How Great Companies Get Their Mojo From Maslow explains why relationships are the most valuable currency in both business and life, by examining how Chip Conley brought back his chain of successful hotels from the brink of despair with a new attitude towards his customers, employees and investors, based on Maslow’s hierarchy of human needs.
Try not to like Chip Conley, I dare you. When I discovered TED talks in 2012, his was one of the first few that I watched. I even remembered his equation of happiness and created a graphic about it a bit later.
Chip founded a chain of hotels in San Francisco in 1987, called Joie De Vivre (French for “the joy of life”), which has become the biggest chain of boutique hotels in the United States. Boutique hotels are small hotels, usually with 10 to 100 rooms, set in unique buildings (no hotel looks the same). In 2001 his company suffered from the post dot-com burst, because SF was hit extra hard.
On a particularly depressing day, he strolled into a bookstore, and soon found himself halfway through a book by Abraham Maslow, learning about his hierarchy of needs, and decided to relight his fire by going beyond serving people’s physical and financial needs.
As a result, he’s now talking about how focusing on relationships saved both his life and his business all over the world, which is something you can learn from.
Here are 3 lessons about the benefits of focusing on people over profits:
Let your employees experience the beauty of your products first hand.
Try to be your customers’ best friend, even if it’s not part of what you’re selling.
Stay on the same page with your investors, so you can still laugh when profits are low.
Want to make Mr. Maslow proud? Here we go!
Lesson 1: Give your employees a chance to experience your products first hand.
I don’t want to tell you again that you should help your employees connect to your end customers, so they can see what impact they’re making, because I’ve made this point a couple of times recently (last here).
Instead, I want to tell you about a specific way to achieve that, while simultaneously making your employees happier. And since happier employees are better employees, that should work out well.
Let your employees use your own products and services, free of charge, so they can experience the value you create first hand.
For example, Chip lets all of his employees stay at one of Joie De Vivre’s locations for free, up to four times a year. This is more than just a vacation perk. It gives every employee a chance to live the experience they are usually creating for the hotel chain’s guests. This convinces employees to do their best, because they see the company’s mission a lot clearer, including what’s already working well and what needs improvement.
Lesson 2: Be your customers’ best friend, even if you don’t have to.
The second party that will benefit from your attention is your customers. Great customer service has long passed the status of being optional and is a necessity to make you stand out. But there’s always a way to go the extra mile, one of which is this:
Speak to your customers’ deepest desires and try to be their best friend, even if it’s way beyond your duties.
For example at Café Gratitude in San Francisco, the waiter asks guests thought-provoking questions, like “Which important person in your life would you like to acknowledge today?” or “What are you grateful for today?”
If you’re willing to go deeper, have more profound conversations and share personal stories instead of just saying “Hi, thank you, goodbye.” you’ll acknowledge that every single customer is a unique human being, with his or her very own wants and needs.
We all remember this kind of attention from someone who really cares, really listens, and it’s exactly that what makes us go back over and over again.
Lesson 3: Stay on the same page with your investors, so you can still laugh when profits are low.
Getting investors is like dating. You can march through a parade of one-night stands, or decide to marry just one (or maybe a few in this case).
Sure, every investor wants to make a profit, but for most their dedication to you and your business won’t end there. Many of them invest in you because they believe in you, your ideas, your business and the good cause all of these stand for.
The only way to know who wants what is to ask them. For example, Chip sends out an annual survey to his investors to figure out their intentions and priorities and learn what they think. Being on good terms with all of them was the only reason he was able to do this in 2001, when reports looked bleak:
Along with the annual financial report, he sent each investor a t-shirt, which read “I bought a hotel in San Francisco, and all I got was this lousy T-Shirt!” – a fun twist to let them know he hadn’t lost his sense of humor, and that things would turn around.
My personal take-aways
Chip takes a very human approach to business, without forgetting the money part. His way of integrating our desire for more than food, shelter and money into how he runs the show is very refreshing. Watch his TED talk and then decide for yourself whether you’ll give this book a chance – I think I know the answer already 😉