the key to a successful business

I’m not an MBA graduate and I don’t have a business of my own either.  I don’t have friends by the names of John Gokongwei, Lucio Tan, or Henry Sy.  I’ve never been out of the country to attend expensive seminars and workshops.  By looking back at my experiences in ten different companies, after getting to know different bosses and people in all shapes and sizes (good and bad), I’d like to think I now have the right to answer the question that is oftentimes being asked in so many business conferences, workshops, and management meetings: what is the key to a successful business? 

My answer:  the key to a successful business depends greatly on how you take care of your employees.  

It is tough finding a good employer these days.  Not all employers provide a good basic pay and benefits.  Not all employers provide a good working environment and trainings.  Big companies are now laying off personnels.  Some of them, after decades of being a giant in their industry, have closed down.  Contractualization still exist.  Majority of people are employed by small-to-medium sized businesses.  The economic crisis, which has always been there even before Jesus Christ was born, only made things worse.  It could knock you down by its strong wave of challenges and chaos, it could force you to change direction, and if you don’t know how to paddle your own boat, you’d be in great trouble.  Having an impressive company website, or having store branches all over the country, or having a long list of clients is not always equivalent to being a good company. These days, things are not always what they seem.

Everyone is afraid.  The pressure is high.  Employees decide to just stick to the jobs they hate no matter what for resigning could mean suicide.  They have a family to feed.  They don’t have enough money.  There are bills to pay.  Wise men say, “Don’t resign until you find another job.”

It’s true.  It’s not that easy.  Being unemployed is actually tougher than staying in a job you hate.  I know because I’ve been there.  That is why many employers take advantage of this situation.  

They offer a low basic pay.  To the unlucky ones, they receive salaries that are way below the minimum rate (the minimum rate itself is not even fair, so inhuman).  But since you haven’t had a job the past six months you accept it, thinking positive that it is better to have a job than none at all.  Some employers would demand from their employees to work 6 days a week, 10 hours a day, with overtime but no overtime pay.  They show no appreciation with the good  efforts you’ve done because to them, “I am paying you so it is your job to perform well.”  No thank you.  They would even make you feel like you owe them your employment so they act rudely and condescendingly towards you whenever they feel like it.  If you complain, some braggart boss would tell you, “Well, if you don’t like the policy here, the door is wide open.”  

Because they are aware that it is a tough world out there for the unemployed, some employers do not mind screaming at you, the employed one, and humiliating you in front of other people. That is why they exploit you and don’t want to give you a salary increase. (Which made me think:  what if it is so easy to replace an employer and in just one day you could get a new job already.  I am sure abusive employers would be non-existent because they’d be so afraid that all their employees would boycott them and there is a guarantee that their best employee can leave them anytime.)

But what they didn’t realize is that each time they hurt their people, they are also hurting the business.  Good, exceptional employees who are there to keep the business running smoothly will file for resignation for the bad treatment.  Employees who stay would only do what is required of them instead of going the extra mile for the company.  Employees would have a low self-esteem or worse could turn into an office bully because they are living miserably working for an abusive, ungrateful boss like you.  By not letting them feel that their contributions, big or small, are important to the company, employees would be less motivated to come to work or to perform excellently at work which could result to low productivity, hurting the business more.  

I’ve met a boss who is friendly and very engaging when dealing with his business contacts.  He makes it a point to send them gifts during their birthdays.  In social functions, he is a pleasant person to be around.  A gentleman.  He seems like the nicest person that you’ll ever meet.  He reaches out to shake the hand of a new acquaintance.  He laughs like a hyena.  To his business contacts, he seems like a great guy.  

To his own employees, he is a different person.  He ignores them.  When an employee greeted him a happy birthday, he did not even bother to smile.  He would walk the office corridor treating employees like they are invisible. He doesn’t show appreciation if an employee did a good job for he doesn’t give a damn.  He doesn’t wanna reach out to his own employees.  He wants you to change his flight schedule the last minute as if he owns the airline.  He will let the world knows if you committed a mistake, that you’re a moron if you didn’t do what he asked of you at a snap of a finger.  Somebody told me that some executives, so as not to be abused by employees, do the opposite of kindness and generosity to prevent people from ever crossing the line of authority.  By being cold, indifferent, nasty, and only talking to a subordinate if he wants something to be done, people would think twice to complain or ask for his help.

If this is what he thinks or some top executives believe to be an effective management style, how come your accounting manager, and later, your HR manager, attempted to steal money from you.  How come, despite your iron fist-style of management, a certain rank-and-file wasn’t afraid to withdraw money from the company’s bank account without your knowing?  How come you continue to meet mediocre workers despite the fear that you elicit from them, only hurting further your company, your finances?  How come there is a high rate of absenteeism, tardiness among your employees?  Don’t you think there could be something wrong in you?  That you’re taking it too far.  If you keep your old ways of doing things, acting like you’re a God and treating your employees as slaves, you know what, I wouldn’t doubt if your business remain the way it is, still trying to solve ancient problems.  Because you treat people like things, manipulating them, taking them for granted when they are not useful to you at the moment.  

If you’ve been maltreated before, or you have experienced injustice in the past which made you the kind of boss you are now, move on!  Don’t you think it is a good reason for you to change your ways because you know exactly how it feels to be underestimated, to be taken for granted by your own employer.  Obviously, bad experience only made you revengeful, desiring to put misery in other people’s lives for you to feel better, to prove to yourself that you are superior.  

I am not yet a boss, and I don’t know if I would like to be one.  But after several years of having worked in different companies, the most important lesson I learned that the key to a successful business is very basic:  it depends greatly on how you take care of your employees.  

Written on September 10, 2011- The Best of “Living well is the best revenge” (


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