In Search Of Building A Great Company

Author: Robert Reiss

Mendoza College benefactor Tom Mendoza joins a panel of business leaders for a conversation with Forbes.

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Most CEOs agree, the three legs of a great company with great product are passionate employees, loyal customers and superior financial performance. But these often-elusive goals pose important questions. How can executives build strong cultures? What is the dynamic between passionate employees and loyal customers? Is there in fact a connection to financial performance? In search of these answers I put together a panel on March 18, 2015 of thought leaders from companies possessing the three legs of greatness.

- NetApp Vice Chairman, Tom Mendoza. NetApp was “was voted #1 in America in 2009 and for the past 3 years has been top 3 best companies to work for globally. Notre Dame’s Mendoza School of business was named after Tom.

- Amica Insurance Chairman, President and CEO Bob DiMuccio. Since 2005, when Bob became CEO of the 108-year-old mutual company, Amica has won a remarkable 29 J.D. Power awards.

- Build-A-Bear Workshop CEO Sharon Price John. During Sharon’s first 18 months as CEO, the beloved company’s stock grew from 6 to over 20.

- Aflac President U.S., Teresa White. Aflac, over the past 9 years, has been named a world’s most ethical company while its revenues have increased from $14 billion to $22 billion.

1. Many leaders struggle with how to get executives and employees to embody corporate values. In one sentence, what advice do you have?

Teresa White, Aflac:  “At the end of the day, it’s not about what you say; it’s about what you do.”

Sharon Price John, Build-A-Bear: “Make sure you’re creating a mission that feels greater than the individual and even greater than the company.”

Tom Mendoza, NetApp: “Be clear about what your values are and live up to them.”

Bob DiMuccio, Amica: “It’s all about respect – respect for your customers, respect for your employees and respect for your constituencies.”

2. What values are most important to your company?

Tom Mendoza, NetApp: “Trust and integrity. Since we help clients build out data infrastructure everything has to be built on trust. I’ve always said you find out if you’ve got a friend when you’ve got a problem. We want to make sure that we’re the company that is there when someone has a problem.”

Sharon John, Build-A-Bear: “Reaching, being intellectually curious and collaboration are all a part of our culture and help elevate who we are as an organization. In today’s dynamic retail environment, if you don’t have an embedded need to keep moving and growing while working together, you won’t be successful. Retail does not stop changing, so neither can we.”

Bob DiMuccio, Amica: “Our mission is to create peace of mind and build enduring relationships. So trust and reliability are the core values for our two main constituencies – policyholders and employees.”

Teresa White, Aflac: “Transparency is most important. The Aflac Way is our set of values with seven commitments, including: communicating regularly; responding immediately; knowing your stuff; treating everyone with respect.”

Tom Mendoza, NetApp: “And if I can add, I’ve been asked to speak to a lot of companies about what builds culture, and candor is a big deal. People always say, ‘I wish my bosses could hear this’ and many times you talk to bosses and they say, ‘We have candor. I say anything I want to say.’ Employees and customers must feel like you’re telling them truth, and good or bad they’re getting the straight scoop. And at meetings, everybody feels better if their issues are on the table whether or not the decision goes that way. If you feel like you’ve been listened to, if someone makes a decision even if you don’t agree, you’re usually okay.”

Read more on the Forbes website.

Follow Tom Mendoza on Twitter: @TomMendozaTalks