The world of business is changing. Recent political, social, and global economic changes have had a profound effect on how companies are run. Concepts such as transparency, accessibility, and social responsibility are becoming the cornerstones of new business strategies.
Trends related to cloud computing and crowdsourcing are also affecting how businesses create and distribute their products and services. Here are three new ways to run a company that are gaining in popularity. Use these examples as inspiration on how you can embrace change and drive positive results for your business.
Reinventing Company Culture
There is perhaps no better example of successfully reinventing company culture than Zappos. While Google may have broken down the walls of traditional company environments with beanbag chairs, slides, swimming pools, and rainbow-colored bicycles, Zappos is the go-to example of reinventing company culture from the ground up.
Since it debuted in 1999, Zappos has grown to offer far more than shoes. Today, Zappos is part of Amazon.com, Inc. and operates through ten separate companies under the Zappos Family. Despite that growth, a single goal has survived: to be the online service leader by creating a service-oriented culture.
To that end, employees are required to go through four weeks of customer loyalty training. During that time, they answer calls from customers in the customer service call center. For Zappos, “customer service isn’t just a department. It’s the entire company.”
Zappos operates by a set of core values. People who want to work for Zappos are encouraged to read the core values and make sure they believe in those values before applying for a job. Those values are:
1. Deliver “wow” through service.
2. Embrace and drive change.
3. Create fun and a little weirdness.
4. Be adventurous, creative, and open-minded.
5. Pursue growth and learning.
6. Build open and honest relationships with communication.
7. Build a positive team and family spirit.
8. Do more with less.
9. Be passionate and determine.
10. Be humble.
The reason the Zappos culture is so successful is two-fold. First, it’s focused on customers. Second, the concept of service culture is embraced from the top down. From the CEO, right down to entry level employees, the culture is believable; that makes all the difference in terms of its success. In fact, the entire Zappos social media policy is just five words, “Be real and be honest.”
Zappos employees believe in the brand. They want to advocate the brand. Since the culture is so successfully implemented, it’s safe to let them do exactly that.
Reinventing Company Operations
Want to run your company from home? You can, thanks to technological and workforce changes that make the dream of owning a 100 percent “virtual” company a reality. Today, many companies operate completely virtually, where no two employees work in the same location. Instead, each person can work from his or her home.
In fact, your workers don’t even need to be employees anymore. A growing trend is for companies to hire contract workers that offer flexible consulting or freelance services to multiple clients. Gone are the days where the term “telecommuting” is frowned upon, with leaders fearing a telecommuting employee will never do any work.
Today, there are highly qualified and dependable virtual workers available, and companies can find them through freelancing and crowdsourcing websites like Freelancer.com and Crowdspring.com. It’s a win-win situation for the company and for workers who want the flexibility that virtual positions offer. For customers, it often means better service, better products, and better prices.
Using a cloud computing service like Amazon Web Services, companies can get affordable and scalable IT infrastructure provided over the Internet. Tools like Dropbox make file-sharing easy, and Skype provides video conference calling for free. In other words, there are online tools to help companies complete just about any operational task these days, making the need for brick-and-mortar offices obsolete for many companies.
In today’s business environment, the relevant question isn’t, “Why should I have virtual employees?” but rather, “Why should I have a brick-and-mortar office?”
Reinventing Company Structure
In recent years, entirely new company structures have become popular. For example, “B Corporations” are unlike traditional companies. To become a certified B Corp, a company must meet comprehensive and transparent social and environmental performance standards as well as higher legal accountability standards. Furthermore, the company must build business constituency for public policies that support sustainable business.
In addition to B Corporations, there are also certifications for green businesses, minority-owned businesses, women-owned businesses, and more. Each type of business has to have a specific structure and meet certain criteria in its operations in order to gain certification. If your company aligns with one of these structures, then it could be a great new model for running your company.
The important thing to remember is that company culture, operations, and structure are no longer defined by a specific, cookie-cutter set of guidelines. Each has evolved and will continue to do so. It’s up to you to choose how to run your company knowing there are many more options available to you today.
Susan Gunelius: Susan Gunelius is a 20-year marketing veteran and President & CEO of KeySplash Creative, Inc., a marketing communications company. She has authored nine books about social media, content marketing, branding, copywriting, and blogging, and she is a marketing columnist for Forbes.com and Entrepreneur.com. Susan speaks about marketing, branding, and social media at events around the world and is often interviewed about marketing topics by television, online, print, and radio media organizations.