In business, whether its produce or shoes, you grow your company and people with integrity and a vision for the future. I was reading about Bette Graham, the founder of Liquid Paper in Forbes.com, and thought about how ahead of the curve we both were and what people today could learn from our forward-thinking business experiences of yesterday.
She and I had the same beliefs as we built our businesses. Reward for hard work, be inclusive, foster diversity. It worked in an era when these processes were not core values or even very popular in corporate culture.
I read this with great respect for Bette: “It has grown by increasing productivity and by stretching capabilities to meet the demand,” she said. She applied that high standard to building an inclusive organization and taking care of and supporting employees, too. In the mid-70s, well before Zappos adopted a holocracy model, Bette was innovating with organizational structure. “Our organizational chart — a circle — reflects our belief that each employee can develop his full usefulness in an atmosphere that encourages open communication and support of individual talent,” Bette said. For a time, LPC also had not one CEO but a council of three executives who comprised the Office of the President. Anyone in the organization — no matter their role — could be appointed and included in committees that made decisions for the whole organization. This structure was a part of LPC’s culture of high ethical standards, which Bette wrote in 1968. She called it the Statement of Policy.”
“The true value in business is never the dollar, but in the benefit that it brings to humankind. Money does not solve problems. It is a tool,” she said. I wonder if we will have the courage to fully implement the type of ethical business practices she made real some 40 years ago.
Bette created a corporate culture that fully embraced diversity, inclusion and belonging, and she showed us that it could be extremely profitable to do so.
Here are some of the business processes I encourage in my workshops today.
Practice Inclusivity, Promote Diversity: I hired the best person for the job and provided training to make good people better. I even got an award in Washington DC for having the most diverse business in the U.S. From: “Business Women’s Network” BWN. It was called “Entrepreneurial Star Award” for Outstanding Accomplishments & Blazing the Trail on Behalf of Women & Minority Entrepreneurs. I had employees from ten different countries, an African American store manager and LGBTQ produce manager.
Share The Wealth: I had a profit sharing plan so that all employees knew they were part owner and the bottom line affected them.
Leave The Door Open To New Ideas: I had a comment box in the back of the store, that employees could put suggestions in and they could leave their name or not. If the suggestion helped increase our revenues and worked, They would get a $100 gift certificate. If their suggestion helped fellow employees improve their workflow, or made their job easier, they would get a $50 gift certificate.
Loyalty Matters: Start with loyalty to the community that grew your business and involve all your stakeholders – employees, customers and strangers. Create some kind of charity to be a part of and involve your customers & clients. For your customer, create a client reward or thank you program for shopping with you or referring a friend.
A Successful Business Always Includes Employee Satisfaction: Always treat your employees like you would treat your most valued customer. Create a happy, fun, safe environment for employees to express themselves. Acknowledge employees when they have done a good job & went above & beyond their job. Give employees permission to do the right thing. In our company, we made sure all cashiers had an extra $5.00 in their register in case someone was short a few cents or dollars. The cashiers would give customers what they needed and said to bring the money back the next time they came in. This endeared us to the customers, and they always brought the money back.
As with Bette Graham and Liquid Paper, the key to success is lead with love and turn challenges into courageous choices. She and I both created legacies and business processes that can help anyone and everyone in business to grow where they are planted.
About Tessa Greenspan: Tessa Greenspan is one of the most influential women in business. As the former owner of Sappington Farmers Market in St. Louis, Missouri for 28 years. Greenspan continues to be involved in many business enterprises, even after she sold her successful supermarket to a group of investors. Greenspan is best known for her leadership in business and in life. She has been a personal mentor to many business owners, female entrepreneurs and is a member of Women’s President Organization (WPO) and E-Women. A life long learner and philanthropist, Tessa Greenspan has sponsored countless charitable causes.
Get The Book: Tessa Greenspan’s international bestseller, “From Outhouse to Penthouse – Life Lessons on Love, Laughter and Leadership,” is available on Amazon here. To schedule a speech or book discussion (virtual on Zoom or in person), contact: firstname.lastname@example.org
Motivational Speaker: As an influencer and role model, Tessa Greenspan’s lectures to companies, private groups, business organizations and conferences continues to inspire lives with her personal story, struggle to overcome obstacles and life lessons. “Failure is not an option,” is Greenspan’s motto.