Co-Owner of Wilson Dow, uniting and activating audiences through The Power of Live™, both in-person and virtual.
The other day, I bought a candy bar, my all-time favorite from when I was a kid. There was a good reason it was my favorite. My grandmother used to hide one for me in a different place in her house every time I went there. And each time I found it, I was rewarded not just by the candy, but by a gigantic hug from Grandma.
What made this particular candy bar my favorite had nothing to do with the chocolate and everything to do with the emotion I associated with it. In a word, it was about the experience. Buying that same candy bar the other day made me remember that the lesson from that childhood experience is at the root of how my business philosophy came to be. And that philosophy, in short, is this: Forget the bottom line.
That’s right. I’ve found that realizing enduring growth depends on putting the numbers aside in favor of shaping, and living, what I call a philosophy of prosperity that privileges the human component, the shared emotional experience, over the emotionless grab for immediate results.
But what about revenues, margins, loss and cash flow? These are all critical indicators of an enterprise’s success, to be sure. But those numbers don’t generate themselves; the people you hire do. That’s why I’ve embraced a philosophy of prosperity versus growth in the traditional business sense of that word. Sure, the goal is growth, and numbers can tell us about that — after the fact. But when you proactively foster an authentic culture driven by creating an emotionally positive experience, an environment of caring and goodwill with employees, you engender a hearty, enduring root system that can ensure that your business bears fruit. Knowing that the word “culture” derives from the Latin word “cultura,” meaning “care” or “cultivation,” is an apt reminder to me about tending to and honoring that root system: the people.
Much ink has been spilled about the importance of workplace culture. An ever-growing body of research shows that a positive workplace experience can lead to measurable benefits for employees, employers and that nagging bottom line. But culture isn’t bought, instituted or even built. Culture, like life, is lived. It is the sum of our shared experience, from the little things like healthy snacks, comfortable workspaces and good coffee, to the bigger ones, like flextime, benefits and recognition structures.
My years in the experiential marketing sector have been instructive for me in shaping a philosophy of prosperity in the workplace. In fact, the evolution of terminology in this vertical from “meeting planning,” to “event marketing” and now to “experiential marketing” underscores a basic human need to be, well, treated like a whole human. That insight has led us to serve our clients not merely as producers of events, but as shepherds of what we like to call “the experience renaissance.” That holistic view, that philosophy, has translated into measurably increased client satisfaction, repeat business and even no-bid business. Why? Because they didn’t just go to an event; they lived it, and they loved it. In short, they felt taken care of.
The insights I’ve gleaned have led me to the realization that there is no difference between my employees and our clients. In fact, I think of my employees as my clients first. Some sage once said, “Hire the very best people — then get out of their way.” Truth. And I would append my own insight to that. Yes, get out of their way, but then take care of them. Because just like in the real world, people want to be taken care of, valued and recognized.
What does it mean to take care of them? I believe it means giving them what they need to thrive in their roles in your company. And it’s pretty easy to figure out what those needs are. Just listen to them. When you are guided by a philosophy of prosperity, becoming attuned to people’s needs and emotions and honoring them where possible creates an authentic ethos of nurturing. In turn, that ethos begets a work environment of goodwill where your people are not simply satisfied, but also empowered and motivated to innovate and contribute in entirely new and surprising ways.
A thriving, electric company culture can create an indomitable sense of togetherness. And togetherness begets collaboration, which in turn begets performance and innovation. Therein lies, perhaps, the linkage of culture to business outcome. Consistent innovation is the precious differentiator between you and your competitors; it continually feeds and delineates your unique service or product proposition.
For me, that childhood candy bar experience at Grandma’s house — the emotional experience, not the chocolate — continues to stand for me as a core insight about the fundamental, and monetizable, value of doing everything you can to foster goodwill, whether with customers or your own employees. Adopting and living a mindset of taking care of people leads to a shared experience of plenty and prosperity, and an expectation of workplace well-being as a norm. And all of that adds up to success. That, for a business leader, is very satisfying.
Forget the bottom line. Foster a culture of emotional connection, and the numbers will follow.
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Author: Steve Wilson, Forbes Councils Member