People finally matter at work. Lip service be damned.
– Marcia Conner
A story is told in The Book of Business Anecdotes about marketing whiz Stanley Arnold working at Young & Rubicam in the 1950’s. He was asked to help with a marketing campaign for Remington Rand. Its chairman at the time was retired General Douglas MacArthur. It is said that Arnold was intimidated at first by a company that was so much a part of America.
Emboldened by fresh inspiration for the marketing campaign, Arnold went to the New York offices of Merrill Lynch, Pierce, Fenner and Beane, and placed the ultimate odd-lot order – one share of every single stock listed on the New York Stock Exchange. Unable to be talked out of placing the order, the purchase was made at a cost of more than $42,000 for one share in each of the 1,098 companies listed at the time.
Arnold now took his diversified portfolio into a meeting of Remington Rand’s board of directors, where he argued passionately for a sweepstakes campaign with the top prize called A Share in America. The men shifted in their seats and discussed the idea. “But Mr. Arnold,” one said, “we are not in the securities business; we are in the shaver business.” Arnold replied, “I agree that you are not in the securities business, but I think you also ought to realize that you are not in the shaver business either, you are in the people business.” The company bought the idea.
In a recent column, Fast Company blogger Marcia Conner made a compelling case for how companies, HR in particular, must move beyond the familiar and embrace their most appreciable asset: people. Conner states, “The social media wave, now moving inside corporate walls through social business tools, is not a fad. It’s a fundamental change to how business gets done. The social everything movement is a humanizing movement, driven by dramatic changes in workforce demographics, forcing employers to treat people differently—more like the vital assets they have always been.” What a novel idea.
Charlie Brown once mused, “I love mankind; it’s people I can’t stand.” While that sentiment might be amusing in the comic strips, it is one with disastrous consequences if held by the leadership in your office. The bottom line is; people matter. Each person with their unique gifts and talents form the workforce you have and are the backbone of your business. Here are two simple reminders for leaders that will help make your workplace more productive.
Your business is people. It would seem that much time and attention in business is focused on educating how to close the deal and turn a profit. No doubt there is merit to those respective principles. Let’s face it – you are in business to make money, not lose it.
Six decades ago Stanley Arnold had to convince skeptical clients that they were not in the shaver business; they were in the people business. The lesson is still valid today. And when people are respected, valued, and appreciated; whether they work in your office or are potential clients, they will respond to you in a manner that is consistent with the way they are treated. Here is a litmus test for you: if you did not work for your company, would you do business with them based on the way it treats others?
Relationships are king. Kevin Kelly said, “An organization is a set of relationships that are persistent over time.” Certainly social media has had an enormous impact on how we do business. And while the landscape has changed, the unchanging principle remains in-tact- relationships matter.
When relationships fail to flourish the impact is far reaching. Conner cites research from Gallup that shows that firms with an engaged workforce have 2.6 times the earnings per share growth rate compared to their industry counterparts. Conner states, “Actively disengaged employees erode an organization’s bottom line while breaking the spirits of colleagues in the process.” What a sobering observation. Are you taking relationships seriously? An honest appraisal of your in-house relationships and your external ones are in order.
When you understand that people are your business and relationships matter you will have a strong competitive edge. Your prospects for success today and in the future are tied to your understanding of this principle and how well you execute it. Lip service will no longer suffice. Do you value your people?
©2011 Doug Dickerson
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