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7 Reasons the Best Leaders Treat Their Employees Like Customers

"Our people are our most valuable resource." "What makes this company great is its employees." How many times have you heard platitudes like these? Unfortunately, at most companies, that's exactly what statements like these amount to. Most company leaders worry first about pleasing their investors, next about making their customers happy. Giving employees what they want comes in a distant third. That's a poor approach that will become less and less effective as competition for skilled talent continues to heat up, according to Ravin Gandhi, co-founder and CEO of GMM Nonstick Coatings, which provides nonstick coatings to the cookware industry. Since its founding in 2007, GMM has grown to about 250 employees with "almost no" turnover, Gandhi says. Here's why: The company makes sure to treat its employees the same way it treats its best customers. This simple, yet powerful philosophy can work in any company, and Gandhi says it leads to higher sales, greater revenues, and more profitability. Here's why:

1. You'll never be tempted to take employees for granted. "Companies are very thankful for the business they get from their clients because they know that revenue is necessary to stay afloat," Gandhi explains. Giving employees that same level of attention and appreciation is essential, he says, because "without their commitment to produce for clients, companies won't stay in business, or at least won't be as successful as they want to be." 2. You'll have better insight. "Companies are often focused on checking in with their clients, especially the bigger accounts, and the same should apply for staff and top producers," Gandhi says. He recommends frequent check-ins where you ask employees how they feel about their roles and the company. "It's also a preventative measure to look out for any red flags so they can be dealt with before they results in an employee leaving," he says. "By checking in frequently, you may also uncover a bigger issue happening in the organization, such a a poor-performing manager who has been leading top producers to quit."

3. You'll serve your customers better. "Putting an emphasis on keeping employees happy and satisfied is important because the customer experience starts with them," Gandhi says. Even when employees follow your customer service instructions to the letter, if they're unhappy, customers will hear it through the phone and see it when they meet, he notes. "Unhappy staff leads to disengagement, which leads to poor productivity and sales," he says.

4. You'll get buy-in. "Just as you need to prove your work ethic to clients and ultimately gain their trust, the same applies for employees," Gandhi says. "You must show your commitment to helping them develop and gain their trust before they invest their hours into helping the company grow. When they trust their manager and the company's leadership team, staff will produce more, and want to learn and become better."

5. If you're a startup, you need employees to bet on you just as investors do. "You have to sell your employees on the fact that your business will beat the odds and survive. People want to feel that they have joined an enterprise that is going places." Without that confidence, and the sense that you are concerned for and devoted to their welfare, employees will be tempted to leave whenever a position opens up at a larger employer which can likely pay more, offer greater benefits, and promise more stability.

6. They'll stick by you in tough times. As a business leader, you never want to think about the possibility that your company could face tough times, but sooner or later, most companies do. When that happens, the way you've treated your employees will have immediate--and highly visible--consequences. "When the chips are down, a mass employee exit will be seen as the sign of a business about to go under," Gandhi notes. "When you have built loyalty with your team, they will be willing to stay and work harder to get to the light at the end of the tunnel."

7. You'll be able to scale better. Why? Because as you grow you will need new executives in leadership roles to keep a larger operation on track. You can hire these new bosses from outside, but there will inevitably be an adjustment period while they learn about your company, get to know its key leaders, and come to understand how you do things. That adjustment time is much shorter when you promote from within. "Happy employees produce leaders internally," Gandhi says, "which means you can scale faster and more effectively." The happier your people are, the fewer of them will leave--and the faster you can grow.


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