39. Be In The Gray Zone.

Not everything in life and work is black and white. Though we have policies and procedures, you often need to be in the gray zone, where guidelines and guiding principles are more important than following a rule. While making sure everything you do is ethical and legal, use your judgment and common sense when making decisions. If you’re unsure how to handle something, talk about it with a coworker or manager and collaborate to determine the best course of action.

Marc's Message:


I must admit that out of all 40 Famous Fundamentals, being in the gray zone is truly one of my favorites. Throughout my life, I have observed (as I imagine you have done as well) how businesses operate and serve their customers. It seems that a lot of companies have so many absolute rules and firm policies that the key associates on the front lines who interface with customers often seem handcuffed to do what is necessary to provide a great customer experience.

As you read in the description above what being in the gray zone means to Famous as it relates to actions and behaviors, obviously we must always be in compliance with regulations and follow the law in everything that we do. That’s black and white and we cannot make any compromises to those hard lines. But when it comes to the gray areas and where more flexibility and judgement is required it seems that in response to issues, companies generate rule after rule and policy after policy which cause more frustrations for customers. However, at Famous we can’t fall into that trap. We cannot manage our business by exceptions and try to develop a policy and procedure for every issue that may arise.

Conversely we need to have guidelines and direction that support the great majority of our customers and allow our associates the opportunity to adjust, be flexible, and to do the right thing in order to provide superior customer service. If you recall a few weeks ago I communicated my thoughts on being process oriented and the importance of having world class systems and processes in place to scale the business. But developing a process and implementing systems are very different than making more rules and policies. So often those policies become stumbling blocks for progress and our customers. We want to be easy to do business with and we want you to be able to use your judgement at the local branch level.

You are truly empowered to shape our future. Therefore, if you see things that we should consider doing differently because it’s in the best interest of Famous and our customers, please have the courage to speak up and voice your important opinions.

When I think of a leader in our organization and the team that she assembled, developed, and supports, Karen Dinehart our Director of Human Resources stands out. Karen is fully engaged in our culture and her years of experience allow her to confidently and competently work in that gray zone. Her responsibilities require that HR makes certain that we are in compliance with the law. That’s black or white; no exceptions. But Karen gets it and knows the difference between a compliance / legal decision and a business decision, which operates in the gray zone.

I’m proud that Karen and our entire Famous team serve our customers and suppliers with the highest of ethics and moral character. This means we are doing things right and doing the right things!