In 1895 Sears took in Julius Rosenwald as a managing partner to fund and direct the further growth of his business. Rosenwald saw that Sears’ business model was flawed. Sooner or later people would come to realize that many of the products offered in the catalog were like the famed snake oil sold by traveling merchants to the unsuspecting. Rosenwald’s first act as CEO was to print on the cover of the mail order catalog the value statement, “Satisfaction guaranteed or your money-back.” And the company backed it up. Reversing a tradition that was thousands of years old, Sears became the first company in America, perhaps in the world, to replace the age-old Latin dictum caveat emptor, “let the buyer beware”, with a firm commitment to satisfy the customer at any cost. Over the next 20 years, revenues multiplied twenty-fold, making Sears the largest retailer in the whole world. During the 1920s Sears opened the first department store in a suburban shopping mall to cater to the increasingly mobile US population. The company continued to grow right through the Great Depression and remained the world’s largest retailer for seven decades, until it was finally overtaken by Walmart in the late 1980s. Through that whole period, Sears’ growth was fueled by its extraordinary commitment to the value of customer satisfaction.
Every company referred to in this article has excelled on the strength of a very strong commitment to high corporate values. For FedEx the value of punctuality was one key driver. But since its inception, the company has been equally committed to intensive, open communication with employees, based on an appeal system that goes all the way to the top. Systematic functioning has always been a core value at Marriott, which operates based on carefully delineated procedures to ensure that every employee knows exactly what to do to meet customer and company expectations. Those procedures help make Marriott a great place for customers and for employees. The highest value at Merck is credibility. The company has earned a reputation among physicians for providing the most accurate, reliable, impartial information about its products in the industry, so much so that physicians with too little time to catch up on the latest developments in their field would prefer to meet with a Merck representative than the representative of any other pharmaceutical company.
Companies with records of sustained success are those strongly committed to a wide range of values which they have worked to perfect over long periods of time. In my books, I have listed 27 major corporate values that drive the success of top performing companies. A complete list might include fifty or more. I have placed particular stress in these examples on values with a strong practical orientation. A serious commitment to physical values has been a powerful driving force at all these companies, such as cleanliness at McDonalds, speed at Toyota and Dell, punctuality at FedEx, safety and preventive maintenance at DuPont, efficiency at Bata and Walmart, quality at BMW and Amazon, accuracy and precision at Google search. These companies also demonstrate a strong commitment to organizational values such as the delicate blend of freedom and discipline at General Mills, standardization and systematic functioning at Amazon and Marriott, communication at Coca Cola and FedEx, coordination and cooperation at Delta. Furthermore, all these companies also achieve high performance on a range of psychological values, which are the most powerful of all, such as customer satisfaction at Amazon and Disney, innovation at BMW and Tesla, harmony and family feeling at Delta, individual empowerment at Apple and Google, integrity at Merck and Johnson & Johnson, social responsibility at Nike and Starbucks, and extraordinary level of personal commitment to customers at Northwestern Mutual Life Insurance, for decades one of the most admired life insurance companies in America. Many of these companies would rate at the top of their industry on all or most of these values.Download Article 1K Club