Why customers shouldn’t always come first

Thought Leadership presented by McDonell Consulting & Development

This is an important time of the year to make sure that your business, and most importantly your employees, are set up for success. When prioritizing where to start planning, allow me to recommend the Four S’s as a way to think about: Staff, Skills, Structure and Strategy.

Staff: First, is your business staffed appropriately? It should not be too lean or too fat, so you need to identify the ideal number of employees now and understand what new business opportunities are likely to take place in the near future. If growth seems likely, decide if you’ll hire in anticipation of needing more staff. When you do hire, ensure that new employees receive proper coaching and onboarding.

For current staff, review your team to make sure the right people are in the right roles. Are employees in their current position because they are the best fit or because they were the best available when the business had a need? Importantly, make sure your employees are well taken care of – make it a priority to take care of them and they will take care of your customers.

Skills: Take the time to make certain that your employee’s skills are aligned with updated job descriptions. You should re-visit job descriptions at least annually to determine if you need to shift responsibilities around. However, if someone does not have a particular skill that is important to their role it does not mean they’re not the right fit, they may just need additional training. As a leader you should set the tone for the business that training is important. When employees see you taking the initiative to learn new skills, they will seek out opportunities as well.

Structure: Consider how your company is organized. The structure should take advantage of everyone’s best assets. If you’re supposed to be focused on bringing in new business but are inundated with daily administrative tasks, you may need to make some changes. You need to be structured so that you and your employees are not overwhelmed and have room to grow.

Strategy: Now that you’ve thought about how your staff is structured for success, it’s time to review the business strategy. How do you plan to accomplish your goals? You may be very involved in your marketing and communications strategy, or you may choose to outsource this.  Make sure that any external teams and your employees are fully aware of your target markets and business strategy.

By the way, it’s no coincidence that I listed “staff” first in this list of management planning priorities. Virgin Group founder Richard Branson famously said, “Clients do not come first. Employees come first. If you take care of your employees, they will take care of the clients.”

Some might see this advice as contrarian or even foolish. After all, “the customer is always right,” is an adage that conflicts with putting employees first. But I strongly agree with Branson’s perspective, because happy, well-trained employees in the proper roles will deliver happy clients.

And so this year, I encourage you to take time out of your normal routines for long-term planning, and start with the people who make your business possible: the staff.