Excerpt from Failing Early and Failing Often

In a healthy, apolitical company, the leader isn’t “too good” to do any job in the company: A leader connects with employees and customers, signs for packages and gets in the trenches. Titles don’t matter, results do. The best leaders put customers and employees first, which inspires loyalty. That customer and employee loyalty translates into business results. Your results do the talking for you.

In my first office, leaders worked from cubicles, and the frontline staff, such as customer service, billing and sales, worked in offices. It’s a balance I maintain today. The most important employees are the ones who face the customer. The rest of the organization is there to provide strategy and make them successful. At first, our offices were ugly, because we couldn’t afford anything better. We spent money on marketing, great people, gym benefits and technology (and good coffee), but not on office furniture. As the company became more profitable, we kept the ugly office furniture, especially in the interviewing room. We realized some people were turned off by the folding tables and bare walls. Those people would never succeed at our company. If we lost a candidate because of office décor, good riddance.

For the longest time, we kept an old shopping cart in our conference room that was from our in-store advertising business. We also kept a desk that I used in 1991. On first impression, the conference room looked like a lot of junk. This was intentional: It scared away people who were not going to get into the trenches, roll up their sleeves and focus on results over titles and the size of their office.

If you are a leader in the company, you should roll up your sleeves and get your hands dirty. There is no one too important to take a customer’s call.