Taking the Time to Articulate Who We Are

By Jennifer Olsen

You may recall that when we last met here on the Resourceful HR blog, I was sitting in my living room surrounded by sheets of flip chart paper. What had started out as designing a new web site to better message what we do, turned into deep work around articulating the “who we are” as a company and team that provides recruiting and HR services.

The entire team helped dig me out of those flip charts, and we began the process of examining who we are as a company and what our business delivers.

We asked ourselves:

  • What is our brand promise?
  • What service standards can our clients expect?
  • How do we know when we’ve met their expectations?

Some companies might be able to articulate their message after two hours in a conference room. But that’s not how we operate. We intentionally took our time to make sure that the message we send is accurate and reflects who we are. In our minds, articulating who you are as a business isn’t something that should be rushed.

It took us two years of discussions, client interviews, and deep work to get to the core of our message. And it’s taken another year to create the online collateral and web presence that sends the right visual message about who we are. We’re excited about the work we’ve done and want to share the journey with you.

We talked to people.

The first thing I did was start talking to people. Talking to people was important. During this stage of inquiry, each person offered some nugget of wisdom I could build on. I contacted several web site developers recommended by trusted resources. I spoke with them to get a feel for what services they offered and how they would help me weave all that we do, where we do it and who we are into a cohesive message.

I talked to Aaron Blank, a friend and the CEO of The Fearey Group, a PR and marketing firm. I told Aaron about our messaging conundrum. He encouraged me to solidify our value statements: What would be consistent no matter what services we sold, and no matter where we sold them, for as long as I owned the company?

To solidify our value statements, I held a team meeting. We talked through our values and whittled them down to a few words upon which we all agreed were good starting points:

  • Integrity
  • Solutions-motivated
  • Fun
  • Joyful and positive
  • Authentic and genuine

I then interviewed each member of the team one-on-one to discuss and find evidence of how we embody these values.

We talked to our clients.

Building a strong sense of community—with each other and with our clients—is important to me. As part of this process, I wanted to not only hear from the team, but to also hear about our clients’ experiences working with us.

We hired Shelby Barnes of Mile 23 Strategies and Sheetal Agarwal of Kwilt Strategy to do customer interviews and to help us further define our value statements. Together they offered the best of both worlds–strong branding experience, coupled with community engagement.

I put together a list of ten clients who represented every service in each region that we support. Sheetal conducted interviews. From them we:

  • Learned that clients love what we do;
  • Wished we were more focused in their industry to help with recruiting; and
  • Heard what they valued most about their relationships with us.

Sheetal used her training to “code” the client and employee data sets, and we were able to get a cohesive snapshot of where external and internal values overlapped:

  • Expertise
  • Right fit
  • Relationships not transactions, and
  • Commitment to understanding the client’s business.

“These anchor values represent what is at the heart of what clients value in their engagement with Resourceful HR, as well as what staff put at the center of their work,” Sheetal told us.

We refined our message.

The leadership team continued to further refine our message, with Sheetal and Shelby’s help. Through this process we came up with two statements that articulated who we are:

You get the best of our experience.

We are in it with you.

Through dedicated effort and deep work, we were able to consolidate our core values into a few, easy-to-understand statements that articulate who we are.

We narrowed our focus.

Based on the client feedback we received we also made the decision to refine our recruiting focus.  At the time, most of our recruiting clients were in technology and life sciences.  We narrowed our recruiting services to support these industries and helped clients outside of those industries make the transition to other services when possible. They were all very gracious and expressed admiration about our focus and customer-orientation.

We committed to walking our talk.

Throughout the last year and continuing through 2017, we will continue to review and optimize our processes to ensure we always walk our talk. We’ve made the decision to expand our recruiting focus to also include clean technologies and global health industries. We will conduct quality assurance checks to ensure we’re delivering to our value standards.

This process took time. And it wasn’t always easy; but it was definitely worth it. Not only do we have a clear understanding of who we are, we’re able to articulate our vision and share it with clients and potential clients. We’ve found this type of transparency and clarity goes a long way in making business relationships meaningful and successful.

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"My professional passion stems from a fascination with how the individual needs of employees, managers, and the business converge to produce an outcome. I’m driven by a desire to help leaders and employees find the balance between competing needs so they can work together to address the challenges they face."