Yesterday afternoon, I sent the following email to the KnitCrate team. We are at a point in the our company’s life that it will serve us and you, our customers and extended community, well to define what KnitCrate’s mission and values are. Who we are as a company… what we stand for… and what we were put on this good Earth to do. We did a lot of soul searching as a team. I was going to put up a separate post separately listing our Mission Statement and Values but figured “Hey, why not just copy and paste the entire email I sent to the team internally and let everyone know what we are up to?” Below is the unedited copy and paste of that email. I hope you enjoy and can continue to help us improve and be the kind of company you deserve.
All the best,
Sent: Wednesday, April 25, 2018 3:52 PM
Subject: Our Mission Statement and Values
It’s been almost 2 years since we took over KnitCrate, and what a ride it has been! After working as a team for some time now, growing as much as we have, and getting to know our customers and the industry a little better, I feel that KnitCrate is at an inflection point. It is time that we define, not just who we have been and who we are today, but who we want to be as a company.
What will we stand for? We all have a pretty good sense of that in the office… you can sense it in the air, in how we talk with each other, how we make business decisions, and how we treat our customers… but I feel it is important to put this into concrete words… and then share those words with our community: customers, vendors, social media communities, our newsletter readers, service providers, families and friends and of course each other. Everyone should know who KnitCrate is. More importantly, once we have publicly stated what we stand for, everyone can hold us accountable to that.
As we continue to grow as a company, it has become more and more important that we define our Mission Statement and Core Values. These will define everything about us: what businesses we get into or don’t get into, our business tactics and strategies, branding, and company culture.
The Mission Statement
A mission statement should answer the question: How do we plan to win at this game in the long run? It shouldn’t be some vague, nice-sounding platitude that you read once and ignore. It should be the driving force behind everything we do. And it should be enduring: inspirational and aspirational, yet grounded and achievable.
We must also define what the word “win” means for us. It is not just about our profits, although profits are extremely important (otherwise we cannot continue improving and growing). To take a page out of Tony Hsieh’s (Zappos CEO) book, Delivering Happiness, I think if we can balance Profits, Purpose and Passion, then we are truly winning. Do we feel that there is a larger purpose to what we are doing at KnitCrate beyond making money? Are we passionate about our work? Can we do what we do profitably? If we can answer “yes” to all these questions, then we are winning.
Reflecting on our past two years, the many conversations we have had with customers, and the internal conversations we have had as a team, I think it has become clear that there is only one way for us to really win: And this is by Delivering the Most Extraordinary Customer Service. Customers should experience a level of service from KnitCrate (and our sister companies Dyer Supplier and Destashio) that they have yet to experience anywhere else, and most likely will not experience anywhere else. We need to be THAT good at providing the best customer experience. If a customer is not smiling and deep down inside screaming “wow” every time they interact with KnitCrate, we are failing. Great Customer Service and KnitCrate should be synonymous in customers’ minds.
Plus, this is the one thing our competitors cannot take from us. They can copy the color of our boxes and website (two of them already have), they can imitate our newsletters and promotions strategies, they can copy almost everything, but they will not be able to replicate the level of customer service we aim to achieve nor the relationships we will be developing with our customers because of it.
Now, I think we do offer great customer service, and we pride ourselves in this. But there is much room for improvement. It is important we take the next month or two to really go over our customer’s journey with KnitCrate and see where we can improve to make it the absolute best customer experience. They must be able to say “wow” at every point of that journey, and we must change whatever does not lead to a “wow.”
Our values are the specific behaviors that will help us achieve our mission. If Delivering the Most Extraorindary Customer Service is the end game, then our values/behaviors are the means to that end. These behaviors are also what we should value in one another as co-workers. More than being nice-sounding, they have to be real… so real, in fact, that living by these values (or not) determines who gets rewarded and promoted (or let go) at KnitCrate. These values should also be universal, meaning that they improve our lives in KnitCrate and in our personal lives, as well.
I asked each of you to separately send me what you thought our company values were. I wanted the team’s input in this exercise because at the end of the day you are the embodiment of our values. It made me super happy to see so many of you hit upon the same core values over and over again. This means that we have a true understanding of what our mission at KnitCrate is. I have summarized our core value into 9 categories:
KnitCrate’s Core Values
- Be Transparent and Honest through Candid Communication
- Be Passionate and Enthusiastic
- Be Selfless
- Treat Customers and Partners the Way We Would Like to Be Treated
- Build a Community
- Continually Innovate, Problem-solve and Drive Change
- Be Impactful
- Be Humble
- Be Creative and Have Fun
Values are embodied in very specific behaviors. Otherwise, they are difficult to put into practice. Below are the major categories with supporting behaviors that make up that category. The list is by no means exhaustive, but it goes a long way in bringing to life each of our Core Values. If you think of others you want to add, please send them to me so I can add them.
Be Transparent and Honest through Candid Communication
- Be candid with each other and our customers. Tell the truth, especially when it is difficult to do so.
- Be honest with ourselves and our customers about what they can expect from us.
- When we make mistakes or there are issues, own up to them quickly and be up-front with our customers about the issues, what has caused them, and how we plan to solve them.
- Provide clear communication to team members to minimize errors and mistakes.
- Be open and honest with team members and customers about changes KnitCrate is undertaking, both good and bad.
- When in doubt, err on the side of transparency with our customers. While there is some sensitive company information that should not be out there, we should make sure we remain as transparent as possible with our customers and community.
- Listen well, instead of reacting quickly, so you can understand what is being communicated to you.
- Treat your team members and customers with respect, independent of status or disagreement with you.
- Only say things about fellow team members you are willing to say to their face.
Be Passionate and Enthusiastic
- Inspire team members and customers with your own excitement.
- Care intensely about KnitCrate’s customers and work hard to provide them a great experience.
- Seek to fully understand our customers, suppliers, strategy, products and market.
- Continuously be learning. Don’t let your curiosity stifle.
- Celebrate wins!
- Embody a sense of urgency in everything you do.
- Be optimistic and positive.
- Seek what is best for KnitCrate (and therefore our customer), rather than simply what is best for yourself or your group.
- Create an environment that is friendly and inviting.
- Strive to eliminate cynicism and negative interactions.
- Be a team player. Never use the words, “That’s not my job” or “That’s not my responsibility.” Our main obligations are to our customers, so any issues in any area of KnitCrate, are everyone’s responsibilities because they ultimately affect our customers. Everyone’s job is your responsibility.
- Make time to help your team members.
- If you are a manager, lead by example. You are here to serve those that you lead and make sure they have the tools and means to succeed at their daily jobs. After all, it is your team members who are closest to the customers and daily issues.
- Take the initiative. If you see something can be done better, start doing it better or bring it to the team’s attention.
- Take ownership of issues that arise and work with your team members to solve them so that the team and company can succeed.
- Show the same level of respect and courtesy that you expect in return: to your team members, customers, vendors, etc.
- Help one another be great.
Treat Customers and Partners the Way We Would Like to Be Treated
- Don’t forget to say, “Thank you.”
- Give customers/partners a good, fair deal. Building great customer relationships take time.
- Look for ways to make it easier to do business with us.
- Never let profit conflicts get in the way of doing what is right for our customers and partners (dyers, designers, etc.).
- Don’t try to maximize short-term profits at the expense of building long-term relationships with our customers and partners.
- Keep a positive and friendly attitude when dealing with our customers. Keep an attitude of gratitude when dealing with our customers and partners. They are the ONLY reason we are able to do what we do every day.
- Be accessible to our customers and partners. Answer all their inquiries in a timely manner, whether by phone, email or messages.
- Go the extra mile for our customers. If you need to do extra research to properly answer their questions or concerns, invest the time and do the extra work for our customers.
- Be comfortable, casual, relaxed and friendly when speaking with our customers and partners. We are people dealing with people.
- If we make a mistake, let’s own up to it and more importantly, find a way to make it right by our customers and partners.
- If a customer or partner calls in because they are upset about something, hear them out fully and try to understand what happened. Then try your best to make it right. Pretend it is your very best friend calling to let you know that something you said or did made them upset. You would immediately try to make it right or explain what happened. Have that same urgency with our customers and partners.
Build a Community
- We are building more than just a great company here at KnitCrate. We are building a community.
- Take customer and community member feedback and advice into account when building our company, launching new products, and improving systems.
- Launch new programs or products that continue to build our community of knitters, crocheters, dyers and designers. For example, we recently launched Destashio so community members could interact directly with one another.
- Make our online presence on Ravelry, Facebook and Instagram as welcoming and inviting as possible so members feel safe expressing themselves.
- Take the time to let our customers and partners know how important they are to us.
- Make customers and partners feel that they are as much a part of KnitCrate as anyone who works in KnitCrate.
Continually Innovate, Problem-solve and Drive Change
- We are a fast-growing company in which change is constant: embrace that change.
- Be prepared for constant change, and even better, be the force driving that change.
- Stay ahead of our competition by continually changing, evolving and keeping them guessing. They will not be able to evolve as fast as us, as long as we are driving the change. In the last year alone we have launched Destashio (a peer to peer marketplace), Dyer Supplier (wholesale line of undyed yarns), KnitCrate Marketplace (a marketplace where dyers and designers can post products for sale on our website), and our in-line brands of yarn. What’s next?
- Don’t be afraid to make mistakes. They are bound to happen when we are growing and innovating as much as we are. You will never be reprimanded by me or anyone in management for making a mistake because you tried something new. We will own up to our mistakes and course correct as quickly as possible.
- Always look for ways to improve yourself and KnitCrate and be more efficient.
- Realize there is always room for improvement.
- Learn and grow from your own mistakes.
- Innovation is not enough. We need to continually make incremental improvements to the way we operate, always looking for ways to do something better. If we make 1 improvement per day, that’s 365 improvements in a year. Every small improvement matters!
- Never settle for “good enough.”
- Set and exceed our own high standards.
- Focus on great results, rather than the process.
- Do great work so team members know they can rely on you.
- Think strategically.
- Separate what must be done well right now from what can be improved later on.
- Get to the root of the problem. Don’t just treat symptoms.
- Make tough decisions even when you don’t have all the information in front of you.
- We don’t tolerate “brilliant jerks,” those who are technically good at their job but behave like jerks and aren’t team players. This hurts our teamwork-oriented environment and will cost us in the long run.
- Be respectful and kind to everyone.
- As we continue to grow and be successful, don’t let it get to your head. Remember that we surmounted a lot of obstacles to get here, and there are more challenges ahead.
- Carry yourself with a quiet confidence and let our results speak for themselves.
Be Creative and Have Fun
- Instill originality and creativity in everything we do: from our monthly themes to our Instagram posts to our marketing strategies
- Keep it fresh and inspiring for our customers.
- Have fun, otherwise you will end up not enjoying coming to work, and our customers will be able to note the difference.
- Be different and don’t settle for being average. You are here to be extraordinary.
- Have an open mind when confronted with challenges; it will let you find creative solutions.
- Take risks and get out of your comfort zone.
- Be original. Be the best version of YOU.
So there you have it team: Our company Mission Statement and our Core Values. This will inform every decision we make going forward… from who we hire to what products we launch to how we brand ourselves. I hope that this helps us continue growing as a team and also helps each of us live better lives personally.
All the best,