It Takes Three To Tango

Put anyone of this trio ahead of the others in your business:

  • Shareholders
  • Clients
  • Employees

and I guarantee your business will lack energy and long-term viability. This is the law of business longevity and I challenge you to try to disprove it by pointing to one viable and thriving business that compromises on anyone in this trio.

When you put shareholders first

It happens time and time again in both small and large business. One year “valuable” employees are sacrificed to keep an earnings promise to shareholders. Next year, clients feel the effect in compromised quality on service or product while the business struggles to meet earnings targets.

Greed and shortsightedness are the obvious sins. Focusing only on earnings and shareholder wealth is like building a house of cards. It’s only a matter of time before this shortsightedness unfolds and disaster strikes.

But also remember that shareholder satisfaction is the easiest to measure of the three because it may simply be a monetary measure (e.g., 20% EBIT growth). However when we aim to protect and promote the viability and sustainability of this growth, we begin to appreciate the crucial value that client satisfaction and employee engagement play.

When you put customers first

I am bemused to hear about the latest “Customer Obsession” motto from an executive in a major Australian bank. At the same time, most of the employees I meet from this bank, senior executives, middle and junior managers alike, seem completely disengaged, under-resourced with terrible work pressures.

All these sacrifices are for customers’ sake. If this environment is actually a fair representation of employee moral across the bank, how can Customer-Comes-First ever mean anything to these disengaged employees. The very people who hold the key to customer satisfaction?

When you put employees first

What does this mean? It is difficult to think of a viable business where employees take precedence to the detriment of clients and/or shareholders. However, Ken Grenada owner of Grenada Corporation, a bus operator and maker, was truly an inspiring entrepreneur who did all he could to protect and support his employees even after the sale of his business to Ventura.

First he gave each employee a share of the sale proceeds averaging $8,500 depending on length of service (some reached many tens of thousands of dollars). Next he ensured that they are protected and taken care of by the new business owners as a condition of sale! You can imagine what employees would do for such an employer. And Ken acknowledged just that: A business is as good as its people…

It takes strong leadership to bring all three dancers to the same tune. Profits are crucial to sustain an economically viable business. Profits should protect and sustain a fulfilling work-life balance for employees. Employees ensure clients receive the valued solution to their needs. Clients will be willing and happy to pay the right price for the right service.