The Intersection of Values and Value
Our personal values create the foundation for our life goals, inform the way we live and treat others, and ultimately define our legacy. The same holds true for organizations. In a keynote speech I delivered to our staff last year, I stressed that our organizational values determine how we treat our customers and manufacturer clients and the value we bring to those relationships. We illustrated the point with a graphic showing the intersection of our core values and the value we drive in the marketplace.
So what are Dorian Drake’s core values?
First, there is great service. Operating in a world in which intermediaries increasingly are being squeezed out of supply chains, we know to remain relevant we must deliver great service. Inspired by this simple notion, we established some years ago a cross-disciplinary task force to consider what great service looks like and how we can best deliver it. From this, we set in place systems to help us hire for it, train for it, measure it, and reward it. Delivering great service—to our customer, our manufacturer clients, and to each other—is good for our business. It’s also the right thing to do.
We can’t deliver great service in our business unless we function well as a team. Teamwork is often easy to achieve within a department, harder to accomplish across work groups. At Dorian Drake, we stress always the importance of working seamlessly across departments—field sales, inside sales, traffic, credit, and marketing services—to create a great experience for our customers. My belief in teamwork probably stems for my childhood love affair with basketball, the ultimate team sport. We believe selling, like basketball, is a team game.
Our team approach is reinforced by open-book management, a business methodology—first popularized in the 1980s by Jack Stack and his book, The Great Game of Business (www.ggob.com)—that we’ve been practicing for more than twenty years. Members of our five business units huddle monthly to review their income statement and update their 90-day financial forecast.
The results are consolidated into a corporate forecast and shared at a companywide monthly meeting. We measure our profitability against a financial target which, when achieved, triggers a companywide bonus payout. If one of our business units is doing well, the results pull up the rest of the company. If a unit is not doing well, team members feel pressure to elevate their performance. Opening the books—transparency—builds understanding and trust, while our bonus plan drives accountability, companion values central to our corporate culture.
None of this means much unless we act with integrity. We think of integrity as an unwritten code of conduct. When we act with integrity, we don’t cheat people, and we don’t deceive them. If we make a mistake, we own it. If we make a promise, we keep it. Integrity is not situational. It is woven into an organization’s DNA.
So, too, are the twin values of innovation and entrepreneurship. Management guru Peter Drucker argued that entrepreneurship is the ability to innovate products and services that anticipate future market needs. Entrepreneurship, he wrote, is not the sole preoccupation of risk-taking business owners but, in fact, a behavior that can practiced by anyone working in companies large and small. It’s not easy to innovate. It requires imagination, courage, and a willingness to fail. But when I see it, and it makes sense, I encourage and support it. In this age of disruption, embracing innovation and entrepreneurship is a must.
The last of our six core values are profitability and growth. You might think growth is a given for any corporation, but we’ve worked with plenty of businesses whose owners are happy to maintain the status quo. I’m not among them. We must grow because our manufacturer clients demand it and because it enables us to create advancement opportunities for our staff and enrich our talent pool and system resources. We must produce profits to reward our team members and invest in our future. I believe profitability and growth are as much a means to end as ends in themselves.
There are other values important to us, of course. Diversity, for one. We employ local staff based in ten countries on four continents, and our New York staff is populated with people who have emigrated from all corners of the globe. We celebrate our multi-culturalism; it enriches our lives and makes us better at what we do.
We believe also in community service. We raise money and volunteer time for some great local causes (www.HopeCommunityServices.org). It’s important to pay it forward and support the communities in which we work.
Values mean nothing, of course, unless they are woven into the fabric of an organization’s behavior and practiced every day. We publish and promote our core values as reminders that we must live them and model them, a commitment that starts at the top.
Ed Dorian Jr.
White Plains, NY
February 10, 2020