When I started my small business, I was committed to treating my employees well. As an employee, I’d worked for bosses who took their employees for granted, and I knew how de-motivating that could be. I knew that I didn’t want to be that kind of boss. Even more importantly, in a small business, your employees are your business. Companies—big and small—have learned that when they focus time, attention, and resources on their employees, their business thrives.

“When you are growing a business, everybody spends a lot time talking about financial performance but financial performance is just the byproduct of having great people,” said Clint Carnell, CEO of the Hydrafacial company, a skin health company based in Long Beach California that has attracted the following of numerous celebrities, including Taraji P. Henson and Cardi B.

Carnell credits much of the growth of his company to focusing on the company’s employees and building a strong and vibrant corporate culture. That commitment to making a huge investment in employees has paid off handsomely. Since Carnell took the helm of the company in 2016, the growth has been rapid and impressive. “We knew we wanted to build the Hydrafacial brand into a household name, and culture has been the thing that we’ve work hardest to build. When we bought the company there were 145 employees; we’re now approaching 450 less than three years later.”

­Hydrafacial teamed up with the business magazine “Fast Company” to launch “Glimpse”—a conference focusing on both employee and customer experience and satisfaction. Held in June in Las Vegas, Glimpse brought together some of the leaders in the field of both employee and customer experience.

Zappos is probably best known for their above-and-beyond customer service, but much of that customer-centric treatment actually comes from how they treat their employees.

Zappos is a customer service company that just happens to sell shoes and clothes,” explained Audrea Hopper, who has the creative title of “Head of Fun-gineering and Brand Experiences” for Zappos. “We sell an ‘experience’ based around exceptional service.” Hopper described Zappos’ core value to “Create Fun and a Little Weirdness” and how that contributes to building a highly dedicated team. According to Hopper, the “Fun-gineering” Team supports the personality of the brand by creating experiences for employees and consumers alike with a one-of-a-kind “only Zappos would do that” attitude. In short, their mission is to bring joy and smiles to the company’s more than 1500 employees and the customers they support.

Even if your “employees” are independent workers in a gig economy business, treating them well can pay off big. Glamsquad, a New York-based on-demand beauty service business, has grown to nearly 2,000 beauty professionals in six states. Their beauty stylists and makeup artists come to patrons’ homes or offices to provide personalized beauty services.  Having used Glamsquad a number of times myself on business trips to New York, when I’ve had speaking engagements or special outings, I can attest to the fact that every hair stylist or makeup artist I’ve used has been terrific, making me a huge fan of the company. I’m not alone. Many of Glamsquad’s customers use them regularly—often once a week.

“We have little or no attrition with our beauty pros,” said Glamsquad CEO Amy Shecter. “We select only one out of six applicants…We have a big party (for them) when we launch (in a city), monthly groups, master classes. We do focus groups with our beauty pros to see how we can improve. They have a sense of belonging.” Compare that attrition rate and customer satisfaction to gig worker-based businesses that treat workers as expendable.

“Customers come second, employees first.” That’s what Richard Branson, the billionaire founder of many businesses, has counseled. His huge success in building the “Virgin” brand of businesses attests to the wisdom of that approach. That’s why some of the companies that I, as a customer, try to be the most loyal to regularly earn Fortune’s 100 Best Places to Work award such as American Express, Intuit, Dropbox, Delta Airlines.

Happy, motivated employees create loyal customers. And an unhappy employee can ruin the brand experience for many customers. If you want to build your small business, be committed to your employees, and they’ll help build your bottom line.


Copyright Rhonda Abrams, 2019

This article originally ran in USA Today on July 17, 2019