Succeed in business by valuing your employees

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I have a very simple rule for doing well in business: Romance your employees and they will romance your customers.

Now, I don’t mean to suggest that you should have romantic involvement with your employees. What I mean is treat them like gold and you will greatly improve your chances that they will treat your customers like gold.

A lot of businesses talk the talk, saying “Oh, we value our employees. They’re our best asset.” But most often, those are just empty words.

Milwaukee’s Journal Sentinel  recently profiled the Kwik Trip convenience store chain and its fantastic employee benefits. Kwik Trip does so much to try to create a sense of ownership among employees, or “co-workers” as it calls them. Among the perks the company offers are the following:

  • Employees get 40% of the company profits every year. I used to give my employees 25% of profits each year when I had a chain of travel agencies in the 1980s. The money was parceled out equally regardless of position. That made all employees equally accountable for our profitability. But Kwik Trip makes me look cheap!
  • Employees own real estate with the company. Upon their 5-year anniversary, employees receive 1 unit of ownership in store real estate and select headquarters buildings.
  • Employees get sabbaticals. Any employee who stays with the company for 20 years receives a monthlong sabbatical. That’s in addition to normal vacation that is accrued after 20 years.

Remember, Kwik Trip is not a charity or a non-profit; this is a business making money and being successful because the employees are fully vested in the company’s success.

If you want to see how things look for companies that don’t value their employees, I think about one oil company that spent big bucks building fancy gas stations/convenience stores a few years ago. They poured millions into each station.

But if I were to take you on a tour of these stations, all you would see is filth, dirt, grime and broken machinery. It’s not about the convenience store and how elegant it is. It’s about how you treat your employees and value them to let them know that they really are your best asset.

Editor’s note: This segment originally aired June 2011.

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