In the summer of 2008, Bruce Poon Tip, founder of G Adventures, made the decision that if he was going to stay with the company and lead it to the next level, it needed a “cultural revolution.” “I had to go back to the very beginning and figure out where we stood. I wanted to harness this all together,” said says Poon Tip. He brought employees from around the world to a series of meetings, and set out to document the company’s new set of core values.
“Many companies have documented their core values, but the employees don’t pay any attention. The document sits in a drawer somewhere, or the list is too long to remember,” says Poon Tip. The company wanted core values that would transcend cultures and be easy enough to understand, “no matter whether you were a cook on a truck for us in Africa or a horse
stableman in Mongolia.”
“Many companies have documented their core values, but the employees don’t pay any attention. The document sits in a drawer somewhere, or the list is too long to remember,”
The group agreed on five new values, consisting of only a few words:
Love. Lead. Embrace. Create. Do.
They next set out to bring them to life. One way was by getting employees talking about them, integrating them into how employees think and act. An example is its annual companywide values-based video competition, where employees make short movies about what the values mean to them. The videos are not only hilarious, outrageous and clever, but they get employees talking about and working together to bring meaning to the words. Watch some of the best ones here.
Another key part of its strategy is to use values to guide decisions. An example is a business decision about the company’s policy on customer deposits. Standard practice in the travel industry, and a way that travel companies make money, is for companies to keep the customer’s deposit if the customer cancels a trip. A group of G Adventures employees asked whether that was taking advantage of people’s misfortune, pointing out
that it went against the value of “doing the right thing.”
Poon Tip and the team decided the employees were right, and came up with the revolutionary idea of a lifetime deposit, meaning a customer doesn’t lose a deposit but can apply it toward a new trip, give it to someone else or donate it to G Adventure’s charity. This is a great example of values clearly showing both customers and employees who they are, helping employees and the business get to the next level.
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