Companies love to say “Our people are our greatest asset.”
But so many of the traditional business practices tell people every day that they don’t matter.
We were guilty of that.
As a manufacturing business, a traditional practice was to invite customers to tour the plant, to see our operations and the machinery that we build. Typically, the customer’s interaction would be limited to meetings with the sales person and senior leadership team.
Imagine that you invited a guest to your home. As you gave him or her a tour, you came to the dining room where your mother was sitting. “This is our dining room set. It’s handmade, one of a kind,” you point out. “We purchased it on an antiquing trip to New England.” You fail to introduce your mother to the guest.
You would never skip mom.
That’s what we were doing in our plants with every customer visit. We were inviting guests in to see our machinery–the things of our business–but failing to introduce them to our people—the heart and soul of the business–whom we “say” are our most important asset.
Once I asked the leaders of a business we had just acquired if they had ever made a genuine effort to connect their people with their customers. They recalled a time when a customer was in to make a decision on purchasing a piece of equipment. They lined the walkways and applauded as he walked in.
“Did you ever do that again?” I asked.
“No,” they said. “Our accountants figured out how much lost time we had from that event so we never did it again.”
I countered, “Likely the real reason you never repeated it—and shouldn’t have repeated it– is because it wasn’t genuine. It was a tactic to try to win the business. And if you think the customer couldn’t see through it, you are wrong.”
Today we welcome every visitor to Barry-Wehmiller as if we were welcoming them to our home. When someone visits us as a new team member, as a vendor or customer, or to benchmark our company, they are greeted with a Red Carpet Welcome. A small group of team members, representing every walk of the business, spend a few minutes welcoming the guest. They share a bit about what they do, what the company means to them, and offer any help to the guest during his/her visit.
When guests tour our plants, our team members wear nametags so that the guests can stop to meet anyone along the way to ask them about their role at the company.
The result: Our guests feel a connection to us as a group of people, working hard to meet their needs. Their trust toward our organization deepens as they see what we value most. They get to see Truly Human Leadership in action.
More importantly, our team members feel proud to share their work with others. They see that they are an integral part of our business. They know that they matter.
What matters most at your “house”? Next time, don’t leave mom just sitting at the table.