Last Friday, at the Arlington Chamber's Annual Meeting, I was struck with the simplicity of the speaker's message. If you were there, perhaps you were too. Dr. Matthew Shank, president of Marymount University, laid out a key to business success:
Love your staff
Love your customers
Love your community
And you will prosper
In my work transforming business culture, Shank's message is one I'm hearing from many, sometimes surprising, quarters.
I was just at a trade show for sports clubs–not exactly a touchy feely bunch. Hotelier and keynote speaker Chip Conley's message:During the recession, his focus on staff happiness caused his company Joie de Vivre to thrive while other boutique hotels died.
It all starts with culture, he let the audience know. Great culture leads to happy staff. Happy staff leads to happy customers. And happy customers are what make you thrive.
Among those that embrace the happiness advantage is Southwest Airlines whose stock exchange ticker symbol is LUV. CEO Gary Kelly says their core value LUV is the secret behind forty years of consecutive profitability.
At a recent conference I was at, Kelly shared a story to shed light on how Southwest thrived during the recession while many airlines were filing for bankruptcy.
While competitors were slicing and dicing flights to find more ways to charge you fees, Southwest Airlines decided two bags fly free. What was the impetus behind the decision? Surprisingly, it was not happy customers. It was happy staff.
Southwest Airlines knows budget-conscious customers bring bigger, more stuffable check on luggage to get around pesky baggage fees. And that means attendants lifting heavy bags into overstuffed bins. It means delayed flights. And it means mad customers. Not a recipe for staff happiness.
When passengers were feeling the pinch of an industry visited by Ebenezer Scrooge, Southwest shared the bags fly free LUV with creative ads like this one.
Free bags served the company's core value: LUV. In CEO Gary Kelly's words, "We put our employees first. If they are happy, the customers will be happy."
Dr. Shank ended his keynote to the Arlington Chamber inviting local businesses to "Get on the Love Train." His invitation is a mark of the changing tide of business.