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For the past few years, I have been a strong believer that brand purpose, core values and culture are critical to an organization’s long-term success. Organizations that align these elements have been proven to be more effective in delivering financial results. Zappos and Innocent are two examples of brands who have built successful work cultures.

Many organizations have been able to develop purpose and values statements, but few brands have been able to consistently live their values and change behaviors. Enron had a vision and values statement that included lofty values such as respect, integrity, communication and excellence. In a New York Times article, James S. Kunen mentions a writer who, while struggling to draft a corporate values statement, threw up her hands in despair and observed: “Why not just come out and say it? ‘We will strive to make as much money as we can without going to prison.’”

“The writer was joking, of course. But had Enron’s leaders adopted her statement and lived by it, their employees and shareholders might be a lot better off today.”

A couple of weeks ago I had the opportunity to visit the Motley Fool Corporate Headquarters in Alexandria Virginia. I participated in the Foolosophy Culture Tour which is held on the first Friday of every month. The Motley Fool is a brand committed to living its purpose and values everyday through their interactions with each other and its members and subscribers.

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The Motley Fool is a privately owned multi-media financial services company dedicated to building the world’s greatest investment community. The Motley Fool reaches people each month through its website, books, newspaper column and subscription newsletter services. The Motley Fool advocates for individual investors. The company’s name was taken from Shakespeare, whose wise fools both instructed and amused and could speak the truth to the king —without getting their heads lopped off.

The Foolosophy Tour is a 45 minute peek into the unique culture that makes the Motley Fool different and a great place to work. In 2013 and 2014, the Motley Fool was selected by Glassdoor as the best medium-sized company to work for in the United States. The tour highlighted Motley Fool’s core values and how the organization hires for them and fires for them. Their work environment was open and inviting. The workspace did not include offices, even for the most senior leaders. Each stop on the tour featured one of the organization’s core values. The tour guide shared stories of employees and leaders and their success and challenges in living their values on a daily basis.

One of my favorite parts of the tour was the wall outside the boardroom that featured pictures of every employee in the company. As decisions were made by the board they couldn’t help but look at the people whose work lives were impacted. The Motley Fool was one of the most human and engaging work environments that I have ever visited.

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Motley Fool has a simple purpose: “To Help The World Invest Better”. The company has six core values that help guide their behavior:

  • Collaborate – Do great things together.
  • Innovate – Search for a better solution. Then top it!
  • Fun – Revel in your work.
  • Honest – Make us proud.
  • Competitive – Play fair, play hard, play to win.
  • Motley – Make Foolishness your own. Share your core value _____________.

The tour guide emphasized that the Motley Fool had a competitive performance based culture that was a great place to work while delivering financial results. She also admitted that the Motley Fool Culture was not perfect but that they were always working on tangible ways to implement their values.

It was an inspiring morning, but I learned an important lesson. The road to an effective employee culture is always under construction.

Can you think of other brands, that have been successful in building a values based culture?

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One of the benefits of traveling is the opportunity to shop and experience regional or local businesses. When I visit Florida, my favorite supermarket is Publix, which is based in Lakeland Florida. Publix has over 1,000 store in five Southeastern states. They have done a good job focusing on one region of the country. Publix is the largest employee owned supermarket in the United States. Sales revenue exceeds $27 Billion. They have over 156,000 employees. One of Publix strengths is that it is a great place to work and that they take care of their employees. This translates to a great shopping experience. They have earned their tagline “Where Shopping is a Pleasure”.

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Publix goal is to be the premier quality food retailer in the United States. They are driven by strong core values.

  • Passionately focused on Customer Value
  • Intolerant of Waste
  • Dedicated to the Dignity, Value and Employment Security of our Associates
  • Devoted to the highest standards of stewardship for our Stockholders
  • Involved as a Responsible Citizens in our Communities.

This focus on the customer and balancing the needs of their stakeholders (customers, shareholders, employees, communities) has delivered impressive results. Publix is the number one supermarket in the American Customer Satisfaction Index. They have won that honor every year since 1995. Publix has made the Fortune list of the best 100 companies to work for every year since 1998. Publix has a low full-time turnover of 3.2% an unheard of number in the grocery industry. They were also recognized by Glassdoor as one of the Top 50 places to work in 2010 and 2011.
It’s a simple formula treat employees well and they will treat your customers well.

Have you ever shopped at a Publix store and how was your experience?