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The triple bottom line: the secret to balancing success

Nicole Sahin, CEO and Founder - Globalization Partners

People will tell you that you can’t have fast growth, happy customers AND happy employees. As a CEO and founder, I can tell you that you can. I set out to build a high-growth business that would enable anyone to hire employees anywhere, without the red tape traditionally associated with global expansion. But I also wanted to build a company people love— customers, business partners, and employees. 

The secret is what I call the Triple Bottom Line: prioritising happy clients, happy employees, and happy shareholders. While a Triple Bottom Line may sound like an obvious formula for growth, it might also feel unrealistic. It’s anathema to the typical blitz scaling mantra right now, which is “growth at all costs.” But the reality is, companies who focus only on growth end up treating customers so poorly that growth is ultimately unsustainable.

Here are some ways to achieve a successful balance: 

Curating a great company culture
Invest in the best and onboard thoughtfully – make sure your team understands what success looks like for you as a team from day one but remember to also pay attention to what success looks like for that individual. Once a quarter, sit down with each employee to give feedback on three things that they’re doing well and three things to work on. Helping an individual navigate his or her career via coaching is an incredibly powerful way to build a team, and team spirit. 

Culture starts at the top, so it is important that any senior leadership team prioritise working together with an attitude of positivity, and only ever provide constructive criticism. By enforcing a positive company culture at the top, the rest of the team will feel the love too, and this helps us build a culture of positivity and gratitude. People work incredibly hard every day – building a fast-paced, high growth business is incredibly difficult. So, make it a point to celebrate accomplishments, give each other high fives in the office, and notice when someone goes above and beyond.

Recognising people and what’s going on in their lives also goes a long way to curating a company culture where employees feel listened to and cared for. So, celebrate the whole employee – from things like celebrating the birth of a new baby, a move, a marathon finisher, whatever it may be. Creating an internal newsfeed to share these personal wins, life achievements, and happy moments can also be hugely helpful for international businesses – keeping track of each other across remote locations is incredibly important.

Shareholder Happiness
For shareholders, happiness generally comes down to reliability, profitability and trust. If shareholders see smart growth and are brought into the decisions made by the management team — who then delivers on what they say they’re going to do — shareholders are happy. Three key things to remember to keeping shareholders happy:  

  1. Put integrity first: Show your shareholders you are building a scalable, profitable and efficient business that runs with integrity and transparency.
  2. Stand by your numbers and deliver like a boss: In other words, do what you say you are going to do; set goals and request budgets that correspond to realistic goals, business conditions and timelines. Shareholders rightfully expect executives to deliver on those goals as planned. Related to this and to the first point on integrity; if you fall short, own it and immediately make sure shareholders know exactly how you plan to fix the problem.
  3. Shareholders invest in people as often as ideas: Investors want to see the best talent at the table and often base their decisions on the quality of the team. It is important to have a high standard for employees – pay people well, and in return, expect their best. Shareholders will usually feel the same. Hire people who are passionate about your business and try to fuel their passion; create the best human employment experience you can in exchange for their hard work, loyalty, and commitment. If you’re willing to make the investment in people, then shareholders will be happier investing in you.

Keeping Clients Happy
Keeping your clients happy correlates with keeping your team happy. If your employees are passionate and highly motivated by their work they will want to keep the clients happy. It is however important that you give them the tools and flexibility to make that as easy as possible.

Train your team to be experts in navigating the challenges of your customers. Invest in the tools to make training your team – and answering your customers’ most common problems – scalable; customers don’t always want to have to pick up the phone when they have a question, but be responsive when they do. 

A great customer relationship starts with a great sales process. Don’t over promise but rather lean towards under promising, a bit, so clients’ expectations are properly set when they come through the door.

Ultimately, there’s no need to choose between happy customers, shareholders or employees. The triple bottom line strategy works. Treating people well always pays off in dividends for the long-term success of a company. And even if you’re not a new company, it’s never too late to start.

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