Nearly four years later, we’ve found that these principles have endured, permeating our culture and establishing a clear set of expectations for our employees. They’ve been woven into the fabric of our business: New hires are trained on them during onboarding. They are reviewed frequently at all-employee meetings. They are part of each employee’s performance evaluation. And meeting them is one criterion of our bonus program.
Below are our tried-and-true operating principles and how any business can put them into action:
1. Always add value. Strive to add value in all that you do. Place yourself in the shoes of your clients, managers or team members to maximize the benefit of your actions. This means, for example, researching opportunities before passing them along, thinking critically about potential solutions before highlighting a problem, anticipating questions, or being willing to bring creative ideas to the table.
2. Slow down and pay attention to detail. As representatives of your clients to the outside world, attention to detail is absolutely critical. Slow down to proofread, and get a second set of eyes on drafts before sending them to a client. Carefully review to-do lists to avoid balls being dropped later on. Because of this principle, we are stronger and better as a team, and, leaving egos aside, we collaborate on the small stuff to ensure excellence in the end result for our clients and our business.
3. Communicate with clarity. As public relations professionals, clear communication is critical, both in the work we present to clients and in our interactions with each other. In internal as well as external communications, include all relevant details, and leave out extraneous details. Include a clear next step or call to action. When managing client projects, clarify and communicate process steps, timelines and deliverables. Identify budget or timeline issues early, and flag them.
4. Be responsive. Try to respond to client emails and texts quickly — ideally within a couple of hours. If something needs deeper consideration, we strive to acknowledge the request and provide a time frame for when we’ll be back in touch on it.
5. Think and act positively. Work can be demanding and stressful — all the more reason to give others your best. Your energy and demeanor influence the client and those around you. Always try to assume the best of each other. When things go wrong or there’s conflict, start with the belief that the other person has a positive intent, is giving their best effort and has a rationale for their actions, even if it’s not clear. Any professional deserves that dignity as the starting point. To manage difficult situations, lay emotions aside, and get a clear view of the facts. Focus on the best next steps and how to avoid the problem in the future, not on who’s to blame.
Culture matters. A company with a strong culture attracts and retains the very best employees, giving it a significant competitive advantage. As Airbnb’s CEO Brian Chesky once said, “Culture is simply a shared way of doing something with a passion.” When a company’s preferred way of doing things is clearly communicated and all employees are aligned, it creates an engaged and unified team culture. Your operating principles may be different than ours, but whatever they are, it’s worth taking the time to define them, share them and live them.