October 10th, 2018 Blog
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Our Vision & Values
Undertaking a Vision and Values exercise was important to understand and appreciate the reasons for the fantastic and continuing growth Backbone Connect had experienced over the last few years. We had always worked hard to offer something different and better than our competition, and as new customers were coming on board the feedback they were giving us confirmed that they saw this too. Some of the main reasons they chose us above competitors who offered similar solutions was our people, our culture, and our dedication to understanding their problems and ambitions.
Fortunately, our values had grown organically, they came direct from the two founders of the company who still work in the office today. Documenting this was a case of finding the best way to tell people about something that already existed, rather than making lofty and ambitious claims of a company we’d like to be. For us, the best way was to tell the story of how the business was founded and how the principles of the two people who started the company were still what powered the business a decade later.
After a combined 20 years in the IT infrastructure and managed IT services industry, Backbone Connect founders David McLeod and Mike Cullen had seen the good, bad and the ugly. Unfortunately for customers in that industry, what Dave and Mike experienced was a cynical cycle that saw businesses getting mis-sold network services that were critical to their business. These services came with a front-loaded sales and marketing effort to get them installed, and once that had happened the support and service was exceptionally poor. Providers were relying on the large pain and resource it would take to move away from them as protection and, unfortunately for their customers, this was proving to be a successful business model!
Seeing this, Dave and Mike decided that if you could be that successful despite such poor customer service, imagine what you could do if you kept your promises on service quality and committed to ongoing customer satisfaction. So that’s exactly what they did. Setting up Backbone Connect in 2008 with a clear vision that has been the focus of the business as it has grown and matured over the last decade into a company of almost 50 employees that has been ranked as one of the fastest growing technology companies in the UK.
This vision and the story of how our founders built the business made the task of documenting our values a clear one. These weren’t aspirational goals of what we wanted to be, they were what we had been all along. Our employees demonstrate this on a daily basis through the industry-leading customer satisfaction scores we receive, coupled with the individual testimonials our customers send us about staff that have helped them achieve their goals and made a real difference to their service.
Why are our values different?
What had been interesting, whilst researching other corporate mission statements and company values, was the cynicism and apathy that a lot of company values were met with. In some people’s eyes, these were useless corporate marketing exercises. A box to be ticked. To be honest, in some cases, it was easy to see why people thought this way. Words like customer-centric, honest and fun were so commonly used that they had become in-authentic and hollow. What didn’t help was the growing list of high-profile instances of corporations proclaiming values while committing some pretty awful business practices.
In one of the most infamous examples, American energy company Enron’s corporate values included ‘Respect’ and ‘Integrity’, whilst they were dramatically inflating their own share price with unethical accounting practices and building up to a bankruptcy that would become one of the largest corporate bankruptcies in American history, decimating its employee’s pensions and defrauding its shareholders of tens of billions of dollars.
More recently, Facebook had been very publicly criticised for selling its user’s data to be analysed and used without obvious permission. This is a company that sits comfortably in the everyday social use of hundreds of millions of people around the world, but whose core values to ‘Be Open’ and ‘Build Social Value’ seem to be out of sync with its actions.
We felt that our vision and values work had been grounded in the business and its people, giving it the credibility it needed. But did these massive public ‘value-failures’, tarnish every business with the same brush?
They say actions speak louder than words, so perhaps the real test of a company’s values is when they are tested. The Enron and Facebook situations show that if you’re going to make claims that your business has real, true values beyond just making money, they will be challenged. By your customers, by your competitors, and by your own employees. Maybe this keeps your values real, keeps a business on its toes and forces it to abide by the rules it sets.
Our values are based on the principles you need to have to work at Backbone. They support the vision of the business and its founders because if you’re demonstrating any of them then you are working in a way that supports the kind of business we want to continue to be. If our employees are ever in in doubt of the next step to take, we want our values to steer the way.
We promote our values through social media as a way of showing not just what we do but how we do it. It gives a window into our offices and to our staff, allowing you to see that our values come from our people, they are our brand.
If you ever want to see if we practice what we preach, just check out our social channels to see how we live our values through our employees, our services and what our customers have to say about it all. Better still come and have a coffee with us, you’re always welcome.
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James Golding, Marketing and Business Change Manager at Backbone Connect, is an experienced marketer with over a decade spent working in the technology industries. James is CIM qualified and combines a marketing focus with accreditations in business management and business change from educational leaders like the Cranfield Business School.
James’s role at Backbone Connect is to manage the marketing activity of the business, and to support business change projects. As a fast-paced, high growth business, Backbone Connect constantly requires new and different marketing initiatives combined with projects that deliver new process, automation and improvement.