People First: Product Excellence By Design Principle One

People come before money. Listen to Simon Sinek speaking at Baruch College

Read the Transcript:

Simon Sinek says:

“I’m an idealist. I sort of imagine a world that’s different from the world we live in now. I imagine a world in which the vast majority of people wake up every single morning inspired to go to work, feel safe when they’re there, and return home at the end of the day fulfilled by the work that they do.

And I believe this thing called fulfillment, the ability to say that “I love my work, that I love what I do,” I believe it is a basic human right and not a privilege. We treat it as a privilege.

You know, you go out with your friends, and somebody says, “I love my job,” and the rest of us go, “OMG, you’re so lucky!” like its a lottery that they’ve won, or something.

I just believe that fundamentally that we as the workforce, we have the right to demand that the places where we work provide us that. The irony is that its actually good for them – that’s the big joke. We’re more engaged, we offer more discretionary effort, we offer our big ideas simply because they said, “Come here and enjoy yourself, and feel safe and have a good time and let us help you grow.”

Many of the business practices considered normal today are left over from the 1980’s and 90’s. Remember the 80’s and 90’s were boom years – most companies grew. It was a time of relative peace and it was a kinder, gentler cold war. We weren’t practicing hiding under our desks in school. And a lot of the business philosophies that were being espoused and proposed were for those times. So the concept of shareholder supremacy, for example, was a theory proposed (from Harvard)…in the late 1970’s, just a theory, the concept of using mass layoffs to balance the books was a practice that did not exist in the United States prior to the 1980’s. DID NOT EXIST!

The concepts of “rank and yank” – where you stack your employees based on their performance and contribution to the stock price, you promote the top 10% and fire the bottom 10% and you create an environment in which people compete against each other inside the company. By the way, that’s what dictators do – you keep the people divided and then you stay in power because dictators fear the people – its the same thing.

These are all fantastically good theories for boom years and for the short term. We also dismantled Glass-Steagall in this time period. It’s not a democrat or a republican thing because you have a democrat and a republican president in this period.

Glass-Steagall was the act that was passed after the Great Depression to prevent another Great Depression from happening. Amongst other things, one of the things that it did was prevent retail banks and investment banks from existing within the same institution, which was allowed prior to the Great Depression, right.

Do you know how many stock market crashes we had prior to the dismantling of Glass-Steagall?
We had zero stock market crashes for fifty (50) years.
Then they dismantled Glass-Steagall in the 1980’s and 1990’s and we had the 1987, crash and 2008 – we’ve had three (3). But it was really leaders like Jack Welch who promoted these theories of the day for a very different time and they’ve become so normal, today, that we don’t actually realize how backwards they are.

We talk about layoffs and we announce them on the news as if its nothing. In fact, worse, when a company announces layoffs, the stock price goes up. And if you’re incentivized based on stock value, heh hah!

A few years ago, Citibank announced record high layoffs, the exact same year that they announced record high average bonuses. Figure that one out, right. And the point is, that these systems, though they may be normal, are wrong and broken, and go completely contrary to the basic human right that we all are entitled.

And by the way, GE needed a $300 billion dollar bail out in 2008 because the theories that they espouse are not good for the long term – they are good for the short term.

So for me to meet a company like NextJump, a company that when they talk about “growth”, they mean their people, not their bottom line, and a company that understands that although money is important – it is the fuel for the organization. Of course, money is important, because the more money you have, the more fuel you have to make the organization run – its not a hippie commune. But the point is that people come before – not money.

I sit in the audiences of lot’s of corporate events. I’ve never met a CEO on the planet that doesn’t believe people are important. The problem is the decisions they make would be contrary to the things they say.

They stand there with their list of priorities, and it says number one priority – Growth.
Number two priority – shareholder value.
Number three priority – customer.
Number four priority – employee.
See, our people are important – number four.
Even when they say, customer first, that means your employees at least number two, right? And the irony is when you take care of your employees, your employees take care of your customers, and the customers take care of your shareholders.

And the big joke is that the numbers prove it.
The numbers prove it.
You look at people focused companies, they outperform numbers focused companies over the long term dramatically! GE versus Costco. Costco year after year after year criticized by Wall Street for having a flat stock price. But if you compare the price of Costco stock to GE over the course of the past 30 years, you’ll see that GE made 600% of its money the same year that if you invested the year that Costco went public with 600% S&P 500 GE 600%, COSTCO 1200%. Double! 2X! (It’s good for the shareholder!)

I can no longer be accused of being a crazy idealist if what I imagine exists in reality. That’s why companies like this are very, very important for us to study.

Do they have everything right? Of course not.

Are they trending in the right direction? Absolutely.

Are they operating completely counter to what we consider to be normal business practices of the day? You bet they are.

And here’s the best part – their numbers prove it.

So for all the cynics out there who believe that numbers matter, numbers come first, and performance come before people – guess what?
They outperform their competitors year after year after year. They surprise even themselves.

Study that book and study this company. Because mark my words – if we have anything to do with it, in 10 or 20 years we will completely undo all the nonsense that bastards like Jack Welch promoted in the eighties and nineties.

Is that enough?

Next Jump is a company like none other you have ever seen. It will blow you away. It is how a tech company SHOULD operate. It’s good for the industry, the economy, the country, and the human race.

Read more from Simon Sinek



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