Founded by a seasoned e-commerce veteran, Jet.com launched to much fanfare halfway through 2015 with designs on stealing some of the online shopping market share Amazon enjoys. Rather than making their money on product sales, Jet launched with a model that was dependent on them making money from an annual membership fee. The company surprised many when it raised a massive $200 million in funding and reached a nine-digit valuation pre-launch. This membership model has since been dropped, with the company now focusing on revenue from discounted products.
What caught my eye in all of the coverage of Jet was the repeated mention of happiness as their differentiator. Not just customer happiness, but employee happiness.
Marc Lore, Jet’s founder and chief executive, says that what will separate Jet from Amazon and others that have tried to carve a niche for themselves in the same space is happiness. In particular, employee happiness.
“I’m constantly asking people at Jet if they’re happy,” Lore said in an interview with the New York Times. “It’s really important for me to know that they love working here and think this is the best place they’ve ever worked.”
While that might seem like an obvious place to focus efforts, it is a rarity in the world of high-valuation tech companies that are under pressure to focus on customer acquisition numbers. Many companies focus on employee happiness once other metrics have been reached, seeing it not as a business strategy but as a business cost. This is what separates world-class organizations from those that languish in the shadows. By focusing on ALL stakeholders (employees, shareholders, customers) as a business strategy, you ensure that those most important to the business are in a position to further the goals of the organization.
When staff are happy and find satisfaction in their work, they arrive earlier, stay later, and feel part of something bigger than themselves. They sing the praises of the company to all who’ll listen and refer their friends to work there. Companies that see employees as more than a cost recognize that innovation doesn’t only happen at the executive level. Empowering employees opens the door to ideas and suggestions from the people working at the very points of the organization that can benefit from innovation. Focusing on customers is a no-brainer, and Jet is addressing this partly with their faster delivery. Being able to acquire and retain loyal customers will allow them to earn and ultimately profit, something the shareholders will certainly have an interest in.
Only time will tell whether Jet can balance purpose, people, products and processes profitably, but they are demonstrating an early commitment to focusing on more than just one metric – revenue. Revenue is an outcome of something else. Focus on the “something else”–in this case, the stakeholders–and you dramatically increase your chances of success. I’m rooting for them.
Barry Chandler is the co-founder of Storyforge, a brand strategy company focused on helping companies discover their purpose to allow them to achieve their vision, build preference and drive margin. Barry has been building award-winning businesses since launching his first company in Ireland in 2003. His last company, a digital marketing agency, was acquired in 2012 by a California-based publicly traded entertainment company which then hired him as Chief Marketing Officer. It is his belief that the greatest brands seek to change the world, improving the lives of their associates, partners and customers.