I read an intriguing story in Fortune recently about Carvana, the company that has re-envisioned the new used-car buying experience. The article, by Nicole Gull McElroy, focuses on the organizational culture. McElroy describes the core principles at the heart of Carvana's organizational philosophy. One principle proves to be particularly compelling. It's so powerful because it's so simple: treat every customer like your mother. Why is this principle so effective at communicating the organization's values and philosophy? It clearly guides employee behavior. They don't need much explanation, or even guidance from senior management. They can apply this criteria independently in any decision they make. Would I act in this manner if my mother was buying this car? McElroy explains:
This growth story, say the Carvana founders, is rooted in a single concept to which nearly every human can relate: Your next customer could be your mom. And that’s what Rachel Haynes, a customer advocate, was shooting for when in May 2020 she managed the sale of a BMW to one Texas husband as a Mother’s Day surprise for his wife, who had recently beat cancer. Haynes surprised the couple on delivery day, filling the back seat of the car with balloons, signs of congratulations, and a gift basket stocked with a blanket she crocheted, a bottle of Champagne, and a Starbucks gift card. No one asked her to do that; it isn’t in her job description and had no bearing on a commission check (Carvana doesn’t offer any to begin with).
“We said it from an early stage: We’ll take the best person with the best skill set every time,” says Keeton. “No expert is worth a ding to our culture.” That constant focus on culture is why, he says, anecdotes like that aren’t outliers at Carvana. Envisioning your mom on the receiving end of a sale is one of the company’s seven guiding principles. The remainder: We’re all in this together; there are no sidelines; be brave; zag forward; stay scrappy; and don’t be a Richard. (That last one is a tweaked version of, ahem, don’t be a word that rhymes with sick.