Culture eats strategy for breakfast, in the famous words of Peter Drucker. In my chat with King Price’s Chief Evangelist for Culture, or as I call him, the King of Culture, Marno Boshoff, that certainly rings true. We share tips on putting your culture on steroids.
Tony: The insurance industry really has a unique culture. How do you see culture, when I use the word ‘culture’ in business, what do you think or what do you see?
Marno: We have looked at it from various angles and the most simplistic definition of it, for us, is culture is the way we do things around here. When we put it to our people, it is the WAY, the HOW we DO actions. So, it is HOW we action everything we action. For us, that is the most simplistic, but still the most important definition. How do I do everything I do? We try and break away from the old thinking that culture is something that can be put in a corner. It is not just a department, it is not just a little program, it is everything you do. It is the way you speak to a client, the way you sell to a customer, the way you serve one another, the way you invent, the way you innovate, and it is the way you execute. Everything for us is culture.
Tony: If I were to ask you to define, briefly, the King Price culture, what would that be?
Marno: Our culture is unique; it is very energetic. One of our key attributes is making decisions extremely fast, it is part of who we are. One of the things we are quite strong on is what we call our beliefs because we believe that your beliefs determine your behaviour.
I often look at our CEO, and I have had many conversations with him regarding this, to understand his strong beliefs. He always talks about speed and scale. So, things must happen quickly and at scale, without procrastination.
There is a lot of energy in our system, which is needed for innovation to happen. There must be quick thinking, quick decision making, and quick processes. Nothing with a lot of red tapes works in our environment. To explain our culture very quickly; energetic, colourful, and loud, but built on strong relationships, which is the cornerstone of trust. Moving at the speed of trust, that is what we try and establish within the teams and within all the different ranks.
Tony: How do you match all the different personalities, diverse backgrounds, and diverse cultures into a culture of a business like King Price?
Marno: We have learned through trial and error that people unite around purpose, values, and beliefs. They do not unite very easily if you put all the focus on the wrong things. If we focus on the traditional things that many people look at for cultures, like ethnicity, gender, or age, we find it difficult to unite people. But the moment you make the focus purpose, what do we want to achieve? Then it is as if we leave behind my age, my ethnicity, language, or skin colour. All of that becomes second to chasing the purpose and uniting to achieve the same things.
It is putting the focus on the things that unite us rather than the things that divide us and separate us from one another. So, for us it is all about focussing on the things that create common ground.
Tony: One of the things that we discussed in my visit to your offices was your induction program, aimed at getting new recruits familiar with and making that culture their own. How do you go about doing that?
Marno: Our induction programme is especially important to us. It is where you can baptize the new people into your belief system. This is when we tell them, to get rid of the things from the green team or the pink team or the yellow team, becoming part of the red team. And in the red team, this is how we do things, this is why we do things, and this is how strong we feel about certain things, et cetera. So, induction is particularly important for us, and we put a lot of effort into that.
Gideon, our CEO, tries to meet with our new people during the first three hours of them being here. We want to make sure that by the first lunch they have met the CEO. We talk about culture being caught and culture being taught, and some of the things we can teach them, and we do, and some of the things they need to just catch. Meeting with him is that 30- 45 minutes where they just catch something of his energy, his excitement, his purpose, and the vision of where we are going.
On the second full day of our three-day induction, my team and I spend time with the new people just on culture. Why is culture important? What is culture? Why do we focus on culture? What do we expect of them, et cetera?
So yes, induction is a particularly essential element. I always say to others, it does not matter what you do or how long your induction is but have the plan to make sure you induce people into your culture, into your company so make sure that after the first day, the second day and the third day, they are even more excited about the decision they made to come and work at King Price.
Tony: It is always nice for me to see when a company has a culture that people cannot just identify with themselves, but they can recognize. How do you share this culture with your clients? How do you bring the energy to them?
Marno: We always say to ourselves that if the customer or the client cannot experience the culture, then the culture journey is not complete. So, it must filter down from the CEO into our belief system. If the client feels and experiences the culture, only then do you know you have been successful in establishing the culture in the correct way.
In all honesty, insurance is selling a grudge purchase. People are not super excited about taking out insurance, it is something they pay for that they hope they will never use. That is a tough market to be in. Selling something that nobody is excited about. Call centres also get a lot of resistance when phoning people. I think everybody can testify with getting those calls from insurance companies. Our energy levels must therefore be even higher. Keeping the guys motivated and focused is a crucial element because we want that to filter through. We want to make sure that intervention with the client is energetic, positive, and as exciting as possible. Clients must hear that smile over the telephone.
When we speak to our clients, they must feel like, this guy in front of me really likes his job, he really is excited. I know he. Probably gets rejected 20 times a day but still he keeps going and sounds friendly. It sounds like he really wants to talk to me.
That is the biggest test, right there, where your call centre interacts with the customer.
Marketing or branding is the external expression and culture is your internal beliefs. Your internal beliefs must eventually filter through to your external expression.