A good friend of mine has been working for the same small business for over four years now. I often ask her if she thinks it is time for a change. She shrugs and says “no”, adding that she is treated well, she is continuously learning, her manager cares about her professional development and regularly sends her on training courses and that work feels like a second home to her. When her company goes through a rough time, she says she feels as if it is her own company, and puts in the time and effort, along with the management, to try to turn things around.
While some might argue that employees can become too loyal to the company, or perhaps are too lazy and too comfortable to change jobs, that does not always ring true. Yes, it applies in some instances especially for those that get paid really well for little work in return, but for my friend, it is a simple case of wanting to do well because she is treated well by her employer.
“Treat others the way you would like to be treated”, is a saying many of us heard growing up. In our personal lives, sure we would think twice before hurting someone. But when it comes to business, how many entrepreneurs actually follow that rule? How often are ethics aligned with our financial ambitions?
Come to think about it, applying that rule to all aspects of business life makes a lot of sense. Treat your customers right, and they will come back for more. Treat your employees right, and they will be dedicated and motivated to push your company forward with you. In his book The Good Jobs Strategy, Zeynep Ton, discusses how treating staff well leads to excellence.
Another textbook example is that of an acquaintance of mine who manages a branding agency. He provided his staff with benefits, never asked them to work on weekends and treated them as partners instead of subordinates. What he ended up with was a team that not only showed up to do their jobs, but were constantly looking for ways to push the business forward, land new clients, generate profit or help the wider community.
In business, your reputation is just as important as earning profit. Money comes and goes, but once a good reputation is tarnished, it takes more than money to restore it.
Here’s how you to ensure you apply the golden rule of how to treat others to your business:
• Prioritise clients
When you start your business, you will find yourself dedicating time to providing great customer service. But with many companies, as they grow this focus starts to diminish. A friend complained about a local designer who now takes more than four months to deliver an abaya, rather than the two weeks it used to take when she had a smaller client base. Because she no longer responds to customers in a timely manner, she is losing business as a result.
• Keep your workforce happy
This requires less than you think. An occasional acknowledgement for the work your staff has put in goes a long way. Treat them to a celebratory work lunch every time you achieve your targets. It is easy to know which companies treat their employees well. The staff are happier, turnover is lower, and their reputation precedes them.
As a business owner, I have seen first-hand how applying the rule to these two areas can go a long way. You will end up with a team that shares your vision and is dedicated to achieving it. Do not only apply this philosophy to customer service, but to every aspect of your business – it will lead to sustainable growth for your business, one where trust in you comes not only from your staff but also your clients.
Manar Al Hinai is an award-winning Emirati writer and communications consultant based in Abu Dhabi. Twitter: @manar_alhinai.
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