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Why Our Culture Starts with TEAM: Interview with Chris Taylor, Fisher’s Technology 

Most business owners understand the value of a vision and mission statement but often stop short of identifying and living by core values. In the age of the Great Resignation and changing customer buying habits, understanding and honing a company’s core values is more important than ever. But where to start? 

Join West McDonald, Chief Noise Maker at Tigerpaw Software, and Chris Taylor, CEO at Fisher’s Technology, as they dive in deep into the who, what, where, when and why of developing strong corporate core values. You’ll learn: 

  • The 5 core values that have helped Fisher’s Technology to grow and adapt even through challenging times 
  • Why Fisher’s first core value isn’t “Customers” (and which value takes the lead!) 
  • The importance of trust and vulnerability in high functioning teams 
  • Why a sincere interest in diverse and sometimes conflicting views is so important to growing a strong company culture 
  • Whether or not core values change with changing times 
  • The dark side of core values and why you must seek balance 
  • How causes are as important as paychecks when it comes to team satisfaction 
  • Why a focus on education and a genuine interest in team satisfaction go hand in hand 
  • Why we must identify core values, not create them 
  • Why using third parties to help illuminate core values, although scary, can deliver big 
  • The importance of consistency from the top 

If you are serious about taking your business to the next level by establishing and living through shared core values, this is an interview that can’t be missed. You can access it here: 

At Tigerpaw, core values are a pretty significant part of running our business. We talk about them often, hold each other accountable to them, and clearly communicate them as part of our hiring process and the way we onboard and serve customers. If you’d like to learn more, here’s a little bit about Tigerpaw and the core values we live by.  

0:00:26.9 West McDonald: Today we have Chris Taylor from Fisher Technology. How are you, Chris?

0:00:32.1 Chris Taylor: Doing well, thank you.

0:00:34.6 West McDonald: This one was actually spurred on by a session that I saw you speaking at. I thought it was so powerful that I want to make sure we get eyeballs on this. It’s something that doesn’t just affect those that I typically serve in the office equipment channel, but it’s something I think is important for companies of all types, regardless of the technology service that they’re offering or the kinds of customers that they serve. That really focused around this whole idea of core values within an organization. I don’t think you can have a conversation about core values with a culture, so maybe we’ll dive into that a little bit too. Before I go any further and take away your thunder, why don’t you introduce yourself for our audience?

0:01:09.6 Chris Taylor: Okay, perfect. My company is called Fisher’s Technology. We’re based in Boise, Idaho. I have 11 locations in the Northwest, Idaho, Montana, Washington State. Traditional office equipment business, but bought a small IT MSP in 2013. We’re spending a lot of time and money in growing what’s hopefully a maturing IT business within the confines of traditional copier dealership.

0:01:41.4 West McDonald: Yeah, that’s great. I’ve been seeing a lot of that lately. As I mentioned, I just got back from an event, CompTia actually in Chicago, and working there with a lot of MSPs and IT providers. Definitely that world is changing and growing at speeds that maybe the office equipment side isn’t. Very excited to see you pushing in that direction. One of the things we’re going to talk about today is specifically those core values. I loved hearing you talk about the core values that you’ve actually developed as a team together at Fisher’s. So maybe you could share what those are. First of all, what are your core values today?

0:02:16.8 Chris Taylor: We have five core values. These aren’t numbered, but I think mentally we put a prioritization and we see a list. The first one is most important and it is definitely most important for us, and that’s team. Our employees, our team members, we like the word team itself. Team, we put our people first and people and culture, everything to, I would argue, any organization. Absolutely team is first. Second is customers. Actually, customers used to be first on our list. We reprioritized those. Again, the mental exercise we go through to see a list that the top one is most important. Team, then customers. Then third, which is my favorite adjective right now for human beings, and that’s curiosity. Curiosity is very important to our culture. It’s our third core value. By that, we mean having what we call a beginner’s mind, being open to new ideas, new ways of doing things, new innovations, not having blinders on. This is how you do it or how we’ve done it for 50 years or whatever. That curiosity is very important to our culture. Fourth is trust. This really comes from where Patrick Lencioni, the only disciples, if you read his books, Five Dysfunctions of a Team, high functioning teams fundamentally have to have high levels of trust and vulnerability in order to do the other things that healthy teams need to do.

0:03:43.1 Chris Taylor: We work a lot on trust as a foundational layer of having high functioning teams. Then finally, it’s continuous improvement. Never being complacent. All these have a shadow side that they’re not all good things necessarily. If you obsess with continuous improvement, maybe you don’t recognize the great efforts that you do have. We work on complementing these values with other things. Team, customers, curiosity, trust, and improvement are our five core values.

0:04:15.6 West McDonald: Yeah, I love that. You did say that you actually moved the order around, right? That the team came before customers. I think I’ve got a pretty good idea why, but maybe share what was the impetus there.

0:04:30.3 Chris Taylor: I started in 2006 and came in to do fundamentally a transformation of this company, every aspect of it really. At the time, I put customers first. We needed a rally cry. We needed something as a filter for all of our efforts, all of our investments, and that rally cry was customers. I said, team, we’re going to go create extremely happy customers. That still is our rally cry. We realized the way we create extremely happy customers though is by having awesome people that love what they’re doing, that work cohesively, and believe in that mission of having extremely happy customers. If we don’t get the team right, we’ll never be able to deliver on the customers.

0:05:14.4 West McDonald: Right. Yeah. At Tigerpaw, we have a similar core value and that’s people first. In our mantra, it’s combined both for the staff and the customers. At the end of the day, like you said, if your team isn’t strong, if your team isn’t the best that they can be, then they can’t deliver the best that they have.

0:05:35.9 Chris Taylor: Yeah, if we’re not obsessing with that, then also things like the great resignation that are going on right now, we’re much more vulnerable of losing great people. We’ve got to put them first in order to not only retain them, but then also recruit new awesome people.

0:05:49.2 West McDonald: Yeah. I saw Chip Naselli also speak on this. One of the things that he talked about, a very similar core value is in that retention. If you’re looking to do great hiring, you’ve got to do great retention first. It’s so critical now with people looking at changing their careers or finding more meaning in their work or other things. I think the values, when you think of the core values a company has, people have their own core values. Once upon a time, it might have been just getting the biggest paycheck. Maybe today that’s different. Maybe it’s about a life work balance or something else, trying to try and come together with that. I absolutely love it. The other thing that you mentioned there was this continuous improvement. I look at that as Kaizen. I remember doing some managed print assessments actually for Toyota back probably just over 10 years ago now. Seeing that kind of in practice on the floor where they had their wall where people would put up suggestions for things that they were doing on the assembly line, et cetera, and how that curiosity and continuous improvement can obviously come together. I would think that curiosity would lend yourself as we were talking about that you now have an MSP IT practice that that curiosity led to that kind of diversification.

0:07:01.5 West McDonald: It really does drive your efforts.

0:07:05.2 Chris Taylor: That’s where all the great ideas come from as our team and our employees. We have to have open minds and a sincere interest and diverse opinions. When you do that, you can’t help but be innovative and changing in the right ways.

0:07:21.6 West McDonald: I love all the stuff that you’re doing on LinkedIn as well as you share some of this stuff quite openly with other companies and customers alike to be able to help them to see what you’re doing there. They might be able to use some of that to help themselves. Certainly one of the things, maybe I’ll move on to the next question, is that we’ve obviously lived in a very changed world. Through the pandemic, like you said, the great resignation, this acceleration of remote work, which I’ve been doing for almost 20 years, by the way, but for the general public, it wasn’t quite as common. Cloud everything, so moving away from infrastructure-based things like CapEx to OpEx cloud-based solutions, everything in the cloud. These things are… Our business lives are changing. How we serve our customers is changing so dramatically. How we serve our people is. So do core values have to catch up with the times and adapt and change or are they sacrosanct? Maybe you can share a little bit about your views and what happens in these great changing times with core values.

0:08:20.0 Chris Taylor: I guess I wouldn’t put values in either category. Do they need to change? I think if they’re not the values as a leader that you want in your organization and that works for your team and your customers, then yeah, we need to change values. If they truly reflect… We can put five words on the wall. Any company can put five words on the wall, but if employees look at those and then go in and see the decisions we make and the behaviors we have and the activity we have inconsistent with what’s on the wall, we’re doing more damage by putting those words on the wall than not having put them up at all. The reality is we do have values in our business. They may not be what we put on the wall. They may not be what we want in organizations, but again, the culture of the organization does adhere to some set of values and you may not like them. For us, our values, they’ve changed over time in terms of the wording itself to be maybe more reflective of us or easier to consume and remember and follow. But I don’t think they necessarily as a result of changing times.

0:09:36.5 Chris Taylor: If that truly is your culture, your values, you’ve captured it, you love it, your team loves it, it’s working for you. I don’t think changing times mean you change those values. That said, we have had to make changes in our organization as a result of changing times, not changing the values themselves, but how do we allow those values to manifest themselves? How do we reinforce those? We’ve had to with remote meetings like this, when we weren’t able to come into the offices together, we were becoming disconnected. So we had to really amp up communication a lot. So reinforcing those same values, they didn’t change, but reinforcing them over and over and over again. And when we give employee recognition awards, we’re going to do it in alignment with our values. And I have a monthly hour-long meeting with the whole company, which 175 employees once a month, that’s an expensive meeting. I wouldn’t change it for anything because that’s when we reinforce who we are and why we exist here. And I talk about those values throughout the whole meeting. Yeah, I’m giving data. That’s the other piece. We’ve changed this to be much more transparent than we ever have been.

0:10:40.4 Chris Taylor: There’s a lot of fear, uncertainty, and doubt. And when we don’t provide information, most humans fill in those gaps with the worst possible story. So being much more transparent in those communications as well has been a key transformation of us. Again, not a transformation of our value, but how do we communicate those values? We’ve amped up training. That’s not necessarily a reflection of the times. I think it’s a reflection of what, to your point, may not be just a paycheck we need anymore. The team needs to see a cause that they believe in, and they need to be an organization that believes in them and invests in them and cares about them. And so we’ve done a lot of effort around increasing how much training we do, leadership training, job-specific training, even training just on other skills people can use in their lives that may or may not have to do with our company, but investing in our employees through training. So those kinds of strategies, tactics, those things are different than before, but the values themselves are not at all different.

0:11:45.1 West McDonald: I love it. Yeah, the values themselves are pretty consistent. And the way we deliver on those values, I think is what I’m hearing, that might have to change sometimes to catch up with the times, but the values themselves really, if it’s a good reflection of the organization and the people and it’s driving you the way you want to go, then changing times are not a problem.

0:12:07.6 Chris Taylor: Yeah, we did ask though, do we say, the values that we espouse today, is that reflective of the people that we’re recruiting, the people that we want to recruit, reflective of our job today, which is a different business and IT and others than it is before. So we do challenge them to say, are they still relevant? First of all, reflective of us and who we truly are in our core and are they still relevant to our team? Or do we need to have a more intentional say, you know what, that’s not reflective of us anymore. We do need to change. And then you just don’t flip a light switch or change the word on the wall, right? Effecting cultural changes is a long, long process, deliberate process. So we have got checked the validity and relevance of our values to us and we’re not embarked. We love those five still, but we’ll check in again.

0:12:57.7 West McDonald: Yeah. I love this idea though. It actually lends itself to your one core value, which is curiosity, right? So like you said, rechecking back and saying, hey, we’re curious, is this still us? Is this still what we do? Right. I love it. It’s one of your core values actually feeds that whole process.

0:13:12.8 Chris Taylor: And in fact, it was about three years ago when we had customer first and we had this kind of evaluation and someone on our team said, you know, Chris, you keep talking about how important our team is and Fisher’s is great because of us. Why are we second on the list? And I said, yeah, we looked around and we said, absolutely. Why didn’t we see that before? You know? So little shifts there, but nothing that says that is who we are.

0:13:46.9 West McDonald: Yeah. I love it. And like you said, it’s not that the value changed, but that, like you said, that where it sits in a list definitely does drive that perception of prioritization, right? So really cool to see that. Yeah. The other thing you mentioned was this whole thing about us having to do these virtual meetings, right? How, you know, kind of normalized these have been, and I was actually speaking with another guest of mine for an interview that will come out later, which is on basically meeting equity, right? That this idea that when we care about our people, why do we send them home, you know, with different camera equipment or different microphones or, you know, like this whole idea. And it spawned in me that there’s this opportunity for providers to have this kind of equity package, you know, for their customers, right? To say, how many remote employees do you have? Here’s the package we have for you to be able to, you know, help them have the same meeting experience that, you know, you have, you know, in their office. So yeah, it’s pretty neat. I just, and again, that’s that curiosity in me is saying, where’s the opportunity, how do we, you know, use those things, right?

0:14:41.7 West McDonald: But of course, as usual, I digress. And keeping myself back on track, one of the things that I’d like to ask you is that there’s obviously a lot of companies out there that haven’t developed sort of a series of core values. I know that people do develop vision and mission statements often, and then they kind of stop there, right? So this whole idea of the core values of the organizations may not be done, or they may be looking to, you know, improve upon those, right? So when people are going through this exercise of looking to develop those core values, what kind of recommendations would you have for them at least to get started in the right way?

0:15:17.1 Chris Taylor: Yeah, for me, development of mission vision values, I’ve had a hard time figuring out what comes first. I find it’s a very iterative process because your mission, your why, and then your vision of what you do with that why, how you go executing that why. And then the values that underpin all of that, because the reason we care so much about this why is our values. That’s kind of an iterative process, heavily intertwined. In terms of development, if you will, or like, again, you don’t develop values, they exist in your company. It’s more about identifying the values and then saying, are those the values that work for us or not? And the process we went through is we had a third party consultant come in and interview lots of our team members and developed, this is what your team thinks you are at the core.

0:16:21.4 West McDonald: That’s a great idea.

0:16:22.5 Chris Taylor: And came back with it. And there’s folks trained to do that. And they came back with, at the time they came back with three things. And so the nerve wracking, some third party is going to tell you who you are. But it’s based on our team, right? We loved them. But they came back with fun, was the first one that came back. So for us now that’s manifested itself or it’s morphed into team, right? So that’s all part of having a great team. But fun customers, we’ve been hammering extremely happy customers, extremely happy customers, extremely happy customers. And then this sense of continuous improvement came back. And so that we liked them a lot. And so you can see how they, we’ve added in curiosity. And we’ve added in trust as a part of, let’s say he’s having healthy conflict and all the things that we need to do as a team to take advantage of our curiosity. We need to embrace diversity and other opinions. So trust is that foundational layer of healthy teams. We’ve added those in over time. But I would say you don’t go develop them. You figure out who you are now.

0:17:32.4 Chris Taylor: Scary process potentially. And then is that who you want to be or do we need to embark in that hard work of changing our culture? And that I gave a speech one time on this topic and at the end Q&A someone said, hey, yeah, so my boss, I was in HR and they just changed my title to culture. So my mission is to change the culture of the organization. Where should I start? And I said, I wouldn’t. It starts with your boss, the owner of the company or the top of the organization has to drive, my opinion, has to drive that culture because if someone else goes and drives it and then the top leadership are making decisions inconsistent with those or don’t actually espouse those values themselves or that culture themselves, it’s a failing mission.

0:18:25.7 West McDonald: Yeah. And it’s funny what you say there, what it got me thinking of is the reason that we automate processes, let’s say for example, is to make sure that they happen the way that they’re supposed to happen. And if culture is going to be driven the way that it should, then it has to come from the top because it has to be your thing. It has to be very natural as opposed to forcing it into a shoe. I really like what you said about getting someone externally to come in and have a look because there is nothing more eye-opening than when you go through that process of, tell me what you see. I think I know who I am, but you tell me what you see. And that’s pretty neat.

0:19:07.3 Chris Taylor: I could sit in my office here and say, hey, we’re all about this, but what happens is that is everywhere else in the organization, not here. So those are the people we need to listen to, what do they feel day in and day out in the organization? How do they perceive the decisions that we make and is that consistent with our values or not? So they’re the ones who know who the culture is.

0:19:28.7 West McDonald: And especially as you put team at the top of the list, right? Hey, listen, we’re getting to that point in the interview always that I call it the impossible question, right? And you might’ve already answered it with the maybe getting outside help, but maybe there’s another piece of advice you can give for them. For dealers that are looking to do a better job of kind of defining and living by their core values, what would you recommend for them?

0:19:53.3 Chris Taylor: I guess if I could pick one thing, one piece of advice, it would be as a leader, be a hundred percent consistent with those values. If you say we’re all about team first, and then they see you treat team members poorly, or they see decisions that are not in alignment with that, we’re not being consistent, we’re tearing down our culture. So it would be whatever your values are, however you define your culture, be 100% consistent to those values. And when I go work on our culture, which is pretty much how I view my job, I go back to the values as my own guideline and say, where do I think we can enhance our culture today within these values? Let’s go work on that. Right? So one thing I would say is be consistent with values. And as a leader, you own the culture. It starts with you and it ends with you, obsess with it.

0:20:50.5 West McDonald: Well, I love it. I can’t thank you for that advice. And that is words to live by, right? So live it, live it. And when they see that you’re living in, then it’s easier for everyone else to get on board with those values as well. Hey, Chris, I cannot thank you enough for taking the time to do this interview. I’m excited to talk to you more in the future about how the technology business sort of changes how the company moves in the world. And I’m really happy for you guys that you are diversifying into those other technologies and it’d be a lot of fun to watch that progress over the years. And I want to thank everybody that’s tuned in as well. So for those that are watching, thank you for those listening in. Don’t forget to subscribe and like this video if you can. And until next time, remember, always keep learning.

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