The Business of Business is People

The Business of Business is People

According to Herb Kelleher, the former Chairman and CEO of Southwest Airlines, “The business of business is people; yesterday, today and forever.” In fact, while leading Southwest Airlines, Kelleher created a company culture where employees, customers and shareholders – in that order – were the priority. He believed that if you care for, honor, protect, respect and reward your employees, they will treat each other well and in turn, they will treat the company’s customers well. Thus, happy employees create happy customers and happy customers create happy shareholders.

Why did Kelleher put employees first? From an ethical and morality perspective, it was the right thing to do. From a business perspective, Kelleher knew that tangibles could be purchased; e.g., all airlines have airplanes. However, the intangibles were more difficult for competitors to replicate. While culture is difficult to define, you know it when you see it. Outside of compensation, psychic satisfaction is what employees and customers seek. It is no surprise then that SWA’s culture is based on fun, hospitality, service and warmth for both employees and passengers.

Kelleher also recommends taking the follow actions to create employee-first cultures.

  • Caring. Set up employee care and service departments. Constantly connect in good times (birth) and bad (death).
  • Communication. Over communicate, but not in corporate jargon. Jargon is boring and barely understandable.
  • Culture. Establish culture committees as missionaries to spread the world and keep the fire burning.
  • Ethics. Constantly celebrate and honor employees who demonstrate the golden rule; role models of behavior.
  • Individuality. Show employees that you value them as individuals, not just as workers.

All contents copyright © 2013, Josh Lowry. All rights reserved.


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