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The Nadine West Way

What does Nadine West believe? How do people do things around here?

Below are some core operating principles that have guided Nadine West, since Sidney and I were two people with zero experience in e-commerce, retail, or logistics to where we are now with close to a lean, mean (not really) team of 200 highly productive people.

1. Focus on the system, not the score.

Using ideas from The Score Takes Care of Itself by Bill Walsh, it’s important to identify the organization’s core values, principles, and ideals first when building systems. Then the next step is to create and implement The Standard of Performance for every area of work. The focus should be on the execution and improvement instead of on the victory and the competition.

2. Long-term >> short-term.

From the fable of The Three Little Pigs, Nadine West the piglet building a house of bricks, built-to-last. Things we care about: profitable growth, building good systems, putting in the hard work, and getting the right people on the team. Things we don’t care about: unprofitable growth, impressing competitors, impressing journalists, and taking shortcuts.

3. Always ask why.

As explained by Simon Sinek in his book Start With Why, knowing your purpose or your why is the only way for your success to last.  Manipulating customers into buying whether through fear or aspirational messages can only do so much. But being clear about and true to your purpose is what breeds loyalty–which is when people do not even look at other options and just stick with you.

4. Enjoy it. Because it’s happening. 

This is a quote from Stephen Chbosky who is an American novelist, screenwriter, and film director. Particularly this quote was from his novel The Perks of Being a Wallflower, a New York Times bestseller.  For us here at Nadine West, we simply enjoy every bit of the process of building and running the company.

5. Take care of Nadine West. Take care of each other.

Teamwork made Nadine West possible. Together, we all built the company, so we all have a say in how it’s built and run. If you see something that can be improved or a waste that can be eliminated, please speak up. A team is only a team if its members care for each other. So let’s continue taking care of each other and of Nadine West, so Nadine West can keep taking care of us too.

6. Work doesn’t have to be crazy.

Basecamp co-founders Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson have done an amazing job restructuring how people in a company should work. As they explain in It Doesn’t Have to be Crazy at Work, unhealthy obsession with growth as well as distractions at work (both physical and virtual) makes work crazy. Contrary to what has long been the belief of many, “sustained exhaustion is not a badge of honor.” What needs to be done is to cut waste, distraction and stress, not more production and longer work hours. 

7. 1% better every day.

The 1% better every day approach is based on the Japanese principle kaizen which focuses on small continuous improvement. Toyota Motors is famous for using kaizen in its operations.

It should be noted, however, that before this idea reached companies in Japan and had been given a Japanese name, it was the US Government that first encouraged making small consistent improvements through the Training Within Industries (TWI) courses that was created due to the dire situation of the Depression Era.

As written in the TWI manual, “Don’t try to plan a whole new department layout—or go after a big installation of new equipment. There isn’t time for these major items. Look for improvements on existing jobs with your present equipment.”

Here are some more operating principles that we say all the time. They are concepts that our managers and executives should eventually know well.

1. 80/20 Rule (Pareto Principle)

The Pareto Principle, or the 80/20 Rule, was named after the Italian Economist Vilfredo Pareto who observed during his time that 80% of the land in Italy belongs to 20% of the population. This principle can be applied almost anywhere. In business, it can mean that 80% of the revenue is coming from 20% of the products or services. In sales, it can be predicted that 80% of the sales will come from 20% of the customers. In general, we can say that 80% of the output comes from 20% of the input. 

2. Minimum Viable Product (MVP)

When coming up with a product or starting a project, it is easy to be tempted to come up with something grand. Trying to do so, however, may require an enormous amount of effort and result in something that is not entirely useful or something where a simpler version would have sufficed.

Here at Nadine West, we emphasize the importance of the minimum viable product. We focus our attention on what is actually needed and come up with a good enough product with the possibility of improving it later.

3. 2-is-1, 1-is-none

A Navy SEAL saying that means there should always be a backup plan because having only one plan is equivalent to having none.

4. Root Cause, 5-Whys

When a problem exists, we can make use of the 5-Whys technique to find the root cause. This technique, which was developed by Sakichi Toyoda of the Toyota Motors, involves coming up with a series of reasons–with each reason based on the one before that–until the root cause is finally identified.

5. No useless meetings

Time is the most precious resource we have. And big useless meetings are the most costly because they waste everyone’s time. If a meeting needs to be held, a goal should be clearly identified and every meeting should have a clear next step. Protect your time and help other people protect theirs.

6. Permanent solutions

If you see a problem once, try to fix it. If it keeps coming up, it’s time to look for a permanent solution. Find the root cause, understand what’s going on, and, finally, change the process or use technology if needed.

But keep in mind that finding permanent solutions does not only apply to problems. A process that you implement may seem to be working but is unknowingly creating waste. Everyone must be thinking of ways to eliminate waste everyday and get more done in less time and with fewer headaches.

7. Slow is smooth. Smooth is fast.

Also from the Navy SEAL, this ethos is a very useful guiding principle which they use in combat operations. Instead of trying to do things quickly (which they do sparingly), they assess the situation very carefully to come up with a smooth execution of a well-planned course of action.

8. Forty hours is enough.

A work philosophy Jason Fried subscribes to. Forty hours of work a week is enough if all those hours were spent in real work.

While these operating principles have undoubtedly been extremely helpful in designing how we do things at Nadine West, they are also evolving. As we grow and learn, more ideas may be added to continuously improve The Nadine West Way.

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