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"I was brought up in the business school where the most important thing was customer satisfaction, and it took me about 10 years to realise it wasn't the most important thing of all. I now know that staff satisfaction is because if you don't have staff satisfaction there's no way in the world you'll have satisfied customers."
This is why, at King Toyota, Bryan Jackson's slogan was: "Where customers become friends and where staff become family".
"I think we often pay lip service to staff satisfaction. We talk about them as our most valued asset, but I'm not sure we act it with the dedication we should."
There are other important advantages with satisfied staff including:
According to Bryan leadership is taking ordinary people and getting extraordinary results. He says: "Everyone has good in them, it's just that for some people there has been no one to get it out. The role of the leader is to get the best out of people. We all respond to the way we are treated and you get back what you give every time. If you look for the good in people they will show it to you. For some, it may be the first time anyone has treated them well."
This doesn't mean Bryan pampered his staff. He stresses the importance of high standards that are quite specific. He says: "I take quite an aggressive attitude to behaviour." For example in King Toyota they had a rule book that prescribed behaviours such as:
Bryan is no Pollyanna, he has built one of New Zealand's largest and most successful motor vehicle dealerships, he has been the Chairman of Hutt Valley Health Corporation, and he is currently on the board of several organisations including Vehicle Testing New Zealand, Land Transport New Zealand.
He says: "In all cases it's about people and I have proved it". At King Toyota he was able to measure his policies against those of other dealers through the comparative statistics supplied by Toyota New Zealand to dealers.
Bryan realises that staff reflect the makeup of society. "We need to accept that there will never be absolute perfection in the selection of our staff". According to Bryan:
He says: "If you get rid of that 10 percent you'll probably only replace them with another group that reflect society. The trick is to build your business to get the best out of the 90% rather than to cater for the 10%."
Specific lessons for managers to get the best out of people include:
People with inflated egos think they are infallible and this is dangerous. "We all have egos but the best leaders have learned to put theirs in the closet. If you're the boss, you've got the mana. You don't have to tell everyone that you are the boss. If you suffer from an ego problem the most important thing is to recognise it and work at it."
If you don't lead by example you can't expect others to. It's always the leader who sets the tone for the whole organisation.
Lead by example includes:
If you don't have total integrity your people will know about it, there's no way you can keep it from them. "You must never put a dollar on your expense account that doesn't belong there otherwise your people will know and you will let yourself down."
"Its important to develop an interest in people and respect them, especially those with dirt under their fingernails." Bryan never asks someone to do something he would not do himself. (Mind you his technical people take his advice with caution!)
"It's important to try and develop a career path for people even though it's difficult in a small company." Bryan believes that there are other ways to make people feel special for example he values seniority and length of service as an important factors.
At King Toyota they paid a share of the profit to all staff and everyone received the same dollar amount. Interestingly he says, "By sharing profit we all win; it means that the owners end up getting more for themselves too."
He removed the fixed entitlement for sick leave. As a result sick leave reduced from 4.7 days per annum on average to 2.8 days.
Loyalty works both ways. Bryan recalls some years ago when the market and the economy were very difficult, the automotive technicians team of which there were about 40 came to him and offered to work Saturday mornings for no pay. In the end Bryan accepted that they work for 50 percent of their normal pay and when the economy improved he made sure they were recompensed.
Interviewed by Bruce Holland 2006