Three of the most important things for any business are profit, customers and ethics. But the question is, which should take priority? On what should the business focus?
It’s not what you might think, according to Clif Reichard, a sales consultant at Ball Corporation for more than five decades. Most business people would put profits at the head of the line. The problem with that, Reichard says, is that numbers take over, to the exclusion of everything else. The focus is just on things such as production, sales and money — and how to increase them as much as possible. When this happens, there is no counterweight to the pressure of maximizing the numbers, and so any behavior becomes acceptable in order to reach the number goals.
But the number one thing a company needs to focus on is ethics, to maintain and improve its reputation, he says. After that, the focus should be on gaining customers, and then on profit.
Reichard contends that many businesses, when looking to get new customers, just add more people to the sales department. These sales professionals then go out and try to put the best face possible on the company, one that may not be entirely accurate. What should be done is to make the company the best at what it does, so that salespeople have no need to exaggerate. The manufacturing plants need to be finely attuned to the needs of the customers.
At Ball, managers do the maintenance and handle current customers, so that salespeople can focus exclusively on finding new client, a one-of-a-kind practice in its industry.
Ball also values the input of its employees and solicits their advice, rather than simply telling them what to do. That is when employees become fully engaged, and give their best to the company. Ball believes the team can bring more to the company than just one manager, Reichard says
Reichard also says that everyone in the company needs to know what its goals are and in what direction the firm is headed. And, here again, this is where ethics comes in. The goal at Ball is to make people’s live better. Management does its best to take care of the employees, so that they in turn develop such loyalty for the company and each other that they do all they can for their customers, who in turn develop a loyalty of their own for the company, driving up sales and profits, according to Reichard.
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