Herman Trend: Employees more valuable than customers

Filed under: Opinion |

Recently, we heard about an employer who is a forerunner of what we believe is to come. A 120-person advanced manufacturing organization in Browns Summit, North Carolina literally fired its biggest client – refusing additional work. Sales with this household name client had grown rapidly to the point where they had represented 60 percent of the company’s annual revenue. “Nuts, you say?” Not at all – in fact, it may turn out to be a brilliant move.

The president of ABCO, Brad Kemmerer, said that the client’s demands were “unreasonable.” “We can not be a ‘great place to work’ without employees and this client was bullying my employees.” “Their demands for turnaround were impossible to meet even with our people working seven days a week,” he added. “No client is worth losing my valued employees.”

The employees were pleased and somewhat surprised; the reactions from the client were anger and outrage. They threatened never to do business with the burgeoning engineering firm again. They ranted and raved, expecting the small firm to cave under the pressure from this well-known, powerful company. It didn’t. ABCO held fast, knowing that what they were doing was “the right thing to do” for their employees and the long-term success of the company.

Yes, it is having an impact on sales. They are reducing expenses and looking for ways to replace that work. It has not been easy, but they appear to be weathering the financial storm. And that big, angry client has already given the firm two new projects – on more equitable, win/win terms!

Some might say that this company is misguided, that companies must be customer- focused at all costs. To the contrary, we believe that ABCO is a shining example of what is to come. In the future, we will see more and more wise employers basing their decisions on what is right for their employees.

The reason is simple: Just as in the late nineties when employees were “choosing” their employers, we will see a return to those days. Employers who do not put their employees first do so at their own peril.

From “Herman Trend Alert,” by Roger Herman and Joyce Gioia, Strategic Business Futurists, copyright 2004. (800) 227-3566 or www.hermangroup.com. The Herman Trend Alert is published each week in English, Spanish, and Portuguese.