We talk a lot about the traits that it takes to become a successful entrepreneur over here at BizEngine. We know it takes a special breed of individual to succeed in the rough and tumble world of start-ups and small businesses. That’s why CNN’s recent article on “The 12 Greatest Entrepreneurs of Our Time” caught my eye. Who better to learn from than from someone that has built one of the world’s largest brands from the ground up?
There are some names on the list you most certainly will recognize – it seems it’s not an entrepreneur list without Steve Jobs or Bill Gates – but I’m guessing there’s at least a one or two men (oh yeah, not a single woman makes the list) whose names will be new to you as well.
Every entrepreneur featured shared a lot of great advice, but some wise words from one in particular stood out with me. You may not recognize his name, but you’re certainly familiar with his company – Herb Kelleher, founder of Southwest Airlines.
“Years ago, the business schools used to pose it as a conundrum. They would say, `Well, who comes first? Your employees, your shareholders, or your customers?’ But it’s not a conundrum.” He explained “Your employees come first. And if you treat your employees right, guess what? Your customers come back, and that makes your shareholders happy. Start with employees and the rest follows from that.”
Kelleher is definitely on to something. I’ve always believed that great companies begin with great employees. No matter where you go, in any industry, you can immediately tell which employees are happy to be where they are and that, for sure, resonates with the customer. I can still recall one particular employee at a Burger King in the Philadelphia suburbs that was just so over-the-top friendly and enjoyable that I couldn’t help but smile.
Take a few minutes and skim through the “12 Greatest Entrepreneurs of Our Time” and see what tidbits of advice you can take away from someone great to apply to your business.
Who is your favorite entrepreneur on the list?
Photo from flickr/Annie Bananie Angel soon