By Eleanor O'Sullivan
Adrian Gostick and Chester Elton, authors of the new book, All In: How the Best Managers Create a Culture of Belief and Drive Big Results, say that what makes a company great and worth investing in starts with running a business with what they call E + E+ E.
In order for a company to be productive and profitable, the authors say, leaders must see that their employees are engaged, enabled and energized.
Gostick and Elton wrote the bestsellers The Carrot Principle and The Orange Revolution,' and are founders of the global training and consulting firm The Culture Works (TheCultureWorks.com)
Being engaged, they write, staff will see how their work helps the organization and how they are responsible and accountable for results.
An enabled employee gets the right training and tools to do the job well. In many interviews with company leaders and employees, Gostick and Elton found that leaders spent large amounts of time coaching their staff and walking the floor to see that workers knew what was expected and could handle the rigors of their job.
Perhaps most important, they say, an employee must be energized to do his best. Employees who feel valued and secure are the most productive, the book contends. Leading companies go beyond a weekly paycheck to demonstrate employee worth: productivity contests and rewards systems (promotions, on-the-spot cash bonuses at company meetings; free tickets, trips, dinners, etc.) are the norm, as is stressing that an employee should balance work with a personal life.
A woman who went on to be a successful entrepreneur remembers an early boss telling her to stop working to ungodly hours: "I can replace you in 24 hours; go home to your family,'' he advised her. She understood and mended her ways, and still ascended to an important job.
The authors support their thesis with examples of thriving companies who use these tactics, or companies that were once powerful and ignored the way to continued success.
Carlos Aguilera, district manager of the Avis Budget Groups' Dallas/Forth Worth airport location, invites all levels of employees to pre-shift meetings and encourages them to make suggestions and offer opinions. The location has 200 employees working three shifts a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year.
"Okay, who saw someone do something great yesterday?'' Aguilera asks the staff; the winner gets an on-the-spot award and her accomplishment is posted on a company bulletin board.
(Avis Budget Group was trading at $16.20 a share in early July, its highest per share value in five years).
Chick-fil-A, a Southern based restaurant chain specializing in chicken dishes, runs a family culture business at 1,500 locations, with sales at the end of 2010 at more than $3.5 billion, making it the second largest fast-food chicken restaurant in the U.S., after Kentucky Fried Chicken.
What's its secret?
"Our restaurants are unexpectedly energized places to work, socialize and eat,'' says its director of talent strategy. Employees get the food out by working on a daily competitiveness system among crews and then the best are rewarded. Walls of Fame display the winning team's new mark, and each member gets an award. Interestingly, since we don't stop feeling hungry on Sundays, the chain is closed on Sundays.
"If we say our greatest assets are our people -- owner/operators and their team members -- we think closing doors on Sundays is the least we can do to show that we also value their families, too,'' says a company spokesman.
Finally, being too successful too long is dangerous, the authors argue. A sense of contentment can settle in and signs of decline are ignored. As a primary example, they offer General Motors, which declared bankruptcy in 2009 and closed its Pontiac and Saturn assembly lines. Fifty years ago, it made and sold 54 percent of all vehicles on U.S. roads; by 1980, rising oil prices had driven Americans to smaller cars, and the Japanese automakers were ready with small, well-built models.
But GM felt no sense of urgency at the Japanese threat, and in 1992, it lost more than $23.5 billion, the largest loss by any company in the history of American business.
It hired a new CEO and initiated a new production system but by the Great Recession of 2008, required $19 billion in loans and $30 billion in financing to recover.
What did GM in? A variety of financial events creating what the authors call a "perfect storm,'' but also contentment, or ignoring what they call "the burning platform:'' recognizing when a radical change in behavior is needed.
Regional businesses and industry giants alike that share the E + E+ E approach to doing business, the authors say, are companies to consider as worthy investments over the long haul.
All In, by Adrian Gostick and Chester Elton, Free Press. $25. 243 pages.