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My Turn: It turns out employees, customers are people

The recent turmoil and resolution at Market Basket brought to mind a theory that has formed in the back of my brain over time. I’m sure the topic has been studied and papers written on it.

After more than 50 years in industry, I’ve sensed the personality of many corporations. The CEO and executive staff set the tone.

Traditionally, CEOs grew into their role from sales and marketing or product management positions. Their customers were the people who purchased their goods or services. In recent years, CEO positions have become more often occupied by those from the financial side of the business. Their customers are the board of directors and stockholders.

This seemingly subtle difference can have effects on employee satisfaction and customer satisfaction as well. Why are there so many customer satisfaction surveys today? Management should be aware of customer satisfaction from the ground up.

Anyway, my theory came back to life with the Market Basket situation and a new, even more basic principle stuck in my head. At one point during the conflict, Arthur T. Demoulas said words to the effect that it’s not customers or employees, it is people. Isn’t that simple? Isn’t that profound?

I might have missed that but for having it reinforced in a recent PBS NewsHour piece on the rebirth of Vaughan-Bassett Furniture Company in Virginia. At one point CEO John Bassett said, “I feel responsible for these people.”

That brought to mind the Butcher’s Wax Company sale to SC Johnson some years ago. Instead of simply walking with the money, the Butchers shared the proceeds with their employees. And, of course, there are other examples.

The moral of the story? It is people. Corporations that keep “it is people” at the forefront of their thinking will have that philosophy morph the company into a more successful business (and yes, in the end, with a better profit picture).

(Harry Wright lives in Bradford.)

Legacy Comments1

Keep your head down, Harry. I expect you'll soon be attacked as a socialist/commie/pinko/fellow-traveler/Castro-loving/Obama-supporter and worse by the "usual suspects."

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