Listen. Have you ever caught yourself listening but not really hearing? With so many distractions arounds us, it can be difficult to focus our full attention on one thing. But if we are going to be effective in our communications, we need to hear what others have to say.
Listening is something we have always found valuable at Alexandria Industries. If we do it well, it can generate better customer relationships, greater productivity with fewer mistakes, and dynamic discussions leading to more collaborative and creative work.
Carving Out Time to Listen
For 50 years, we made “listening,” a key component of our customer relationships. In fact, we turned listening into a formal process to make sure we hear what our customers say and use the information gathered to determine our business strategies.
To make sure we are listening with a purpose, we created two formal opportunities for in-depth conversations with our customers – our Listening Tours and our Customer Leadership Conference. These events provide an ideal platform for two-way communication, sharing and listening.
- Listening Tours: We participate in our listening tours with select customers every 18 months. We meet in person with our customers to hear first hand what they think about our work. We want to hear about the markets they serve, what pressures they may be experiencing, and any needs they may have. We also use this time to discuss our values and ask them to let us know if they have had any experiences where our actions did not align with our values. We share what we hear in these conversations with our employees so they know and understand our customers’ viewpoint, and we follow-up on any action items discussed during the meetings to improve upon our work.
- Customer Leadership Conference: Also scheduled every 18 months, our Customer Leadership Conference provides an ideal forum to address the challenges and issues that we hear are most important to our customers. We rely on guest speakers and in-house experts to present information that offers industry insights and solutions. Specific topics relate to what we hear from customers during our Listening Tours. These include cost-saving ideas, skills development training, and industry research and standards. The event also provides opportunities for customers to participate in one-on-one conversations with Alexandria Industries experts, where we listen and discuss their challenges and ways we can improve our services.
Listening to what our customers say is truly beneficial when we take action on what we have heard.
The Alexandria Industries Vision
In 2012, we developed our first five-year vision, and defined our purpose, values, corporate absolutes and cornerstones. Developing our vision helped all stakeholders understand that building a great company, with a high-performing culture, begins with having an agreed-upon picture of the company we want to create.
Our vision included specific techniques we used as checks and balances of our actions, which helped get us to where we wanted to be in five years. We relied on the strategies outlined in our vision to ensure that every task performed during the workday aligned with where we, as a company, intended to go. If the task did not help us attain our vision, we discussed this openly and searched for a viable way to refocus our efforts and head in the intended direction according to our vision.
This year marks the end of our first five-year vision. As we look back and analyze our progress, we are inspired with what we have accomplished. While we are closely in line with our stated vision, we identified needed changes and made modifications along the way. We divested the China operations, for instance, because the government demands and common business practices did not align with our values. Doing so allowed us to move capital investments back to the United States so we could prepare for the increased customer growth, taking place here, in the U.S.
We are currently in the process of developing our next five-year vision, which will take us to the year 2022. We will continue listening to our customers and employees, using what we hear to drive our renewed strategies and determine what we see happening in the future for Alexandria Industries.
Collectively, our employees and their families, our customers and suppliers, the communities where we live and work, and the charitable organizations we give to that help others, depend on us getting our vision right. We strive to purposefully add greater value to their lives and work so these individuals and organizations can be better off than they were.
Listening Never Ceases
We encourage you to take time to visit with your contacts at Alexandria Industries and share any concerns and needs you have. If you have not had the opportunity to provide feedback recently, and would like to, please contact Cindy Frederick. She will schedule time for you to share, and for our team to listen. We can hardly wait to hear what you have to say.