Like everyone who attended the Arlington Chamber’s annual meeting last month, I was moved by the surprising – and yet now so obvious – keynote address by Dr. Matthew Shank, President of Marymount University.
Dr. Shank, in his warm, funny and sincere remarks, said that a main ingredient for business success is something people rarely talk about, with their employees or their clients: Love. Love your employees, your customers and your community and your business will flourish.
If you create a culture of love, respect and support for your staff, they in turn will do the same for your clients. And satisfied customers make businesses thrive.
It’s so simple, and so brilliant!
In a recent article in Business Insider, Palo Alto Software CEO Sabrina Parsons begged to differ with Sheryl Sandberg and her well-known advice to working women to “Lean In” – meaning work harder and adapt to the often un-family friendly male work culture to achieve leadership roles.
Parsons calls for a new type of feminism that demands more flexibility and support in the workplace, so women with families can meet all of their responsibilities while still achieving at work. At her company she offers flextime, and has a room at the office for kids to hang out after school. She often brings her own three children to work with her, and offers a new model of a CEO.
“So, lean in, but do so while nursing your baby, or while your son sleeps on the couch in your office because he’s feeling sick — and don’t apologize for it,” says Parsons. “Pursue your goals, take risks, and go above and beyond, but don’t give up your role as a mother, wife (or husband, for that matter), and community member to do so. We can do better.”
Smart business owners also encourage philanthropy and community engagement as ways to increase employee and client satisfaction and longevity. At Hasbro, the Rhode Island toy company, several employee volunteer programs provide meaningful opportunities (and the time to participate) for staff to have a real impact on the lives of young people in their communities.
The Portland Nursery in Oregon holds an annual free apple tasting event to say thank you to their customers and the neighborhood where they do business. Attendance has grown to more than 30,000 with proceeds going to local charities – thus engaging customers in the company’s giving as well.
Owner Peggy Acott says, “We were able to connect with a whole cross section of our customer base in a more immediate and active way. We generated a lot of interest, enthusiasm, and facilitated a good exchange between us and our customers…”
In other words, they shared the love, and got love – and a LOT more happy, satisfied employees and customers – in return.
Here’s to a great year of love and success in 2014!