Your employees are your best customers.
Not sure about that? Who is more important? Customers or employees. This is not a trick question. Who’s more important? ( For some companies we might need to back up and ask ‘Do either of them matter to you.’ But, that’s an issue for another time.)
Here’s some questions to consider in preparing your answer:
- Who spends the majority of their waking hours building your brand?
- Who organizes their personal life, sacrificing family and vacation and some times their health, in order to deliver that brand?
- Who has to buy your brand’s purpose and mission, and their role in delivering it, before a customer can be convinced to part with a few dollars and a few moments to buy the result?
The first person to buy your brand’s promise is the employee who’s going to deliver it. That makes them your first customer. Without their buy-in, without their passionate engagement in creating and communicating that promise to in-turn their customers....your brand remains just that: yours, and yours alone. And no one ever finds their life made sweeter, more rewarding.
And unlike the comparative hit-and-run or buy-and-run purchase agreement of your customer, your employees must not only buy the brand’s promise but invest the best hours of their day creating it, tweaking it, testing it, repairing it, refining it, redefining it and finding something new to keep it alive.
Recognize that. Recognize them. Recognize their passion brings out the passion in the other ones, the ones you hear so much about.
How do you do this? What if you did for your employees what you did for your customers?
To entice external customers to pay or to stay, you invest in marketing. Every company does this. Pretty colors and streaming graphics and promises, promises, promises. I did, too, until I saw my priorities were misplaced. Why was I investing in the happiness of Google or an ad agency when investing a similar amount in our employees generated so much better results? Besides, what agency could promote our employees as well as we could, in our own words or the words of their comrades - our external customers? Our employees were our value-add, our USP or unique selling proposition, that defeated our better-financed competitors in a commoditized-industry. So, I re-directed our marketing dollars towards our employees adding more to existing incentives like a share of the quarterly cash-flows or incentives for reaching other goals. Without wasting time on ad agencies, I had the time to meet and share with our employees the challenges of our company, some presented by me and some presented by them, and craft a strategy with tactics and meaningful incentives.
The process recognized their needs as well as their strengths. It also recognized their unique responsibility and opportunity to create...their company.
It worked. We grew topline revenues, maintained cash-flows, while creating a fun and exciting place to work.
Recognize them as your first and most important customer. Without them, you have no business. With them, you have a thriving company, one you're proud of and whose results you're committed to delivering every day.