Monday, March 16, 2009

Employees first, customers second

Long time CEO Herb Kelleher, when asked about his secret to success said "you have to treat your employees like customers.”

Perhaps this is why when Herb retired Southwest Airline's pilots union took out a full-page ad in USA Today thanking him for all he had done. (Meanwhile, American Airlines’ pilots were picketing the Annual Meeting). I think it's also a reason SWA has been in the black for the last 33 years and paid out decent dividends for the 127th consecutive quarter.

Tom Peters discusses leaders living by this idea. The "Sole Secret (he says) of Southwest Airlines founder Herb Kelleher is putting his people First—making them his principal customers. The likes of Dave Liniger (RE/MAX founder) and Hal Rosenbluth (superstar boss of travel giant Rosenbluth International) spout and live this same idea, using practically the same words—e.g., Hal’s book Putting the Customer Second.

It reminds of the personal finance advice to pay yourself first. Are your feeding the important base that sustains your business first? Are you as strategic about communications for your employees as customers? Are you sensitive to, and anticipate, employee needs and wants? Is your employee always right?

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