20 Jan The Power of Values to Ongoing Excellence

Not long ago a customer returned some pistachio flour to us, complaining about the quality. 

I could see that everyone in the office was truly concerned, since shipping a quality product is a commitment we take seriously.  Our conclusion was that the customer was correct and we changed suppliers to make sure it would not happen again.

We could easily have looked for excuses and blamed the customer but we did not.  We took the comment seriously as this affected our core values.

Quality, Excellence, Perseverance & Contribution:

When I reflect on this and on other Qualifirst experiences, both good and bad, it helps reinforce, both for me and for the whole team, that our values are quality, excellence, perseverance and contribution.

In our drive to deliver quality products to our customers we often persevere beyond what pure facts would dictate. When we find a quality product that we believe would fit into our collection, we don’t give up on it until we succeed or until we have exhausted every single avenue to make the product work.

In the end though, every product must contribute to our company’s overall reputation.

That’s what I mean by contribution.

Every team member at Qualifirst looks for these same four values within themselves. For each of us the term average is the enemy of great. We each deliver and contribute to the best of our ability, we strive for excellence and we persevere until we succeed.  We do not believe in looking for excuses for our failures, since failure is merely a learning experience on the path to success. Living our four values is how we earn the team’s trust and respect.

We also look for the same quality orientation and excellence in both our customers and suppliers.

  • We sell to many customers, but those who drive our business and make us get up in the morning are those who share our values.
  • The same goes for our suppliers: we will not buy from a supplier who cannot deliver on quality and who cannot match up to our values no matter how low their price. 

So, if you are looking for a simple formula that defined our drive to succeed at Qualifirst, look no further than the four values and let them guide you:  Quality, Excellence, Perseverance and Contribution. 

Contributions: team feedback to a previous blog

Recently I challenged my team to share with us their contributions in terms of defining Qualifirst in the context of a 30-second elevator description – an essential component in turning small talk into valuable time together. Here are some excellent examples of contributions in terms of thought leadership and proactive messaging.

Michael P. contributed this:

Qualifirst distributes fine foods to both professional and consumers across Canada.

John K. contributed this:

Personally, I always answer ‘we specialize in importing the best fine foods from around the world’ which I normally get a ‘oh wow, that’s cool’ response followed by a ‘like what?’ which I then tell them vinegars, mustards, chocolate, grains and rices, and so forth…

Ben N. contributed this:

I typically say that Qualifirst imports gourmet food from all over the globe, whether it is spices from Asia, chocolate from France, or olive oil from Spain. I will definitely add that “non-specialization of product but focus on quality” to my next conversation.

Patrick T. contributed this:

When describing the company in a casual way I present Qualifirst as a national specialist for over fifty years in fine products, gourmet products and products that are hard to find. Both for the food service and for delicatessens. Stating this takes less than 10 seconds!

But being sales-oriented, I feel I have to stimulate the interest of the person in front of me. And then I have to make this person ask me: “yes … okay … but what are your products?” That’s when I know that this person wants to know more! And I take another 30 seconds to explain, for example, for food service:

“As the number one leader in Canada, we import and distribute specific gourmet food products from worldwide. It’s our passion. We search for you what the best and most amazing fine products, so that they end up on the plates of your customers, such as:

  • The best olive oils, vinegars and mustards
  • A wide selection of rare spices, condiments, large variety of exceptional olives, lentils and beans.
  • Amazing salts and extraordinary peppers.
  • Truffles, snails. Asian products.
  • The widest range of molecular products
  • New grains, ancient grains, specific amazing rice, almonds, nuts…etc.
  • Products for pastry and ice cream: candied fruit, fruit purees, handcrafted praline, exceptional pistachio paste, chocolate containers and other containers.
  • Chestnuts, high quality extracts, and the best chocolate in the world…etc.
  • Products for cocktails (bitters and others)
  • And a wide selection of freeze-dried products.

You can operate this speech like a book. Firstly, announce the title:  Qualifirst Foods. This takes 1 second. Then comes the editorial:  Presentation of Qualifirst Foods. This takes 10 seconds. Then after comes the table of contents. This presents the various chapters of the book:  Our range of various fine products (30 seconds).

But never just enumerate it like a checklist! Use the terms that highlight the Qualifirst difference: amazing, best, fine, gourmet, rare, exceptional, extraordinary, widest, specific, best in the world, high quality, passion…etc.

Ensure that the guy in front of you vibrates!

Then the most interesting part can finally begin! Explain our products and why they are better.

I would like to thank Michael, John, Ben and Patrick for these words. They represent excellence in contribution in so many ways:

  1. First, they help other team members, who might be searching for ways to describe Qualifirst. These words can be practiced and re-used.
  2. Second, they challenge other team members to come up with their own phrases. Summarizing and describing your company and yourself takes just a little time to organize your thoughts, as well as a little time to practice. These statements act as a prompt.
  3. Third it forces every team member to review their perception of Qualifirst and ask themselves “are we really like this?” There is no better way to self-analyze than to hear yourself describe yourself. Only then can you double check the accuracy of your words, and only then can the promise of true quality become a permanent reality.

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