The P.A.

A weekly address from Patrick Adams,
President of St. Louis Community Credit Union

Culture Drives the Bus

On July 28th, 2014, posted in: Uncategorized by

Bus driverOverzealous bosses who lean toward the bottom line versus a positive corporate culture are asking for trouble. Culture eats strategy for breakfast. I don’t care how smart the boss is, or how intent he or she is in squeezing the income statement for a few more pennies to keep the corporate bulldogs out of their yard — if the culture dies, so does the business. 

Products and people drive the business — and not necessarily in that order. I love what one business icon, one of the richest men in the world, has to say about service — young managers take note. Jack Taylor, the founder of Enterprise Rent-a-Car and all of the subsidiaries thereof, said it best: “Take care of the people first, and profit will follow.” People who fall under this definition include both customers and staff. Legend has it that Mr. Taylor still makes his way into the office periodically and asks the staff a very important question: “Are you having fun?” Simple and brilliant. He gets it — and so does the bottom line.

People come before profit — ALWAYS!!! Look it up in the dictionary First you’ll find people, and then you’ll find profit — in that order, ALWAYS!!! But periodically, some time management guru out of corporate, who has never been on a front line in his or her life, will send out some edict pronouncing the exact amount of time it should take to wait on a customer — and the sheep that follow corporate’s leanings in lock-step get out the stopwatch and slowly begin destroying the culture. UGH!!!

We are in an “experience economy.” Whatever I buy, I want it to be an experience — especially if I’m buying a commodity. Commodities can be purchased anywhere; the people selling them better be good in order to get my repeat business. People provide experiences that provide “strategic differentiation.” I like Starbucks over Dunkin’ Donuts. Coffee is a commodity, and I like both providers located on my path to work.  But Starbucks wins out because the employees care about me and are genuinely interested in what I have to say. Dunkin’ Donuts could care less about me. Zero experience — see what happens?

There is a difference between good service and an experience. Bosses need to come to understand this. Most bosses error on the side of fast service, when really, they would serve their culture and their clients better by encouraging a little more experience. What does experience cost? Maybe 20 seconds more per customer.

The customer is in charge. When you care about customers, listen to them, interact with them, they come back. Yes, they do, and every great businessperson knows it. Culture drives the bus. When staff and customers are happy, business thrives. Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz knows it, and as a result, Starbucks can charge more for the same commodity that Dunkin’ Donuts sells. When you start messing with that formula of people = culture = experience = return customer = profit, you are asking for trouble.

One of the things that keep businesses on the growth curve is great people doing great things. Great businesses have not only a brain, but also a soul. You know what makes your favorite local business tick: they stick to their mission, their reputation and have great people. When your staff is happy, customers have great experiences and the business flourishes.

Bosses need to get their heads out of the time management study and listen to their customers. More often than not, they’ll find out that the business is thriving first and foremost because of the people they employ. You don’t want to lose the good ones.

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