Happy Anniversary to Our Code of Values!
It’s official. Our values have gone platinum! We’ve been Living R.I.C.H. at Dwyer Group for 20 years! Two decades ago, we journeyed into uncharted territory when our organization set out to define an operationalized Code of Values. Wow, time flies when you’re “Having fun in the process.” By the way, that’s my favorite theme in our Code of Values. But I’m getting ahead of myself.
Here’s a look back at how it all happened and what a profound impact our Code of Values has had on our company, our associates, our franchisees and even outside of our organization.
When a company loses its leader, where can it turn to for guidance?
It wasn’t all fun when the management team at Dwyer Group set out to operationalize our Code of Values. In fact, it was very serious business. We had suffered the loss of our company’s founder Don Dwyer Sr., and we knew that the Code of Values he had outlined when he started the company in 1981 had played a key role in the growth and success of our organization up until that point. Those values, which were very special to him and had attracted great people to our team and great franchisees across our brands, had created a distinctive foundation for our business.
But our original Code of Values had been written in a way that was hard to measure in daily practice. It included important statements, like: We believe that loyalty adds meaning to our lives. We believe success is the result of clear, cooperative, positive thinking. We believe we must re-earn our position every day in every way.
Everyone would agree that those were good values to try and follow. But without Don leading the charge, we needed actionable statements to keep us accountable, knowing with certainty when we were successful or unsuccessful in living up to them.
Staying true to the company’s culture, a Code of Values can provide a roadmap to follow.
That’s when we came up with our operationalized Code of Values in 1996 with 14 well-defined statements under the umbrella of four fantastic themes: Respect, Integrity, Customer focus and [again, my favorite one] Having fun in the process. Those values led to the overarching idea to Live R.I.C.H. at Dwyer Group. And 20 years later, that’s still what we’re all about.
But here’s where things got really interesting. When we finished outlining our Code of Values we weren’t done. We were just getting started. In my book Live R.I.C.H. I shared how we got the entire team to embrace our new values.
We now had a measurable form of principles to keep us on the right path to doing what was best for our business. But before taking this to our associates and franchisees, we had to practice what we preached.
We unveiled the operational Code of Values to our home team for a 90-day test drive. We told the associates at our Waco office that each of the executives would try to adhere to the operational values and, if anyone found us not living up to the values, they could say “BEEP” to alert us when we were messing up. We would also read the Code of Values aloud before every meeting attended by three or more people of the company. Not only did it work (and, yes, we all got a few BEEPs), but the associates also learned the operational version by default and began practicing the values we aimed to make a permanent part of our expanded Code of Values.
Values don’t thrive in picture frames on office walls. They must live inside your business every day.
It’s been said that 95 percent of companies that have a code of values don’t even use it. Thousands of companies spend countless hours and money with experts to help define their mission, vision and values. They write them down, hang them on the wall…and then walk away.
We escaped that unpleasant fate at Dwyer Group. The BEEP game and the daily practice of reciting our values propped up a company culture that brought our Code of Values to life.
Author Jacob Morgan says, “Regardless of what you believe culture is or where it comes from, the one thing that is common is that culture is about feeling.” I agree. And by inviting our associates into the process of holding us accountable to our Code of Values, we’ve created a very important feeling of inclusion. They have an actual say in our culture.
The only way to grow our company and keep this culture going is by having a committed valued-based team and hiring to the values. Today, my number one job is to make sure we don’t lose that very special environment. That’s not an easy task when you consider that Dwyer Group has grown more than 50 percent under the guidance of CEO Mike Bidwell and our entire leadership team through acquisitions and organic growth of our existing franchisees over the last 18 months. Today, we have more than 2,600 franchised locations across 13 service brands in 11 countries making more than 3 million service calls a year. Our growth has been fantastic. But so has the fantastic opportunity to extend our Code of Values to so many more individuals. When you join the Dwyer Group, you don’t just access the advantages of our collective buying power with vendors, our superior marketing support, and our successful operating systems. You also access our Code of Values.
Happy Anniversary. Here’s to 20 more years of Living R.I.C.H.