultimately, our new core values preserve much of the essence of the previous ones, while also adding specificity and clarity.
The Good’s Core Values
Impact Over Income
Our company exists to eliminate every bad experience online, of which there are many. You’ve probably run into several just this week.
- A checkout experience where you encounter surprise extra expenses that show up at the very last minute
- Trying to cancel a purchase and being forced to navigate a maze of confusing pages that leave you unsure whether you were even successful
- Deceptive web design practices that make you think you’re doing one thing when you’re actually doing the opposite of what you want
These experiences are often the result of teams or entire organizations making design choices that serve company goals, not user goals. We view our role as the strongest advocate for the person who is not in the room when those decisions are made – the customer.
It’s easy to see how an agency could put blinders on and forget about the customer. After all, it’s our job to support the ecommerce operator’s growth. But, it’s key. We work with our clients to create online experiences that truly benefit both their customers and their bottom line.
Impact over Income means that we’re not just chasing dollar signs. Money is a necessity, but it’s not the end game. We deliver outstanding results and earn a profit, but we also invest a portion of that profit back into our own people, the surrounding community, and the causes that need our support.
Our team members are compensated well, but we actively seek out individuals who are more motivated by the impact of the work they do than the size of their paycheck. Both as individuals and as a team, we are constantly seeking out ways we can have a tangible, positive influence on the lives of others.
Own Your Experience
Perhaps you’re familiar with the concept of “locus of control.” If not, it is a psychological concept that contends most people fall into one of these categories:
- INTERNAL Locus of Control – People who believe that their success or failure is a result of the actions they took or decisions they made.
- EXTERNAL Locus of Control – People who believe that their success or failure is a result of external factors beyond their control, such as luck, fate, injustice, or bias.
At The Good, we want to attract people who have an internal locus of control. They believe that they have the ability to influence their outcomes through the choices they make and effort they put forth. This includes taking ownership of problems and actively working to find solutions, both for our clients and within our organization.
If a team member identifies an issue, they don’t assume that someone else will fix it or that it doesn’t fall under their job description to solve it. They take action, either personally working to resolve the problem or enlisting the help of those who have the necessary knowledge and skills to do so.
Collectively, we see every problem as an opportunity. As we work with our clients to help them convert more visitors into buyers, we naturally uncover opportunities to improve the user experience. Instead of simply calling out the flaws, we use research and data to show them that the issue is actually an opportunity to improve their sales performance, not just a blemish in need of a cover-up.
Make Improvements, Not Excuses
There is incredible power in small, incremental growth that compounds over time. We’ve been in the business long enough to know that there is no silver bullet or overnight success when it comes to optimization.
That’s why we strive to help our clients get 1% better every day. Delivering on that promise is the best way to ensure that at the end of the year we can look back and say, “look how much progress we’ve made.”
The same can be said for how we operate as a company. We naturally attract people who are lifelong learners and who understand the value of growth through practice, not perfection. Furthermore, we hold each other accountable to our growth goals and when mistakes happen or we fall short of expectations, we’re there to pick each other up, not look down with disdain.
Strive For Clarity
When working with clients, there will be times when it’s not immediately clear why they’re experiencing a particular problem. Many agencies would fire back a haphazard recommendation full of false confidence, for fear of being seen as anything less than an expert.
That’s not our style. And, frankly, it’s a dangerous way to do business.
Instead, we find it much more helpful to admit that we aren’t sure and that we need to dig into the data more to determine the cause. And, more importantly, we actually do the legwork to figure out the best approach and come back to you with an evidence-based course of action.
Internally, we’ve intentionally built a team with such a diverse range of knowledge and experience that we can almost always defer to an expert when we find ourselves lacking clarity around a particular situation. This requires each of us to be humble enough to ask for support and gracious enough to share our expertise when it’s required.
How Our Core Values Play Out In Our Work
So how do our core values actually transform the way we do business? There are several ways.
First, when hiring new team members, we specifically ask questions that are informed by our core values. We want to build a team of people who care about more than just their income.
Second, our leadership team is striving to model these behaviors and to lead by example. This includes everything from how they interact with team members and clients, to the messaging used in emails, ad copy, marketing messages, blog posts, etc. We want our core values to become infused in everything we do, and that starts with the leadership team embodying them.
Third, we’re taking simple, yet meaningful steps to create physical, visual reminders of our core values. We display our core values in our physical office space, as well as having apparel made. Our desire is that these visual cues will, over time, help every team member be intimately familiar with our new core values and fully embrace them as their own.
Finally, we’ve created an award that we call The Good Cup. Every quarter, each team member has the opportunity to nominate another team member for the award, and the nomination must include examples of how that person lived our core values over the past quarter. Everyone votes on the nominees and the winner receives a trophy, along with $500 in cash. The goal is to motivate everyone both to put our values into action, as well as to recognize those who are making a real impact.
Growth Requires Change
Changing our core values isn’t something we did on a whim. It wasn’t a means of “shaking things up” initiated by an incoming CEO or an effort to latch on to a societal wave of mission-driven companies.
Instead, it was the result of an unforeseen environmental shock, a forced move toward becoming a digital-first organization, and a serendipitous growth milestone all coming together at the same time.
The truth is, by the time we started to take a closer look at our core values, we realized our organizational DNA had already changed. And while we never considered throwing out the originals, we also knew that we needed to update them to better reflect our current situation and help us get from where we are to our desired destination.
And while we know that we won’t always be able to live out our core values perfectly, we also know that even striving for incremental improvements will produce big results in the long run.
About the Author
Jon MacDonald is founder and President of The Good, a conversion rate optimization firm that has achieved results for some of the largest online brands including Adobe, Nike, Xerox, Verizon, Intel and more. Jon regularly contributes content on conversion optimization to publications like Entrepreneur and Inc. He knows how to get visitors to take action.