Many of my clients are proud of the “family feel” of their companies. They care about their people, see the whole person, and create a bond of trust that moves them well beyond an “employer-employee” relationship.
The last few years have been hard for the leaders of these companies, because they haven’t been able to protect their employees from the tumultuous market environment that their companies are operating in. Bonuses have been cancelled, raises postponed, training missed, and some of the “family” have even been let go.
In a discussion this week with a leadership team that was debating how to balance the benefits of a family feel with the realities of operating a company within the rules of business, I pointed out that it is profitability that provides the flexibility to treat employees well.
Look at a company that treats its employees well, and you’ll also be looking at a company that has a profitable business model.
At a Board meeting with one of my family business clients a few weeks ago – a company that has been passed down through several generations – they said it another way: “Always protect the money tree first.”
After yesterday’s meeting, I thought, “If profitability is the foundation of an empathetic company, what is the foundation of profitability?”
The answer has many parts, of course – strategy, productivity, discipline, teamwork, culture, accountability, etc. But I’d say the thing that comes first, before making the profitability happen, is…empathy. The ability to empathize with your customers, so that you understand what they need and how to make their lives better, in a way that they value.
If you want to empathize with your employees – if you want to create that great family feel – empathize with your customers.
There are many values that a company can live by. If you haven’t considered having Empathy as one of your company’s core values, it’s worth a look. And if you haven’t defined any of your core values…we should talk.