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Golden Rules for Creating a BE NICE Culture

By Winn Claybaugh

Because people spend a great amount of their time and energy at work, they long to belong to a company that makes them feel better about themselves and makes them feel that they do more than just earn a paycheck—they want to feel like they have a purpose and make a difference.

The "Golden Rules" code of conduct is who we are together as a team. It's what we all believe in, what we strive for.

1. Always Be on Time

Spell out for everyone in your company exactly what "being on time" looks like. If customers arrive at 9 a.m., then perhaps a frazzled, rushed employee who also rushes in at 9 a.m. would not be on time.

2. Always Be in a Great Mood (Fake It When Necessary)

A very good friend of mine says he has two reasons for firing an employee from his company: if they steal from him, and if they show up to work in a bad mood. If someone comes to work in a bad mood, he'll fire him or her on the spot. But he'll rehire them five minutes later if they leave and come back in a good mood.

I'd like to propose that on the day we all decided to enter the workforce and take on a job with any company, we gave up the right to ever come to work in a bad mood.

There are days when you leave work and all those things that make you wonderful is drained and empty. But maybe you go home and you don't fill your "reservoir" back up, which means you're now tempted to come into work the next day in a bad mood. What do you do on those days? You fake it. When you walk through those doors, it's show time. And you gave up the right to be in a bad mood.

3. Come to Work Prepared

Coming to work prepared means that you're ready and available to work as effectively as possible—whatever that may look like. Perhaps it means you eat a great breakfast and do yoga before work so your mind is clear and ready to focus. Perhaps it means you lay out your clothes the night before, so your image matches the product you represent. Or maybe you arrive early enough to unclutter your workspace and start the day fresh.

4. Be Informed (Read All Memos and Information)

We used to have a disorder in my company that we called the "But I didn't know" syndrome. People would fall into that pattern often: But I didn't know we had an early staff meeting Tuesday morning. But I didn't know I had to fill out that paperwork. But I didn't know that was the company dress code. Ignorance is not an acceptable defense in your BE NICE culture. Let people know that it's their job to know.

5. Gossip Is Not Allowed

Gossip is a serious cancer in a company. Gossip has many faces, and it can destroy a community. It's a sneaky, clever, subtle, and unnatural side of human nature—and you'll want to proactively recognize when gossip exists and have the courage to do whatever it takes to eliminate it from your company.

6. Hold Each Other Accountable (Use the Twenty-Four-Hour Rule)

Let's face it—you're going to screw up on occasion, and you therefore need a system to keep your BE NICE culture intact.

First, the accountability session must take place within twenty-four hours of the infraction. Second, all infractions are shared privately, behind closed doors. And finally, the intent and motive behind the process of holding each other accountable is that everyone grows and that everyone is accountable for the overall success of the company.

7. Resolve All Personal Challenges with Love

In high school, if we had a problem with someone, we'd tell four other people about it, so that by the time we actually voiced it to the person, we had "ammo" to state our case: I think you're horrible, and they all agree with me!

Anytime you have a grievance with someone, make sure that you keep private both what the person did or said to upset you, and the action you take to resolve it. It's a wonderful practice to praise people publicly, and to reprimand privately.

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8. Go to the Decision Maker with Any Apparently Unsolvable Challenges

Why is it that when a person has a problem at work, they tell everyone but the person who could actually do something about it? Why waste your "woe is me" dribble on someone who can do nothing to resolve your challenge? Take your challenge directly to the decision maker.

9. Be Knowledgeable, Literate, and Articulate

I would like to challenge employees, owners, and new hirees to be those things by taking responsibility for your education, your knowledge, and your growth, rather than expecting or assuming that the company should provide all the education.

10. Always "Look the Part" of an Impeccable Professional

Whatever your business, you'll want to dress, act, and look the part of the type of business you represent. (Would you trust a dentist who didn't have any teeth?) In fact, you'll want to look the part of the most successful person with your same job.

Bottom line, it's a good idea to dress beyond where you are in life and to look as though you're more successful than you really are.

11. Be Professional Always

The opposite of professional is amateur. Which would you prefer to be dubbed? Every person working for a company has an impact—either positive or negative—on the customer's experience. Every individual should be professional always, because whether you realize it or not, customers are watching and judging.

12. Do Not Get Personally Involved with Clients

All businesses are for profit, so whenever an employee or representative of your company gets personally involved with clients (in a dating situation, for example), you run the risk of messing with continued loyalty from that customer.

13. Personal Lives Remain Personal

Although curious, "inquiring minds" want to know the personal details of co-workers and clients, divulging such information could offend the person and destroy your culture and community. Therefore, personal lives must remain personal. Unless a person wants to share the intimacies of their personal life in order to receive support and advice, it's no one's business to know whether or not so-and-so is divorced, gay, straight, a recovering addict, or any other personal, private detail.

© Winn Claybaugh
Winn Claybaugh is the author of BE NICE (OR ELSE!), with foreword by CNN's Larry King!  He has worked in the beauty industry since 1983, and is the founder of Paul Mitchell The School, with several locations throughout the U.S. In 2004, the North American Hairdressing Awards (NAHA) recognized Winn's contributions by awarding him the Hall of Leaders Award. He is the National Motivational Expert for Paul Mitchell, and has worked with thousands of businesses, including companies such as Vidal Sassoon, the Irvine Company, Entertainment Tonight, Mattel, For Rent magazine, Structure/Limited Express and others. In its November 1997 "Super Heroes" section, American Salon magazine called Winn a "mover of mountains" and "Mr. Fix-it." Winn has also served as vice president of the AIDS Relief Fund for Beauty Professionals, and continues to pursue many fundraising projects. Visit Winn at


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