Yes, You Can Expand Without Destroying Your Culture

When you launch a new venture, you need new staff with new skills. Getting them all on the same page is the tough part

Written by Roger Hardy

This past spring, Vancouver-based online eyewear retailer ClearlyContacts.ca opened its first bricks-and-mortar store in North America. CEO Roger Hardy is documenting the ins and outs of the process—from why he’s diversifying an established business, to what he’s learning about successful retail launches—in a regular series for PROFITguide.com.

Here at the ClearlyContacts.ca head office, I like to think we’ve built an awesome company culture. And I’m proud to say we’ve expanded it to our international operations, too.

But up until now, that culture applied mostly to staff all focused on one type of work: serving customers via the web. When we decided to open a bricks-and-mortar storefront in Vancouver, it therefore created a new challenge: how could we make sure that the staff at our store would share the core culture that has taken ClearlyContacts.ca so far when they would be doing different work in a different type setting?

It presented a real challenge. Our new sales recruits would have to boast distinct aptitudes—think: such soft skills as influencing and creative, on-the-spot problem-solving—than our head-office team. It’s no surprise that so many retailers complain about how difficult it is to staff a store with the best and brightest—these skills are tough to come by. We also needed onsite opticians and optometrists, another tough-to-recruit cohort.

So, what have we been doing to staff up our store?

Over the years, I’ve learned that the best way to ensure a consistent customer experience is to hire people who embody the same core values as your company. In our firm, we’ve established seven of these. Regardless of where employees work or what they do, we want everyone to:

  1. Be agents of change;
  2. Have a bias to action;
  3. Do more with less;
  4. Work hard;
  5. Innovate;
  6. Be committed to Team Coastal; and
  7. Do some good.

Related: 5 tools that build amazing corporate culture

These attributes have been a top priority in staffing our store, just as they are in recruiting for the head office. Including core values as hiring criteria makes our recruitment process more rigorous than most, but we’ve made the decision not to waver from it at the retail outlet—upholding these high standards has driven our success so far, so it would be to ease them now.

To find people with these attributes, we appealed to people who know us best: our employees and our fans. We have a large social network; some our biggest evangelists engage with us on sites like Facebook and Twitter on a daily basis. We asked our employees and some of our superfans to put out the word about open positions at the store, operating under the principle that like attracts like. That has brought in some great candidates who really get what we’re about.

We also posted ads on popular job websites and promoted retail positions at our corporate hiring fairs. For opticians and optometrists, we appealed to candidates who are active in the niche online communities that serve those professionals, filtering candidates by whether they demonstrate our core values. We did the same while interviewing for our retail sales staff positions, but we also asked each candidate where they love to shop and why in order to get a better understanding of their personal style.

Once we had secured our recruits, we leveraged our in-house training to get them up to speed on our customer service standards; that’s the norm for all hires across the company. However, we put these standards through new tests to ensure they transitioned well into a retail setting, and modified them accordingly. We felt—correctly, I think—it would be dangerous to assume what works in one area of the company would automatically work in another.

It’s still early days, but so far the feedback we’ve received on the retail experience has been very positive; the new recruits are fitting in nicely, both with our internal culture and with customers’ expectations of it. To keep the momentum going, we’ll continue to integrate our values and core training modules into the retail space and, as we always do, keep our ears open to what clients have to say about it.

Roger Hardy is the founder and CEO of ClearlyContacts.ca, Canada’s largest online retailer of contact lenses and eyeglasses.

Read more from Roger Hardy’s Expansion Diary:

Originally appeared on PROFITguide.com