Warm Southern Breeze

"… there is no such thing as nothing."

A Guide To Increasing Company Value

Posted by Warm Southern Breeze on Monday, November 19, 2018

Almost everyone who has worked in sales has heard the mantras “the customer is always right,” and “the customer is your most important person.”

And as anyone who has worked in healthcare can attest, neither of those statements are true.

For example, consider the patient who, arriving at the ED (Emergency Department) said to the physician, “My doc says my sugar is high so he gave me this medicine for diabetes.”

Naturally, the physician asked, “Do you take it?”

The patient replied saying, “No, ’cause I don’t have diabetes, just high sugar.”

And then, another Physician who explained to the patient’s mother her child’s diagnosis and therapeutic interventions saying, “She has a concussion, she needs to rest in bed in a quiet dark room until she is better.”

The mother then asked, “Can she go to the fair?”

Conventional wisdom often monikered as “common sense,” sometimes follows the pithy axiom that “common sense isn’t so common anymore.”

For years, I’ve maintained that the customer is NOT “always right,” nor are they the “most important person” in any business.

Instead, the most important person in any business are the employees.

Some CEOs have gotten a bad rap, often justifiably, because while seeking to return corporate profit and shareholder return, they’ve cut resources and employees. Like the abusive Pharaoh of the Exodus account in the Old Testament, they demand to “make more bricks with less hay.” Of course, we know how that story ended – not well.

So naturally, it delighted me to read some time ago that Sir Richard Branson, a renown entrepreneur and philanthropist, has similarly long held that thought and said, “Put your staff first, customers second, and shareholders third.”

In a 2014 interview with Inc. magazine, Sir Richard said, “It should go without saying – and it’s sort of surprising that it still doesn’t go without saying at some companies – that if the person who works at your company is 100% proud of the job they do, if you give them the tools to do a good job, they’re proud of the brand. If they are looked after, if they’re treated well, then they will be smiling, and happy, and therefore the customer will have a nice experience.”

“If the person working for your company is not given the right tools, is not looked after, is not appreciated, they’re not going to do things with a smile, and therefore, the customer will be treated in a way which, where often, they won’t want to come back for more.”

“So my process has always been, if you can put your staff first, your customer second, your shareholders third, effectively, in the end, the shareholders do well, the customers do better, and your staff are happy.”

Some years ago, while driving a big truck, I made a delivery to a factory in rural Mississippi where compressor housings were stamped out of large rolls of coiled steel by a very large, deliberately slow, two-stories tall press. The machine and process was impressive, and was the largest mechanical thing I’d ever seen. But what was even more impressive was on the shop floor.

Awaiting unloading, I walked around the assembly areas on the floor and noticed that outside every cubicle-like work station were cork boards with Polaroid pictures of the employees tacked to it, along with a few words of description. In every picture, they were smiling – and they weren’t just “grip and grin” smiles, either. The employees were radiantly beaming! The joy on their faces was unmistakable.

While a picture is worth 1000 words, and each picture tells a story, a few extra words of explanation are sometimes necessary.

Alongside the happy employees’ faces were words like:

‘Bill’s idea saved the company $75,000 annually, and we’re proud to pay Bill $7500 for implementing his idea. Bill has been with the company 7 years.’

‘Susan’s idea saved the company $10,000 annually, and we’re paying Susan $1000 – 10% of one year’s net cost savings – as a reward. Susan has been working with the company 5 years.’

‘Sally had an idea which saved the company $250,000 annually, so Sally will be getting 10% of one year’s savings as a reward. Sally has been with us for 3 years.’

And so forth, and so on.

Each workstation boasted the employee’s creative commitment to their job, to the company, and to each other.

The company trusted their employees and considered them experts in the department or at whatever task they worked, and wasn’t afraid to trust their judgment, because they understood that profitability is a two-way street. As a result, the company had remained not merely viable, but competitive, and demonstrated their commitment to the employees – and community at large – by remaining open in difficult economic times nationwide.

But money wasn’t as much important in the job, as it was the company’s demonstrated trust and confidence in the employees that made the employees happy. Research continues to show that of all factors related to employment, employees do not consider money to be the single most important. While wages or salary are definite considerations in employee satisfaction, knowing that the company considers the employees’ needs and desires foremost, as evidenced by how they’re treated, is far more important.

Some have complained about Millennials’ (Generation Y) work ethic, claiming they’re “materialistic, and less likely to work” along with other negative remarks, and have pointed to selectively limited research to prove their point. But things aren’t always what they seem at first blush. There’s often an untold story, which late broadcaster Paul Harvey capitalized upon with his trademark conclusion, “And now, you know the rest of the story.”

A late, longtime dear friend from a small North Alabama town who had made his living on Wall Street some years ago, retired and returned to the community of his nativity to live out the remainder of his years.

Beau was a quiet, unassuming, confirmed bachelor and his shock of wavy, snow-white hair was his least attractive feature. He was adored by many because of his genuine interest in them as individuals. That he was at least twice their age made no difference to either of them. His friendship – as are all friendships – was an ageless, timeless treasure, and he frequently reminded me, “Don’t work hard, work smart.”

A “work/life balance” is often mentioned as an important factor to Millennials, but there’s much more than meets the eye. In addition to being highly tech savvy, Gen Y’ers are often more prone to creatively problem solve, more willing to share, teach, serve, collaborate, and with greater in-depth and civic involvement than others. They like to “work smart” and “git-r-done.” Yet their values and ethics are sometimes mistaken as a sense of “entitlement.”

In this Information Age, which is now upon us, machines and robots are increasingly being developed and utilized which, in many cases, can do the work of some humans, and do it better, faster, and cheaper. And as some have correctly noted, machines don’t ask for time off, sick or vacation days, or retirement, and work 24/7/365 without breaks or complaint. Machines are literally doing jobs formerly done by humans. And nowhere is that better illustrated than at the recent ground-breaking ceremonies of the $1.6 Billion dollar Toyota-Mazda joint manufacturing venture in Huntsville, Alabama. Whereas formerly, such ceremonies have been feted with golden shovels by executives and government leaders, in this instance, it was done by an industrial robot, while the celebrants merely look on. Ironically, and notably, there were no complaints.

See:

https://twitter.com/ToyotaPolicy/status/1063555730794573824/video/1

-and-

https://twitter.com/MadeinAL/status/1063523973936369664/photo/1

Humans are not machines, and treating employees well, providing them the tools and opportunities to be effective and utilize their creativity will always be a win-win situation for everyone. Or, as the saying goes, “no one cares how much you know, until they know how much you care.”

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