Vortex More than Optics: Brand Ethos
“Making the Customer a Hero.” —Reuben Aleckson
Ethos, a Greek word once used by Aristotle, defines the character, sentiment, mortal nature, or guiding beliefs of a person, group, or institution. Ethos isn’t inherently positive. In philosophy, a person or company is judged based on their ethos. Mighty companies have fallen because of their lack of empathy and connection to their base. Those that pivot their efforts toward their customers—internally and outwardly—become titans. Vortex Optics, went from an idea spawned from lack of consumer support to a juggernaut in the optics world. They went from a small operation, located in a host of business suites, to a headquarters facility that covers several hundred thousand square feet. Barneveld, Wisconsin, a stereotypical midwestern town, is now a mecca. The quick, and maybe abrupt rise by Vortex creates a sense of wonder to outsiders, but to those within, the instilled principles and fleshed out ethos propelled them to their current summit.
The first guiding principle of Vortex is their customer first, fully guaranteed warranty. When a customer sees it, they know what the VIP logo means. This forms the crux of the company’s branding and messaging. It is a promise to their customer. Vortex is going to uphold what they say. They aren’t giving homework to the customer to troubleshoot the problems. In the words of Vortex:
“VIP stands for a Very Important Promise to you, our customer. We will repair or replace your Vortex product in the event it becomes damaged or defective—at no charge to you. If we cannot repair your product, we will replace it with a product in perfect working order of equal or better physical condition.”
Additionally, the company has built a brand-new warehouse facility. Within there is a multi level warranty department. All warranty repairs are done in house to keep quality control (QC) high. High QC coupled with quick turn around times means Vortex can get the end user back in the field as quickly as possible.
With so much attention paid to the customer outside the walls, Vortex leadership has made it a point to cater to the customers within. Vortex provides its employees with a great work environment and first-class amenities. Some of the benefits include a company supported day care and preschool, subsidized cafeteria, gym, in-house chiropractic care, lounge-style break rooms with unique themes—including classic Wisconsin Supper Club and an Arcade. Other benefits included movie nights, (we hear one of the Hamilton’s is a big Star Wars fan), birthday celebrations, and milestone recognitions. Vortex leans into the conviction that supporting its employees will create a better customer experience.
Vortex does require a significant amount of effort and passion from their employees. As employees are indoctrinated into the ethos of the company, they are given the book Go-Giver by Bob Burg and John David Mann. The story is a parable on business and life, that shows that being a go-getter—someone that pushes and focuses solely on getting more—does not equate to success. Giving, however, offers fulfillment and leads to success, although success can be measured by more than revenue. Having Go-Giver as required reading furnishes a unified focus to new employees. If their ideologies do not match up with Vortex, then ejection is likely. Shamus Terry, Vice President of Sales offered, “If you are not going to further yourself and understand what we are doing, you should probably not work here.” He, like much of the staff, believes the success of Vortex relies heavily on a unified workforce. “The words on the wall are actually embodied and when you walk around you feel that. Anybody can come up with flywheels and cool slogans, but do they actually live them?” Vortex’s ability to live what they say has propelled them to where they are today. Moreover, after visiting and experiencing Vortex’s humility, humbleness, and go-giver mentality, its easy to understand how their success has occurred.