09 Jan The Maxxelli Eight
In 2008 Maxxelli had accelerated to the peak of its initial growth in both Suzhou and Chengdu. It was during this time that I joined the company in Chongqing. Yet, in June 2008, as a result of the global financial crisis, Maxxelli found itself in the destabilizing market crash. When you’re working in a relocation industry with few incoming assignees, it’s obviously a struggle. My first year at Maxxelli was tough. We really had to fight for our business. We experienced more clients moving out than in. By the summer of 2009 Maxxelli was at its lowest point after combating a year of endless trial. Following our year long struggle, we relentlessly maintained our vision. Our goal was always to be the largest DSP (Destination Service Provider) in China by covering second and first tier cities. Therefore, in 2009 we did two things. Firstly, we continued to expand by opening in two new cities, Wuhan and Wuxi. Secondly, in light of our expansion, I followed my gut to create something to reenergize my staff. I didn’t know what I was creating at the time, but I did it anyway. I did what felt right. I was caught up in the idea of creating a foundation of what our company was at the time, a value system that represented Maxxelli.
The reason why I joined Maxxelli was because of its undeniable energy. Part of what attracted me to the company was not just what we do, but the energy that fuels our work. Unfortunately we lost part of that energy in 2009. We had roughly 30 employees at that time, most of whom had been there before I started. Although all of them had experienced the obstacles of the previous year, they were well familiarized with the Maxxelli energy. I asked all of them to describe Maxxelli strictly in one word descriptions. Without divulging really what I was doing, I sent an email out in the hopes of receiving back a multitude of private responses. “What does Maxxelli mean to you? What is the value of Maxxelli? Enlighten me- but by using single word descriptions.” After several days of email exchanges, I collected 233 words. Afterwards, I began grouping the words together.
I began grouping the collection of words with similar meanings until reaching an ideal word that represented Maxxelli. I then began narrowing them down. The words were narrowed down to those of which I wanted for our values, and to what the staff felt portrayed who and what we were. Ultimately, I ended up with eight key words. Labeling these eight key words under the Maxxelli name felt right. Yet again, I didn’t know what I was creating at the time, but as a result I launched something called The Maxxelli Eight. A month later I presented it to Maxxelli and stated “This is The Maxxelli Eight. These are our values.”
During our hiring processes, we even deliver questions based on The Maxxelli Eight. Using Balance as an example, we will ask: “What do you do in your spare time?” On the surface it might not sound like a purposeful interview question. Yet, it’s highly relevant in regards to making sure employees don’t forget who they are. We value the idea that our employees maintain balance. As work-life-balance is vital to employee success, we do not want employee’s professional lives to overpower them.
During our yearly employee review we actually judge people based on each element of The Maxxelli Eight as well. An example of this is taking a value, such as Innovative, and analyzing how well an employee exercised their innovative skills over the past year.
Over the years it essentially grew internally and became rooted into our identity. As a result, we embedded it into our marketing material making The Maxxelli-8 a public statement of who we are.
This is Maxxelli, these are our values – the backbone of Maxxelli.
Growth: During each interview that I give, I have been making this statement from day 1: “My Job is to Make you better – Every Day, Every Week, Every Month, Every Year.” I’ve conceptualized that if my staff can grow, improve, and ultimately grow as people, the company is naturally going to grow as well. Professional stagnancy is not an option. We started in two cities and now we’re in fourteen. Maxxelli grows, Maxxelli is growth, Maxxelli will continue to grow and expand throughout China due to our employee’s refined ability to focus on their personal skill-set.
Innovative: Maxxelli consistently maintains an exceptional degree of creativity. We don’t do things traditionally. The fact that we focused on second tier cities before first tier was unheard of in 2005. Nobody would fathom doing that, and therefore no one did.
Peter Kuppens, one of Maxxelli’s founders and leaders, radiates creativity and possesses exceptional innovative thinking skills. Peter cannot think “outside of the box” as he simply doesn’t have a box to think out it. The innovative traits of Maxxelli’s leaders trickle down into the company.
I continuously work to inspire my staff to conceive new methods of finding solutions. Examples of these may be adding or removing an small item from a move-in checklist. Despite the fact that it’s not as large of an item as Taxi-Book, MyHouseInChina or the Maxxelli Blog, those small changes, those small innovative solutions can actually make a tremendous impact. From the top down, we’re always fostering an innovative environment.
Balance: Why did we choose balance? Our industry, destination services, is extremely difficult, as we deal with such personal items as housing, schooling, and medical. Although work-life-balance is important to everyone, it’s something in our industry that’s always a challenge to maintain. While constructing the Maxxelli Eight in 2009, it was only natural to incorporate it. In 2012 I attended the Worldwide ERC APAC Summit. Interestingly enough, every seminar I attended focused entirely on work-life-balance. At the time within Maxxelli it wasn’t referred to as work-life-balance, as we just called it balance, but the meaning was the same. Once again, it felt right, so I included Balance.
As Maxxelli’s developments in Shanghai continue, we’ve introduced a new service model based on exactly this. We have District Experts working from home solely covering their district. This allows them a greater quality of work-life-balance, but also promotes efficiency. The entirety of our systems that we’re developing in Shanghai are greatly focused on work-life-balance. Great service, dedication towards operational excellence, and strong real estate connections are all equally important, but regarding our internal affairs, it’s really about balance as we expand in Shanghai.
Momentum: Tied to growth, our objective is to keep moving forward. Having staff in fourteen cities, with coverage in twenty-five, our aim is to have twenty operational cities with full-time consultants by 2020. As our efforts persist, not only do we have to keep that momentum moving forward, but it must be consistently positive. Whether as a company, or individually, if a project is taken on that slows the momentum of an existing project, it’s not a good thing. As the Managing Director, it’s my responsibility to ensure that we don’t adopt an overwhelming amount of projects resulting in current projects failing. Positive momentum has enabled Maxxelli to be the largest Destination Service provider in China. In twelve years we have opened in fourteen cities, and will continue to open two cities per year for the next three years to reach our goal having twenty operational cities by 2020.
Initiative: Why did we choose initiative? We want people thinking. We want people looking at problems and finding solutions. An example of employee initiative taken from the past was in Wuhan in 2013. Winter in Southern China can still be a little cold, and cities south of the Yangtze River are not sufficiently heated due to an absence of central heating. One of our Wuhan consultants took the initiative to say “Hey, I’m a parent and I know what it’s like in the winter.” She proceeded to write an email detailing how to survive winter in Wuhan. She explained where to get blankets, heaters, and even what brand of heaters to look for. In addition, she found a company that would make down blankets for foreigners who came in. She wasn’t instructed to do this; she purely took the initiative to solve a future issue. She seized a potential problem, and she solved it. We’re always focusing on how to instill our staff with the courage to take initiative and will reward them for doing so.
Decision Maker: We value empowering our staff with the courage to make decisions. Decisions that are made in the best interest of Maxxelli are the right decisions. What is best for Maxxelli is best for the company, client, and landlord. Everyone has to be taken care of. Incorrect decisions made in the best interest of Maxxelli are still incorrect, but I want my staff to learn that making wrong decisions leads to making right ones the next time. I find often with younger staff that empowering them to make independent decisions was more challenging. Giving our staff the power to make decisions to ensure they learn is why we chose Decision Maker.
Professional: We are always trying to reach an international standard. We work with a multitude of partners within the global mobility industry. If we can work to their standard, then we’re at the top of our game. We continuously strive to emulate those who we admire within the industry.
Frequently I ask my staff, “Who do you admire? Why do you admire them within the business community?” Employees should always have mentors. This is also why we have created a Maxxelli Mentor system, which is spread throughout our offices in China. Our mentorship system enables new staff to make connections with experienced staff that can potentially help their professional careers. We believe that there should always be companies and professionals to look up to.
The goal of our internal processes is to achieve Operational Excellence. Kevin Yap, one of Maxxelli’s first managers and now partner, has perpetually strived for absolute operational excellence through his professional endeavors within Maxxelli. This went as far as Kevin even writing a 250 page book on Tenancy Management in China. We believe in raising the bar with regards to professional standards.
Teamwork: Without teamwork and maintaining inter connectivity through a strong IT network, having individuals in branches across so many cities would not work well. Maxxelli’s ability to promote teamwork, friendship, and a sense of family sets the company apart. Maxxelli fosters like minded individuals that value their work and the strong relationships they can build within the company. We even went so far as to remove titles from business cards and simply put “Maxxelli Team” a few years ago. The titles have since come back, but the focus towards teamwork is still there. The fact that many former Maxxelli employees remain connected to the company illuminates the company’s strength in building professional careers, friendship, and teamwork.
This is Maxxelli, these are our values – the backbone of Maxxelli.