At that moment, I took some minutes out of a very sad day to remember few important lesson learnt thru the road that I wanted to remember on this new trip.
When I read thru them I still consider all of them important and very meaningful even on a different environment but I wanted to take a second to write this article about a single item that I believe deserves a full description. TRUST.
It has been a very exciting year for us at SimTLiX. The Company has grown significantly both in size and financially. And, by far the most important result, we keep getting excellent feedback from customers and team members.
Those 2 items: “happiness/satisfaction of team members” and “happiness/satisfaction of customers” are in my personal opinion driven by our core values. In particular, Trust, so let me explain what I mean by this.
I will start with our team members…
As a company, it is critical for us to understand that when they join our team, they are not only coming to work with us. They are sharing with us 8 hours per day of their lives (more or less). They are sharing with us their growing potential. And much more. So if you think on that, they are really trusting us with almost 1/3 of their lives or at least time which, given the nature off it, can’t be recovered.
As a company, if you realize that, you have to do everything in your power to earn that trust daily and help them in all aspects of their lives. As a consequence, your system should be prepared to act on every item, some examples:
- Professional growth: Do not only think on career plan just as next position in the company or next training. REALLY think how to help the person grow. It may be training, it may be work assignment. It may even mean accepting a project that does not make much sense financially to the company (or rejecting one that does). Unfortunately, you may even end up getting a person a position that is outside your company. That will damage your company short term….yes, indeed. But you will be helping that person and build TRUST. Not only with that person but with everyone else. You have to walk the talk. Even if it goes against your own short term interest.
- Personal Needs: Look closely on what people need. Sometimes you may be able to help them in personal needs. I have heard many times people say that work and personal needs are not related. I completely disagree. We are individuals and we are influenced by personal life. You have to be VERY careful in this. Each manager should be well trained in soft skills to recognize those needs without stepping into items a team member does not want our help with. But if you can help, and they want your help, you should. Examples can go from helping them rent a new house, buy a new car, find a new school for their kids or find a new medical treatment for a family member. All of them make sense if you can help. It tells them that you care. All of them also mean they can trust you.
- Financial growth: this item always deserves a separate line-item. You should proactively assess salaries, understand them, compare them, etc. Salary increase, bonus, awards. All of them shall come from you. You are, as a company, responsible to ensure each of your members are rewarded correctly. As with every family, sometimes you will just not have enough and will have to make tough decisions. That’s fine. But it should be a decision, it should be made upfront and by you. You should never negotiate or wait for a team member to come with a concern. They should know you are on top of it proactively. They should trust that you care.
Now to customers…
One of my university professors would probably stop me at this point and say I should always put “customer first” (instead of the order I used in this article). But… there is an explanation.
I have always believed our goal should be to transform customers into team members. To some extent that translate into the level of trust that I would expect we can bring into the relationship (in order to really form a digital transformation joint team).
In this last year, I have been unpleasantly surprised by the “untrusty” mode in which most projects are executed. But there is hope. As with any relationship, there are some key activities the company has to do to gain customer trust.
Let me describe some examples we have faced this year:
- Always do as committed and never commit if you are not certain you can: Sounds obvious, doesn’t it? Well it is not. Many companies are used to people over committing or delivering late. In some cases, we have even delivered on-time and customer have asked us, “really? We were not expecting you were going to deliver on this date”. In some cases customers are already expecting a delay. This practice is important for everything. From a simple email (if you say you will send something today, send it today –yes, tonight counts- but not tomorrow morning), to a project delivery. Everything should be done as committed.
- Engineering practices: Do what you know or include research in the budget to learn how to do it before doing it. Learning with customer projects should not be an option. The fact that this is not health (maybe it is) should not allow for malpractice. We are doing Software Engineering, customers are paying for it.
- Transparency: Be honest, even if it may not be good for your business. Earlier this year we had a customer that contracted us 3 engineers. At some point they run out of assignments and 1 engineer was almost idle. The customer did not have much visibility into the situation as they were very busy with bigger issues but at the end of the month we decided to send an invoice with only 2 engineers and sent a note to the manager saying it was unfair to charge the 3rd one. We could have charged it, they actually told us so since the contract was that way. We just decided we should not. At this point I can’t even assure it will make sense (financially) in the future but I am positive that the customer understands for this and other attitudes our team has had that we can be trusted. Furthermore, our own team understood what our values and principles are and what drives us.
Finally, the most important item of all. Always remember. Trust goes both ways. You build trust because you care. Because it helps us all. Not for personal benefit. Trust should be at the core of the company values and, as I said back in 2016, trust Is earned every day.
Only time will tell if we are right but, for now, 2016 has been a great year for us (and certainly for me) at SimTLiX in which we have been able to start our path of building trust.
Note: Trust is only one of the core values we have explicitly identified at SimTLiX About Us