Rusty’s Corner: Finding the Win/Win in Business

“Clients do not come first. The staff come first. If you take care of your staff, they will take care of the clients.” - Richard Branson

This seems like an obvious approach to running a solid business, however it was not my vision early on. Starting out young in business, I had studied some basic economic principles and thought I had it all figured out. The fundamental idea was that you pay as little as you can for something, and then sell as much of it as you can to make a profit. 

This short-sighted outlook on business led to a culture of underequipped, overworked, and underpaid employees serving a client base that perpetually wanted (and deserved) more. For me as a young entrepreneur, every day held a new equipment, client, or employee issue - and most days had all 3.

As I looked around for someone to blame - I kept coming back to one person to blame. Myself.

Just over a decade ago now, that all changed. The intersection of an opportunity to join a green industry mentorship group and reading the book "The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People" changed the way I will view business forever.

Habit #4 in the book talks about successful people looking to create "Win/Win" agreements, and how most people's (and certainly my own) natural tendency is to look for "Win/Lose" agreements, where one side of the agreement wins and the other loses. You can guess which side I wanted to win.

Unfortunately, I recognized that most of my business agreements had started out as Win/Lose, but had deteriorated to Lose/Lose. It turns out that being cheap with our pricing, our pay, our equipment, and our benefits had actually cost more than it was saving. My mentors helped me see that my staff didn't want to work with us and our clients felt the brunt of that. Between the business, the employee, and the client, we all three lost.

I was in a race to the bottom and unfortunately, that was the only race I was winning.

Born from that frustrating recognition of failure began a new vision for The Master's, now just over a decade old: "To create an organization clients love doing business with and team members love working for."

This vision gave us a framework to make decisions, and it was time to start making that vision a reality.

We started with investing in our team by increasing wages. Naturally, this improved our team dramatically as we were able to choose the right fits for the team and culture we were starting to build. We also started an all new benefit program - paid time off, health Insurance, matching retirement, and even profit-sharing. We offered Financial Peace University classes. We started doing social events for the team, and even inviting their families. We started doing weekly team meetings to celebrate client compliments, and reinforce the positive culture. The more we worked on the culture, the more it improved, and the fruits of those efforts multiplied.

Team members that love where they work create services that clients love. Clients that love their services continue subscribing to the business. Businesses that see the value of their team create an even better place to work.

And the cycle begins again.

As we prepare for our leadership team's strategic planning meeting for a new year, I am reminded to increase our focus on finding the Win/Win in every partnership we create. As long as we have that focus, our team won't allow our clients or the business to lose.