An interview with Scott J Bintz, about his book “Principles to Fortune: Crafting a Culture to Massively Grow a Business”.
What inspired you to write this book?
Well initially, I wanted to kind of … When I thought about writing a book and then like, “Well I’m not an author,” and then I remembered what a friend of mine said when I was thinking if I should go to college or not. And he said, “It can’t be that hard, too many people have done it.” So after about a year of that … But I ultimately wrote it because I thought that RealTruck’s story should be shared on how a group of people from North Dakota created a business that started in a basement that grew to well over $100 million in sales with average, everyday, ordinary people. How do we do it and how do you get to that level?
Being the founder of realtruck.com I get a lot of juice, but ultimately it was the contribution of a lot of people and of course work culture, business culture, there’s a lot of buzz around that. I kind of shared the story of how we failed at it and then how we ultimately got it better and started succeeding and really getting the work culture rocking. And that was the game changer for the business. And so I kind of wrote it for the average everyday entrepreneur and how they can really change the scope of their business by focusing on work culture.
How did you incorporate guiding principles in your company?
We started in a basement, we got to about $8 million in sales which was really cool. We won an innovation award in North Dakota and we were selling all over, truck and pickup accessories all over the United States. So it was really cool. It was a successful e-commerce operation, but it kind of got where it seemed like it was the endless pursuit of more: more products, more sales, more customers, more. So it was like, “Was that our mission, more?” It seemed inadequate, so to speak. I kind of thought there had to … Could you have really good principles incorporated into business where oftentimes people have great personal values but struggle to practice them at work because of fear of losing their job, all those kind of things.
You think about Bountygate with the New Orleans Saints where they were paying players to injure other players. Seems absolutely ridiculous, but that was part of the culture. And culture in a business happens after … It’s going to happen one way or another, or you can also nourish it so it moves in the direction you’d like it to rather than it tend to … naturally it’ll get more cutthroat and more competitive, which isn’t always good for the mission. But anyway, so we thought, “Hey, let’s try to get values into the business.” We wrote some values, put them on the wall, handed them out in flyers, and a year later nobody embraced them. Nobody even knew what they were. So it was like here I’ve empowered people to practice these values and nobody’s game. But I think we didn’t really know how to incorporate them and encourage people to do them.
And so that became a process of where we went back to the drawing board and I sent out an email asking everybody for their personal values. What are the values or ideas you try to live by? And we got all of these back from all the employees, and I started bucketing them into like type values. And that’s what became RealTruck’s guiding principles. We kind of changed it from being core values to being guiding principles because that kind of answers the question of that you use them to guide you in decision making. And the six that we came up with were deliver more, transparency rocks, improve, take risks, include fun and be humble.
How important is the customer experience?
Well within a corporation, sometimes people pivot off of what they think the leadership wants, which may cause them to make decisions that’s really not in the best longterm interest of the company. And I think happy employees makes for happy customers, and having business partners that you have a working relationship with rather than an arm twisting relationship with is huge, because ultimately even with customers we wanted to be transparent. A lot of companies in e-commerce will say, “Hey, this’ll ship in a day,” just to get the business, even though it doesn’t. We would go the other way. If we knew something shipped in a day, we would say two days. We shipped a day sooner 95% of our orders. And so the customer would get a pleasant surprise. “Hey, it shipped sooner than I expected,” versus, “Hey, this company doesn’t ship when they said they would.”
And we wanted a really great customer experience, so we focused on that. And again, I think sometimes it looks like you’re giving up profit, but if you can have a customer for life, how profitable is that? And then if you can have a customer for life that also is telling their friends about them because you’re taking care of them, you’re shipping sooner than you expected and those kind of expectations. And so in the book it was kind of wrote for your average everyday entrepreneur. But in the book there’s about probably a hundred different ways you can deliver more to your customers that the book talks about. It’s really easy to incorporate. So it’s not a bunch of … highly intellectual concepts as much as it is practical actions any business can take to start to grow and incorporate business culture.
What are some next steps after reading the book?
Usually it probably starts with questions, which is questions around if you do have values or guiding principles, are you actually living by them in the business, or are they on the wall? And if they’re just on the wall, then to start to ask questions around whatever those values are. Say customer loyalty is the value, right? Well, what are you doing to enhance customer loyalty? Do the customers think you’re enhancing, again, depending. If you don’t have values, then it would be a matter of getting together with your organization and finding out what people’s personal values are and trying to bucket them and then roll them out one at a time. And again, it’s a work in progress. So like the value of include fun, it only takes a minute to add fun to a meeting, webpage, whatever. So just making that important and asking people what they’re doing. Again, that’s how you wind up with an ad on a website that says, “We sell bacon and truck accessories, and we’re all out of bacon.”
That’s incorporating and including a little bit of fun in what we do. And so the first thing is kind of assess where you’re at and either getting values or asking if you’re really practicing. Most companies are in this [inaudible 00:08:01] have … Or I shouldn’t say most, but a lot of companies have so over the top missions and values that nobody believes them. I was working with a company that resells other people’s product and they had one of their values that said they wanted to be the most innovative company in the world. But your customers don’t buy that and your employees don’t buy that because you don’t make anything. You’re selling other people’s innovation.
And so just does this value even fit what we’re doing? Not to say you couldn’t have innovation in other areas of that, but the reality in that particular company’s structure, nobody bought that the company was innovative because nobody focused on that. People didn’t reward, incentivize, recognize those attributes for innovation.