Where Are Your Executive Offices?

Ed Horrell takes a close look at Oden Marketing And Design, a true leader in the Kindness Revolution.

Oden offices

In my on-going quest for examples of values-based leadership, I occasionally run across companies who understand that exemplary treatment of employees is the key to outstanding customer service and customer relationships. While there are indeed a number of these companies, there are not enough.

Oden is one of these companies.

Oden is a Memphis-based branding consultancy. Their work is good, as validated by such companies as FedEx, International Paper, and other Fortune 1000 companies.

But I’m not interested in writing about “good” companies – I’m interested in companies who set examples for putting more emphasis on values than being “good”; I’m interested in companies who practice kindness.

These guys do.

Based on the values of their late founder, Dale Oden, Oden makes it clear what they are all about beginning on their website at Oden.com. Look closely at their links. You’ll see links to categories such as culture, where they say ” Heck, we’ll even give away our secret: having a great culture is not about how cool your offices are, or how many parties you have, or how many benefits you get.

It’s about attitude. From leaders who have a genuine interest in, and respect for, the people they work with, to positive-thinking employees who love what they do and aren’t afraid to be their silly selves ”

I like this. This jumped out at me and I wanted to see for myself if the leaders at Oden did indeed have “a genuine interest in and respect for the people they work with”. I wish I could tell you how many times I hear this without seeing evidence of it.

I contacted Bill Carkeet, CEO of Oden, and arranged for a tour. With great pride he showed me around their new offices in downtown Memphis.

Following again the values of their founder, Bill told me about how he and his partner, Bret Terwilleger, wanted to design an office layout that reflected respect for employees, were efficient, and fun.

Mission accomplished.

From small gathering areas for spontaneous “mini-meetings” to beautiful conference rooms, there are immediate feelings of warmth and professionalism that I have rarely seen.

But the best part of the tour was the lunchroom.

I am not giving enough credit to this area by calling it a lunchroom. As a matter of fact, the gathering place for lunch is named (by the employees, of course) the “Café O”.

But what makes this special is that the employees’ “café” sits in the corner of the refurbished building, overlooking downtown Memphis, at the prime corner of the building. It’s the place for the most important aspect of the business; the place where most executives would have put their offices.

“When we saw the view”, Carkeet told me, “We knew immediately that we wanted this to be the place for our employees to gather.”

And gather they do – from lunches together on Wednesday to hanging a disco-ball on Friday afternoons; Oden employee gatherings are an important part of their culture.

Do you think their employees noticed this when they first viewed the new offices? You bet they did. I did!

Companies like Oden are leading the Kindness Revolution. They are providing the examples of values-based leadership, coming from the top, which becomes measurable to employees and is passed on to clients.

They are also showing that in a market full of competitors, customers are making selection of service providers based less and less on price and quality because all companies claim to be competitive and more on feelings like “that is the kind of company I want to do business with”.

Customers are saying everything else being equal, I want to do business with a company who treats their employees with respect, has fun at work, and provides great service.

Oden does.

What you can learn from the Oden story:

1) Treatment of employees leads directly to treatment of customers. There is no room for misunderstanding here…these two aspects are directly connected.

2) Employees notice what leaders do regarding respect for them. This respect, or lack of it, is immediately clear to visitors to your office.

3) Fun is possible at work! It adds to employee retention and what your employees (and customers) say about your company over dinner at night.

Why not try this in your company and watch for the difference it makes for your employees and your customers.

About the Author

Ed Horrell is the founder of “The Kindness Revolution”. The Kindness Revolution™ is a national not for profit organization, based in Tennessee.

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