When Google went public in August of 2004, Google co-founder Sergey Brin wrote a letter in the prospectus for potential investors:
“Our employees, who have named themselves Googlers, are everything… We have been lucky to recruit many creative, principled and hardworking stars. We hope to recruit many more in the future. We will reward and treat them well. We provide many unusual benefits for our employees, including meals free of charge, doctors and washing machines. We are careful to consider the long-term advantages to the company of these benefits. Expect us to add benefits rather than pare them down over time. We believe it is easy to be penny wise and pound foolish with respect to benefits that can save employees considerable time and improve their health and productivity.”
Herb Kelleher, the legendary co-founder of Southwest Airlines, put it another way: Happy employees equal happy customers.
At PCI, that is our #1 business strategy.
Happy Associates = Happy Clients.
We tweaked Herb’s words a bit. Employee sounds old-school, so we use the word associate. We prefer client to customer because it suggests long-term relationships. But the overall idea is exactly the same.
Every business wants happy clients. Of course. The insight is: happy clients starts with happy associates. Because happy and engaged associates are much more likely to go the extra mile to make our clients happy. Just common sense.
In his book Work Rules! , Google’s longtime Head of People Operations Laszlo Bock writes: “All it takes is a belief that people are fundamentally good – and enough courage to treat your people like owners instead of machines. Machines do their jobs; owners do whatever is needed to make their companies and teams successful.”
In turn, Laszlo encourages associates to think of themselves as founders, which he believes is a mindset, rather than a question of ownership.
“You are a founder. Building an exceptional team or institution starts with a founder. But being a founder doesn’t mean starting a new company. It is within anyone’s grasp to be the founder and culture-creator of their own team, whether you are the first employee or joining a company that has existed for decades.”
Building a great workplace culture is a two-way street. The organization chooses to value its people. And the people choose to be all-in.
That’s the formula.
Reflection: What is surprising and not surprising about Sergey Brin’s statement? Does his idea apply to other companies and in other industries?
Action: Choose to see myself as a founder.