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Sunday, 15 July 2012

Trust Your People – They’re Not All Coin Operated!

Some time ago I was lecturing at a Business School to a class of owner managers of SMEs when it became obvious that one of  the students was distracted.

At the break I asked him what was the problem and he told me a sad, on the face of it, story.

He was the son and the succession in a successful contracting business started and run by his father.  He had always made it quite clear to his fellow students and me that he had a very low opinion of his workforce and considered that “they only come to work to earn their money which is too much anyway and they don’t give a toss about the company”

A few days previously his father had marched into his office, thrown down a bunch of keys and said, in essence:

“I’ve had enough, you can take over from now and I’m off to Spain with your secretary”

”But Dad” he said, “We’re supposed to be going to the bank tomorrow to renew the facility and you have always done that negotiation.  I really need you to be there”

Rather reluctantly Dad agreed and they went off together the next day to see the bank manager (remember when we had bank managers?  I told you it was some time ago)

The manager emerged from the depths, greeted them, told them he was about to retire and introduced them to his successor, a beady eyed, unsmiling youth.

“Come on” he said to Dad: “We’ll leave the young folk together to get acquainted and we’ll go and have a long l lunch”

The new manager listened to the son of the business and in the end said:

“I don’t think that we will be interested in renewing the facility.  You had better see if you can refinance in some way”

We decided that the class should discuss the problem of what he should do and the consensus was that he should speak to his workforce, much as he disliked them, and tell them the position, which surprisingly he agreed to do.

The next week he came back and reported.  He had assembled the workforce and told them that the business was running out of cash and the situation was grave.  They asked him to go out of the room so that they could discuss the position and after a while he was asked back in.

“This is what we are prepared to do” they told him: ”We suggest that you don’t pay us for the next two week and then pay us  three weeks in four.  You can put it right when the business is back on its feet”. 

The came the killer statement:

“You have always been good employers and we want to see this business succeed.  Will that help?”

Will it help?  He went off to tell the story to the new bank manager who said:

“If you have a workforce that will do that for you, I am prepared to extend the facility without any problem” (I did say that it was some time ago)

And the moral of this story?  Most people are not coin operated and they do have thoughts, feelings and emotions.

For the cynics amongst us, yes, someone, sometime, will take advantage, but it is likely to be such a small proportion is isn’t worth the consideration.

If you trust your people and, more to the point, demonstrate that trust visibly, then the likelihood is that it will be repaid over and over again.

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