Great companies do things with class. Elegance is reflected in everything they do, from the way they write letters, to the way they pack boxes, to the way they interact with people. Elegance is a direct result of pride, attention to detail and high standards, and it has nothing to do with whether you are selling lettuce or luxury cars. To us, one of the highest compliments anyone can pay a company is to say "they are a class act."
When dealing with a great company—whether as an employee, supplier or customer—you know what to expect, and there are never any surprises (at least not bad ones).
Great companies get it done. They crank out excellent products, programs and projects with great efficiency and minimal red tape. They tend to focus on less talk, more action.
In virtually every great company we have ever been exposed to, there is a pervasive and infectious spirit of dedication and belief in the mission. It is not a corny, cult-like or over-the-top kind of thing (as distinguished from multi-level marketing schemes and corporate rah-rah B.S.) and it does not necessarily mean that people have to believe that selling bags, booking airline tickets or stacking tomatoes is their life's mission. It simply means that people like and believe in the company for which they have chosen to work, and the products or services they are offering.
Whether it's with customers, employees, suppliers or anyone else who touches your company, your relationships will be key determinants of the quality and performance of your business. In our experience, the corollary is direct and rarely wrong. Poor relationships and chemistry almost invariably lead to problems, even if the company's products and processes are outstanding. But great relationships can and do lead to great things, and send a positive signal about the company. Every single person or company in the "universe" of a business contributes to this.
Obsessive Customer Service
Many companies talk the talk about customer service and make up catchy slogans or tag lines about it, but very, very few truly deliver on the promise. The ones that do stand out so dramatically, and bowl you over to the extent that you just have to tell someone about it. In our opinion, in most industries these are the only companies that deserve to survive and prosper. The customer may not, in fact, always be right, but he or she is the one paying you, so you had better prove you deserve it. Do right by them and you can virtually never go wrong. We believe that no company has ever gone out of business by taking excessive care of its customers. We are fiercely proud and protective of our customer service ethic, practices and reputation.
There is a huge risk in overestimating one's own importance, in life and business. We think that bloated ego and arrogance are among the most dangerous things to any business.
Conservative, Disciplined Financial Practices
Great companies spend/invest where they need to, but they do not waste money. Money spent on people, product development, and technology—where it improves the performance of the company—is money well-spent. Money that doesn't benefit customers, employees or products in some way is usually money wasted. "Spend it like it's your own" will almost never steer you wrong.
Everyone knows that design is the business watchword of our time. Products which reflect inspired design tend to become iconic and coveted, and the companies that create them tend—with some notable exceptions and cyclical hiccups—to thrive. Design and service combined are, in our opinion, the one-two punch of business today.
Need we say more?