Exploring the connection between company culture and customer service
Jane Berentson, editor of Inc.
A reporter from 1010 WINS, a local news-radio station, dropped by the office the other day to interview me about great places to work. She had perused Inc.com and was impressed, she said, with the quality and quantity of articles on the subject. I, too, am impressed—with the writers, editors, and designers who create these stories but also with the entrepreneurs who spend time, money, and careful thought creating great work environments. We know (though the outside world usually doesn't) that entrepreneurs have a unique opportunity to fashion not just a product or a service but also a culture that reflects their attitudes and values. (Stop me from recalling my bully bosses and the dark side of this equation.)
Our special report in this issue, however, is not on company culture; it's on customer service. It seems to me there is a strong relationship between the two—that surely the company chiefs who care about their employees are the very ones who also care, deep in their bones, about their customers and clients. Find a happy, productive workplace, and no doubt you'll find legions of satisfied customers.
A month or so ago, executive editor Larry Kanter returned from visiting Inc. columnist Jason Fried at his handsome digs in Chicago with an idea the two of them had batted around for Jason's column, Get Real: how he learned to make money. In no time flat, we had elevated the column idea into a feature assignment, which launched Jason—founder and CEO of the software firm 37signals—into the role of cover-story writer. Jason's progression from blogger to columnist to feature writer is analogous to his career as an entrepreneur. It's also an excellent example of the very advice Jason gives to start-up entrepreneurs in "How I Got Good at Making Money," which starts on page 54.
For another take on the same theme, I recommend "24/7/465," on page 82. In presentation and style, the two features couldn't be more different. But strip away the superficialities, and you'll find that the Pitcher family's ski business in Colorado is an illustration of many of the things Jason talks about. From two very different companies, two similar paths to success.