You Must Inspire Those Whom You Hire

**This blog / article was written by Las Vegas Motivational Speaker, U.S. SBA Entrepreneur of the Year, Author and Founder of DJ Connection Tulsa Wedding DJs, Clay Clark.

Once a human decides to come and work for you (this is entirely different if you hire canine) it is your civic duty to inspire everyone whom you hire. Show me a great company and I will show you a leader who inspires his people. Show me an iconic brand everyone in America knows and I will show you a leadership team committed to keeping their people engaged on a daily basis. You simply cannot afford to overlook the importance of inspiring your people, because without inspiration your great new hires whose heads were once filled with thoughts of motivation will soon turn into disgruntled employees who are overwhelmed with thoughts of frustration. However, because I know that you are a savvy business person and not the type of gullible person who considers a trip to the Casino to be an investment in your financial future I am going let you hear a few thoughts about the importance of inspiration and motivation from some of America’s business leaders.

“It’s the job of the leader to cast the vision and to make sure that the employees are excited to execute the game plan.” – Howard Schultz – The man who took Starbucks from “small time” to “big time.”

“Without a well articulated plan and the leader’s ability to inspire his troops, his men will give up the fight.” – Famous War Heroe

“A business without a leader capable of motivating his people will lose.” – David Novak – Iconic CEO of the Yums Brands Portfolio of Restaurants including Pizza Hut, Taco Bell, A&W Root Beer, etc…

“Without a vision, the people will perish.” – Proverbs – God – That eternal life force responsible for a little thing called, “everything.”

Now that you know you need to inspire your people, you are probably thinking, “ok, that’s great, but how do I do it?” This question is valid and it’s why I’m going to give you “SIX MOVES” that you can use to inspire your people on a daily, weekly, annual and decade by decade basis. However, in the spirit of transparency I must admit that none of these ideas are mine. I am just a relentless reader and an extremely focused implementer who has experienced success only because I am 100% committed to the concept of “be a pirate not a pioneer.” My basic theory is based around studying successful people and then doing what they did and I should expect to experience similar results. And so armed with the information that none of these “SIX MOVES” are mine, I need you embrace them and to commit to acting upon them once you have determined which move is best for you. These “SIX MOVES” come from Tom’s Shoes, Starbuck’s Coffee, Apple, QuikTrip, Jack Welch’s General Electric (not the GE company or management systems of today) and Southwest Airlines.

MOVE #1 – Merge your company’s philanthropic goals with your business and profitability goals.

By now I think that nearly every American on the planet is familiar with Tom’s Shoes. I’m sure you are familiar with concept of “Buy a pair of Tom’s Shoes and we will proudly donate a pair of shoes to a child in need from around the world.” If you are not, take a moment and Google “Tom’s Shoes.” Check out their website and see genius inspiration and motivation at work within a big company. Tom’s shoes went from being a small startup to a massive household name company at an incredibly fast pace. How did they find all of the good people needed to keep up with the growth? Tom’s shoes merged it’s philanthropic goals with their business and profitability goals. Employees of Tom’s feel like they are doing more than just selling shoes, they feel like they are making a difference, and they are. Tom’s Shoes has great management systems and unbelievable PR savvy, yet it all comes back to their ability to convince their employees that their products are going to make a difference in the world in which they live. Tom’s Shoes have even created a viral and cult-like following amongst their customers who have also bought into this vision of being a change agent to make the world a better place simply by buying a pair of shoes.

To make this program work for you, here is what you need to do:

  • Write out your specific philanthropic goals. Write out the specific people and organizations you would like to help.
  • Determine what percentage of your companies profits you are willing and set aside to support these causes. Remember Tom’s Shoes gives a pair of shoes away for every pair of shoes that their customers purchase. However, this  would not be possible if Tom’s didn’t decide to do this from the very beginning. Their entire pro forma and business model was built around the concept of doing this. Your company can do the same thing if you are committed to a cause and passionate enough to see it through.
  • Commit to sharing your philanthropic program with every customer and employee.
  • Physically put your logo and your cause on every print piece, business card, sign, website, email and piece of marketing material that you every put out.
  • Put in your company’s monthly calendar to take a few moments out to celebrate any of the positive impacts your team has made on the world as a result of your company’s philanthropic program.

MOVE #2 – Set a goal that is so ambitious that it stretches your people on a daily basis.

When Howard Schultz came to Starbucks he had just finished taking time off from his corporate career to figure out what he wanted to do with the rest of his life. While traveling around the world he stumbled across these people called “baristas” who ran these small little coffee shops that were all over Italy. These shops dominated the cities and were a central part of these local Italian communities. People would gather at them to share stories, and to build relationships while enjoying a cup of coffee. Once he witnessed these “baristas” at work at these small Italian coffee shops he was hooked. He became obsessed with the notion that every city in America would benefit greatly by having these several of these local coffee shops. He knew that the crappy, burnt and luke warm that Americans were choking down each morning to wake themselves up was not good enough. He knew that if he could truly recreate the ambiance and the aura of these small little coffee shops throughout America it would work. He wasn’t really concerned with how much it would cost, or all of the reasons why it wouldn’t work. He wasn’t deterred that Americans were used to paying less than a dollar for the crappy coffee. He wasn’t concerned that nothing like what he was talking about existed within the United States. He wasn’t worried that he would have to introduce a concept, a store, a way of life and a product into the market place. He was filled with a delusional optimism that was being brought about as a result of his passion for the product and service.

After deciding to go to work for a small Seattle coffee shop called Starbucks he simply wouldn’t stop talking about his desire create a “third place.” He was obsessed with the concept of creating a place that wasn’t home and it wasn’t work but it was uniquely Starbucks. He went from hoping that it would happen to committing to make it happen. His faith in his crazy plan to open multiple Starbucks stores in every American city drove the company to billion dollar business status and beyond. People bought into his vision because it was big, it was challenging, it was for the good of America and he was sold out to it. My friend if you have goals that are small and weak, no “A Players” are going to want to come and work for you. Nobody aspires to go to work someday for a stagnant small or medium sized business. Set a big vision that makes sense and that you are passionate about and just watch the people get on board to help you.

To make this program work for you, here is what you need to do:

  • Define the big goals for your company.
  • Make that your companies big goals are known by everyone all of the time. Put the big goal on your companies signage, on your business cards, on the walls and every place where you employees congregate.
  • Place specific and monthly times to share with your staff your company’s big vision and where you are headed as a collective group.

MOVE #3 – Commit to creating incredible products that simply wow every one of your customers.

The late Steve Jobs was famous for being a jerk. People said he was mean. People said he was harsh. Applications to work for Apple always poured in from people who were eager to come and work for the man behind the coolest, best and most incredible products on the planet. People who own Apple products are so impressed with the packaging, presentation, service and the products that Apple produced that many Americans now admit to keeping the boxes in which their computer came in? When was the last time you kept the box to your blender, or TV because it was so cool? Never, unless you are a sick freak.

My friend, the iPhone changed the way people used their phone. Grizzly old dudes went from hating using their phone to loving using their phones. Fifty five year old moms began posting Facebook status updates who had never before been active with their social media. Adults began using the phone because it was fun. This would have not been possible without Steve Jobs and his absolute maniacal obsession with making packaging, presentations, services and products that people are passionate about. If the products Apple produced were anything less than amazing no one would have wanted to work for a man with his erratic temper, foul mouth and habit of stretching the truth the point that even his closest colleagues began to label his way of thinking as the “reality distortion field.” If you want people to flock to your business demand excellence. You don’t have to curse people out or display angry behavior in the workplace, you just have to been committed to wowing each and every customer and you will begin to attract some of the best and brightest minds in the world. Great people love working for a company that makes great products. Great people struggle with feelings of guilt and disonnence when they work for a company that produces less than great work.

To make this program work for you, here is what you need to do:

  • 1. Draw a line in the sand and let your employees know that hence forth no packaging, presentations, services and products will get out to your customers that is not incredible.
  • 2. Select someone on your staff to be the “Quality Guard” if you are not personally able to oversee and inspect the quality of all the packaging, presentation, services and products your company produces.
  • 3. Put weekly meeting times in your company’s calendar with the soul purpose of asking, “Are our packaging, presentations, services and products awesome yet? If not what action steps do we need to take this week to get them to where they need to be?”
  • 4. Set up a quality control system that requires a signature from two “competent” people who have verified that the quality of everything is outstanding before going out to your customers.
  • 5. Set up a customer service survey program that aggressively solicits getting feedback from your customers. Offer to give them something in exchange for filling out the survey, or a chance to win something. Make sure your survey asks the tough questions like, on a scale of 1 to 10 (with 10 being the highest) how happy were you with the overall packaging of our products / services? On a scale of 1 to 10 (with 10 being the highest) how happy were you with the overall quality of our products / services? You must make sure that these questions involve getting a numerical response so that you can show patterns, quality drops and quality improvements over time.
  • 6. Set up a system so that the customer feedback gets in front of the people designing your packaging, presentations, services and products. This information must be presented factually and not sugar-coated with false kindness. They must know what customers sincerely think if they are going to be able to improve the overall value of your brand and the products and services your company provides.

MOVE #4 – Implement a merit-based program that pays your best people better than your worst people.

When Chester Cadieux started QuikTrip he did many things well while struggling to manage the daily operations as he expanded one convenience store at a time. However, as he expanded he never lost his focus on providing the very best customer experience possible to each and every customer who came to QuikTrip. When people pumped gas, bought products or used the restroom he wanted them to experience cleanliness, organization and friendliness. He wanted people to love their experience and over time he grew increasingly motivated to insure that the level of customer service displayed in each store met his expectations. He simply could not handle the thought of the quality getting worse as the company expanded, as is the case with most businesses. To Insure the quality standards of his employees he began utilizing “mystery shoppers.” These secret shoppers came into the stores and bought things. They used the restrooms and purchased gas. The QuikTrip employees never knew he they were, but they did get paid based on how well they performed during these random inspections. Today the company is still benefiting from the use of mystery shoppers and their merit-based program.

Basically if employee A is acting like a jack-ass and employee B is doing a great job their paychecks will be very different at the end of the month, year and decade. If an employee does a bad job they are quickly taught what they can do better and are given a chance to improve. If they keep working with all the diligence of Charlie Sheen they are fired. If they get with the program and begin offering great service they get paid more. I know it’s a crazy concept but great work is actually valued more than bad work, and at QuikTrip an employee’s performance actually determines the size of their pay check. View this system as Robin Hood in reverse. Essentially you are taking fro the poor to give to the rich. You are taking from the worst employees to give to the best employees.

Great employees loves this system because it actually pays them what they are really worth. Great employees in systems like this consistently report loving the idea that the company simply will not tolerate poor performance. Managers around the country who work for companies where a merit-based pay system is in place report that much of the motivational aspects of management seem to simply take care of themselves when a merit-based pay system is in place. Put in a merit-based pay system and watch as the poor performers get irritated and leave while the top performers become more and more eager to come to work every day in an environment that pays them what they are worth.

To make this system work for you, here is what you need to do:

  • 1. Develop a “secret shopper” program.
  • 2. Develop a “merit-based pay” program that systematically pays your top people more than your bottom people based upon the “secret shopper” reviews.
  • 3. Develop a system to publicly post everyone’s “secret shopper” reviews so that a competitive spirit develops and people begin to bench-mark themselves against the top people in your company.

MOVE #5 – Create an environment where “A Players” are celebrated, “B Players” are appreciated and “C Players” are shown the door.

When Jack Welch was the CEO of GE he was able to produce record growth year after year by using a few simple principles relentlessly. The system of management he developed was called “Differentiation.” This system was one of the key principles that energized GE and fueled the companies overall innovation and growth during his years as CEO of GE. At the core of the “Differentiation System” is a belief that everyone in every company should know where they stand in terms of their performance at all times. Long before Jack was appointed to the position of CEO for GE he became convinced that “false kindness” and insincere feedback is the biggest dirty secret in business. As the climbed the corporate ladder during his early years at GE he noticed that regardless of where he was at in the company “A, B and C Players” acted in a consistent and predictable way.

He observed that “A Players” made up 20% of the work force. These people sincerely wanted to know how they were doing and how they could get better. He noticed that “A Players” were energized by positive change and couldn’t seem to get enough of it. He also noticed that “B Players” made up 70% of the work force. These people desperately wanted to feel “appreciated,” “valued” and “respected.” He noticed that “B Players” did not like change, but reluctantly fell in line once they were convinced that management was truly in favor of it. Finally he observed that “C Players” made up the bottom 10% of the company. He noticed these bottom-feeders could not handle candid feedback in the workplace and always became offended or emotionally hurt whenever they were told “how they were doing” and “what they could do better.” He noticed that “C Players” were consistently pessimistic, easily offended, chronically late, and always ready with a fresh batch of excuses as to why they could not get the job done. Thus, he made devised a system that celebrated the “A Players” with kind words, public recognitions, bonuses, promotions, plaques, awards and trophies. His system rewarded the “B Players” for their dependability and loyalty to the company. His incredible system also forced the underperforming “C Players” out the door and away from the GE family of businesses. This system worked for GE and it will work for your business too if you embrace the core principles.

To make this system work for you, here is what you need to do:

  • 1. Develop a system that ranks every employee on an A-C level in the following five categories:

A. CORE JOB TASK – Their ability to do their core job description and work-related tasks well.

B. EDGE – Their ability to get things done and make decisions regardless of whether it makes people upset or not.

C. ENERGY – Their ability to bring energy to the workplace everyday whether they “feel good” or not.

D. ENERGIZE – Their ability to ENERGIZE others in the workplace. The ability to bring personal ENERGY to the workplace is very different from having the ability to ENERGIZE those around you.

E. EXECUTE – Their ability to EXECUTE and to actually get things done regardless of the circumstances around them.


  • 2. Set aside time in your calendar for your team to let every employee know where they stand at every quarter of the fiscal year.
  • 3. Develop a systematic way in which you will publicly celebrate your “A Players” and appreciate your “B Players.”
  • 4. Let your “C Players” know where they stand without any sugar-coating. Give them two weeks to improve and if they refuse, let them go. You must commit to firing the bottom 10% of your employees quarterly.

Move #6 – Create a fun workplace environment where your employees share in the overall profitability of the company as a whole. When Herb Kelleher started Southwest Airlines he didn’t have a lot of cash. He had enough cash to buy his first planes, but his investment team immediately got entangled in a big lawsuit with one of their competitors who planned to sue them out of existence before they had even flown their first flight. However, what Herb Kelleher did have was a highly-motivated group of individuals who were 100% committed to seeing the company succeed. His first employees were in the fight with Herb. Herb wasn’t fighting the fight alone. But why?

Today Southwest Airlines continues to be profitable, however now they are one of the few Airlines in the world that is consistently profitable, but why? Is it their ability to hedge the cost of fuel by buying fuel in mass quantities? Are they profitable because they use “winglets” on their planes which make planes 2-3% more fuel efficient? Are they profitable because they don’t charge for checking bags? Why are those Southwest people so darn profitable when American Airlines can’t seem to ever turn a profit?

Southwest consistently turns a profit because they have an employee ownership program that gives their employees a sense of ownership that is very real. When the company does well, they do well. When the company struggles their share of the company struggles. In fact this system has been proven to work so well that many of America’s top companies use it as a motivational tool and as a way to share the wealth with the men and women who have worked hard day in and day out to make the company profitable.

Think of the potential power just waiting to be unleashed at many companies. What if everyone was super-concerned about paper usage, the electrical bill and treating customers the right way? What if every person at your company was as obsessed as you are about watching the costs like a hawk? Would things change. Absolutely they would. The program that Southwest Airlines, QuikTrip, and other top companies have in place is called an ESOP program, which stands for an Employee Stock Ownership Plan.

To make this program work for you, here is what you need to do:

  • 1. Look up ESOP attorneys in Google and find a few in your community.
  • 2. Meet with them and share with them your vision of sharing the profits (NOT THE GROSS REVENUE) with your employees, ask them how much it would cost to set up a plan like this and then how they would recommend setting it up.
  • 3. Read the Harvard Case Study / Book entitled, “The Service Profit Chain.” This book is written by James L. Heskett, W. Earl Sasser and Leonard A. Schlesinger. This book explains the ins and outs of this system and how companies like Outback, Southwest and UPS are thriving because of the use of them.

Remember to ask yourself, “did these companies get big because of these systems or did they wait until they got big to set up these systems?” The answer? They set up these systems early on, which is why they got big.

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