Many people think of the CEO as the person that keeps the company running and in some cases, they might be right. After working for over 25 years with both large and small companies, I know who really are the ones that build a better business and increase profits in many cases. It’s the sales team, managers, human resources and other departments working together. It’s the worker bees that protect the queen bee and pamper her. Your employees are the ones making the sales. Yes, you may have started your company, but it’s your workers that are keeping it going strong. If it wasn’t for the worker bees, the queen would die.
I’m not a bee keeper, but heard that if the hive gets too crowded the queen flies away with half of the worker bees to make a new hive and the remaining bees make a new queen to look after. The same goes for a growing company of humans. They open different offices in different locations taking their best workers with them at times to get things going.
The worker bees do little dances to communicate to the other bees to let them know where the flowers are. They then go to the flowers to get the pollen to bring back to the hive. It goes on day after day. They keep the hive clean, protect their queen and make their hive / company the best it can be. They will die for their queen and many do. In the case of most companies not many or any employees will risk life and limb and work countless hours a day until they are almost dead for no pay just to make their queen bee boss happy. That’s why the CEOs need ways to make their employees happy and feel appreciated. Sometimes it takes more than just a paycheck and benefits.
Think of your company as the queen bee. It’s the thing that everyone is trying to keep happy and successful. It’s just a name and your brand. It’s simply a building, website, legal papers, a name, etc. Think of the CEO as the beekeeper trying to make the worker bees happy as they bring money or the in the bee’s case, honey to the queen bee company. I know, it sounds a little crazy, but stay with me.
Dave Thomas was the founder of Wendy’s. He was on a lot of their commercials, was a super friendly man from what I was told by some of his workers and was probably more recognizable than the drawing of his daughter Wendy. You’d hear his voice or see him on his commercials back in the 1980s – 1990’s or even earlier and knew just who he was. When Dave died in 2002, Wendy’s kept going. A different boss took charge and the business is still going strong. Remember, Dave founded the businesses, made it what it was, but was the beekeeper of his incredible hive. He produced many franchise queen bees to open up his new hives in other locations around the world. OK, enough about bees, but you get my point. Your company isn’t as much about the owner as it is who’s keeping it going, the worker bees. Everyone was able to build a better business because of the foundation Dave made and watched over.
Think of a store you go to a lot. Do you know the owner’s name? Best Buy, Sears, Kohls, Target are huge national chain store. Who is the CEO? I don’t have a clue and would have to do a Google search to find out. Other than Apple, Costco, Virgin Airlines and maybe a couple of other companies, I’d have a hard time naming and CEOs. Come to think of it, Costco co-founder and former CEO, Jim Sinegal retired and I couldn’t tell you the new CEO’s name off the top of my head. After hearing Jim’s story on a TV show and hearing what a great guy and boss he was, I was an instant fan. I even waited around to meet him when he visited a local Costco a number of years ago. He was very friendly, wanted to meet two of my children that were with me, asked if I was enjoying my shopping experience, etc. Cool guy! I was more excited to meet him than meeting Jack Nicholson. I never got a picture with Jack, but got the one on the left with Jim. 🙂 He cares about his customers. He cares about his employees and cares about all of his locations enough to go there for a visit. I just checked and Costco’s new CEO’s name is W. Craig Jelinek. He took over when Jim retired in 2012.
“Great things in business are never done by one person. They’re done by a team of people.” – Steve Jobs
Odds are if you shop at Costco or one of the other stores I mentioned a lot, you probably know some of the employees by name. If not by name, by face. You could see them outside of their work and know that “That’s the guy from Best Buy!” just by seeing his face. I shop at Costco so much I can call out to some of the employees by name without looking at their name tag. They see me at a store and know who I am, too. Why? Because they give great customer service and make me feel happy each time I shop there. I had to look up the new CEO’s name, but know a lot of their worker’s names at their location in Livonia, Michigan. It’s those people building their brand and business for them in my mind, not W. Craig Jelinek. He’s doing a great job running the ship and tending to the numerous hives (Oops! Sorry, another bee reference) but it’s his employees that are keeping the Costco I’m a regular at going strong for me.
It’s your employees that are who the public sees most of the time before they see the top boss. I’m always amazed when I see shows like “Undercover Boss” where a top executive in a company, usually the owner / founder / CEO puts on a wig, some glasses, a mustache or whatever and goes undercover in their own company to see what’s really going on. Some of the disguises are creative, but if it was someone I knew well, I’d be able to tell that it was that person by the sound of their voice or being able to see right through their disguise. The people working for the company don’t even know what the CEO looks like! On very rare occasions an employee would catch on and blow their cover, but very rarely.
Everyone working at Costco sure knew who Jim was when he was walking about the store. I don’t even work there and knew him when I saw him. He’s not on TV commercials. Why? Because Costco doesn’t need or have TV commercials to keep customers coming back again and again. Their great prices, great products and great employees keep people coming back.
So back to “Undercover Boss” … After the CEO tries out various jobs in the company and usually fails, they reveal that they are really the CEO. Even when they come in to a special meeting with select employees to reveal their true identity they still have to tell the person who they are. They are no longer in disguise, look like they do everyday, but have to explain to their employee who they are. Most employees think they are the person that was working with them a day or two before and are confused that it’s the CEO. In just about each show each department or location the CEO goes undercover needs improvement. They make it sound like the CEO learned so much for the workers that they didn’t realize was going on in the company. The CEO usually ends each reveal segment by giving the person a lot of money to finish college, a raise, a new car or something.
In most people’s minds it’s great PR for the company. In my mind I see a CEO that doesn’t really connect with their employees enough for people to even know who they are. How can you build a better business and increase profits easily when your workers don’t know who you are? Give them someone to look up to! Yes, some are large companies, but so is Costco. If Jim Sinegal was 76, still the CEO and flying around the world checking in on his stores, a company that isn’t nearly as big can have a CEO that does the same thing. Jim doesn’t need to put on a fake beard and wig to ask his employees how things are going. He simply walks up with his simple name badge on that says “Jim” and asks him how things are going. He walked up to customers when I was there and asked them if they were finding everything OK. Some didn’t know who he was and didn’t realize they were talking to THE MAN!
It’s all about putting your focus on your employees. Showing them you appreciate them. Showing them you want their input without having to put on a disguise and trick them. That’s how you build a better business and increase profits. Hopefully your business, like Dave’s business, will be here long after you are gone. It will only be around if you have people under you that care about it as much as you do. The only way they’ll care about it is if they know they are appreciated.
Be the CEO they are happy to see walk in the door. Be the one they can turn to if they have a question or have others in charge that they can. I know for companies for hundreds or thousands or employees you can’t be there to listen to each one of them, but speaking to all of them at your annual meeting, stopping by your locations when possible or showing them you care in other ways is paramount.
I’m hired as a motivational speaker or corporate entertainer at a lot of corporate events. I’m usually, if not always hired by a company where the CEO gets everything I said in this blog. Their employees love them or at least don’t hate them. They are putting on an event of some sort to motivate and educate them, but also have different things during the event, like my presentation, that shows their employees they appreciate them.
The companies that don’t show their employees in some way, shape or form that they appreciate them won’t be able to build a better business and increase profits. Your employees, not you are usually the first people that customers sees and interacts with. They are the ones that make or break that sale for you. Are they happy? Do they feel appreciated? Do you do things to make them feel like they are part of the team or do they feel like they are just a number to you?
If you’d like my help motivating and entertaining your employees to make them the happiest worker bees ever, let me know. Yes, I know … I talked about bees again.