An Open Source: Building Business from the Inside Out

Norbert Herrmann, Chief Experience Officer

Joining LIFX in 2017, Norbert has been an enthusiastic driver of culture and experience. With previous experience in rapid growth start-up environments he has been instrumental in taking new ventures and developing them into established businesses. In this interview he discusses how to build a business that is ‘people focused’ and the challenges faced in 2020 due to COVID-19.

Black and white head shot of Norbert Herrmann. Standing in front of brick wall in white shirt and dark blazer.

How do you define ‘good customer experience’?

I wouldn’t… I’d prefer to define a great customer experience (haha). Seriously though, it is about creating an end-to end experience that drives advocacy, and for LIFX and Buddy, this extends to every touchpoint we have with our customers, our partners and our retailers. From the moment you discover who we are, we want to be able to deliver something special and unique, something that exceeds expectations. 

From a product and platform perspective, it is more than fulfilling a need, it is a balance of making something that is so good it becomes an integral part of your life… a bit like having a great coffee, it’s hard to go back to anything less (speaking from experience, drinking a very average iso-self-made-coffee). 

How do you deliver on that?

A big part of my time in the business has been exposing new ways of thinking into a business with an established foundation. It can be challenging to throw around concepts like Design thinking or CX too early into any solution driven business but I am fortunate in being surrounded by great people who are heavily invested in innovating and delivering better outcomes so have increasingly seen a growing appetite for better ways of achieving this.

We continue to mature in our application of methodologies ensuring we don’t ever get to a point where we think ‘we know best’, but rather, ideation, validation and iteration are at the core of how we go to market. 

There’s always a danger of complacency when you are doing well, skipping steps here and there, but it will bite you eventually. I am yet to follow the Lean Startup or Design Thinking methodologies and not come out of it better off for it. If you’re unfamiliar, Strategizer has some really great books on Value Proposition Design and the Business Model Canvas that are mandatory in my opinion. 

 

The culture of a business can involve everything from the way meetings are run, to the tone of the copy on your website, to Friday night beers.  Where do you start when developing and cultivating company culture?

Ideally, culture should always be a consideration from the beginning but the reality is that, if you are lucky enough, it develops organically through a combination of the type people you hire, their environment and a common sense of purpose.  That all sounds straightforward but in my experience, there is a lot of trial and error. What works for 10 people, does not work for 30 people. What works for engineers may not work for marketing.  

I do strongly believe that good people drive good culture. A business can support it but not define it. Good managers encourage it but leaders (who exist at every level of the business) bring people along for the journey which provides that shared sense of purpose off which everything else can grow. 

We have come a long way since I joined and we still have a lot more to do in this space but we’ve invested a lot of time in getting the right people on the team so the flow on from that will be amazing to see.

 

What challenges have you faced during COVID, how have you responded, and how do you think you’ve done?

When the crisis hit, it dramatically impacted many sectors including our own. We saw an immediate drop in retail sales as stores closed their doors and a halt to manufacturing as they went into lockdown so how do you run a business when a percentage of the money stops coming in?

From a business perspective, I am actually proud of how we have handled this crisis in that we have been able to keep all our team employed and more importantly, safe. We have a lot of staff in offices around the world and moving to remote work early saw us avoid a lot of potentially bad outcomes.  

On a personal level, the initial lockdown was disruptive to a lot of things but most of all family and friends. Adjusting to the minute by minute chaos going on around the world and seeing the death toll climbing has been heartbreaking. 

Initially there was no such thing as work-life balance being buried under urgent work items that needed immediate attention (as I am sure anyone who has messaged me has experienced… sorry)  but as we have navigated through that initial period, it has settled down a lot into a new normal and I am grateful that that is my biggest problem, so many more have had much worse. 

All in all, I am doing okay. but am concerned about people battling mental health issues during this period, there are some great services out there but the dramatic change has removed a lot of established support structures for people so this has also been something we’ve been very conscious of at work as well, hopeful that people feel supported and comfortable enough to reach out if they need help.