A grandfather gets devastating news.
His three-year-old grandson has just been beaten into a coma and will be taken off life support that evening. The man frantically books a last-minute flight from Los Angeles to Denver. He gets caught in traffic and security checks at the airport. His plane should already be in the sky. Yet when he gets to the gate, the pilot is waiting for him.
“They can’t go anywhere without me and I wasn’t going anywhere without you,” says the pilot. “Now relax, we’ll get you there. And again, I’m so sorry.”
A woman calls a grocery store in a panic.
She’s worried that her 89-year-old father is snowed in and there’s no food in his house. The grocery store doesn’t run a delivery service. Yet groceries get delivered to his front door. There’s no delivery charge and the groceries are free for the World War II vet.
So do these stories make you want to fly with Southwest Airlines and shop at Trader Joe’s?
We crave companies that care, says author and entrepreneur Dale Partridge. And caring companies know that putting people over profit is actually more profitable. We open our wallets and stay loyal to businesses that we like, trust and respect.
So what’s gone wrong with the companies that we love to hate? Partridge says these organizations have lost their way while worshipping efficiency above all else and feeding an addiction to growth at all costs. The founder’s guiding principles and commitments to quality and customer service get compromised. Standards slip. Promises are broken. Employees and customers get taken for granted.
“All around us, colossal brands that once stood for integrity and quality have begun to tiptoe across ethical eggshells – condoning growth strategies, marketing campaigns and customer-satisfaction policies that are not only unacceptable but also downright disingenuous – hoping their customers won’t notice.”
Partridge says companies move through four eras or seasons. “Behind our capitalistic megamachine exists a pattern of corporate behavior, churning through seasons of honesty, efficiency, deception and redemption. This cycle drives companies from a period where they value people over profit to a time when they value profit over people, and then back again. Within each era, certain values shift, drive and change not only the business but also the marketplace as a whole.”
To stay in the honest era or find a way back during a season of redemption, companies should adhere to the following seven core values:
- People matter. Treat your employees, customers and vendors fairly and with respect. “Devaluing people who compose a company is like a government disregarding its citizens. It can work, but only for a time.”
- Truth wins. “In a world full of lies, businesses that refuse to compromise truth will capture imaginations and earn consumer trust.”
- Transparency frees. “When transparency is lacking, speculation is abundant. If you’re not open with others, they will naturally assume you have something to hide.”
- Authenticity attracts. Live your message. Practice what you preach. Be who you are.
- Quality speaks. Companies that care about the smallest details show customers that they care about them. Never settle for satisfactory.
- Generosity returns. “When generosity is who you are rather than something you do, it will seep out of your organization’s pores naturally.”
- Courage sustains. Start putting people first by getting past the four fears of change, failure, admitting fault and the unknown.
“The simplicity of these concepts is also the secret to their power,” says Partridge. “Almost as simple as Moses’ Ten Commandments, these beliefs are common human morals, and even the most hardheaded employee or consumer can grasp them. And they have formed the cornerstone of some of the most successful leaders and organizations in marketplace history.”
Whether you’re in a corner office or on the frontlines and working for a start-up or a major organization, you can decide what comes first in 2016. Will it be people or profit?