Mission statements, vision statements, strategies. Regardless of what you call them they indicate the direction, focus, and purpose of a business or company. The size of the business doesn’t matter. Big or small, to be successful a business must know where it’s going and why, and the best way to get there.
It’s safe to say that, with the exception of non-profits, making money is a primary focus for business owners and company leaders. Without a strong and steady revenue stream businesses can’t survive for very long. Business owners and company leaders go about creating strategies, setting goals, measuring productivity and developing operational processes—all for the purpose of ensuring profitability--first and foremost.
This might sound like a good strategy but don’t be fooled--it’s really a trap.
Businesses often prioritize like this:
- Company focus (profitability)
- Customer focus (products and services)
- Employee focus (hiring, salary, benefits and development)
This strategy is a recipe for failure on all levels.
Let’s say you’re planting a garden. The desired end-result is to get enough vegetables to freeze for the winter. You start your garden with a good foundation--finding the right patch of land with good soil and the right amount of sunlight. You till and weed preparing the land so that when you plant the ground is ready and receptive. Then you choose the “what”-- seeds for vegetables that you like and grow well in the climate where you live. Over the next few months you take action—the “how”. You water your garden, weed it, and fertilize it regularly. After that, the rest takes care of itself. Your vegetables thrive just as you’d hoped.
So think about it. The vegetable harvest was the end-result…but it’s not where you started. If you had focused mainly on choosing the right seeds, watering, and fertilizing but failed to find a spot with good soil and adequate sunlight and didn’t prepare the ground your foundation would not support your efforts and your garden would not flourish.
You have to look at business in a similar way and prioritize accordingly.
- Employee Focus (hiring, salary, benefits, development)—The Foundation
- Customer Focus (products and services)—The What and How
- Company Focus (Profitability)—The End Result
Why do it this way? Because the happiness, satisfaction, and loyalty of your customers WILL NEVER BE HIGHER than the happiness satisfaction, and loyalty of your employees. I can hear the comments already. Employees don’t make the company money. No, technically they don’t. But it’s through the employees that a company makes money and through employees that companies lose money when they don’t feel valued and appreciated.
If employees are unhappy and feeling undervalued, turnover will be high, product and service quality will suffer and customers will be lost. Companies spend billions each year due to high turnover, product and service issues, and new customer acquisition costs—all of these negatively impacts profitability.
It’s to the benefit of the bottom line to make employees priority number one. And if you don’t believe me, check out the book Delivering Happiness, A Path to Profits, Passion, and Purpose by Zappos highly successful and respected CEO, Tony Hsieh. Tony believes that Zappos's number one priority is company culture and his belief is that once you get the culture right, everything else - great customer service, long-term branding - will happen on its own. Here’s to a company that’s doing it right!!