Category Archives: Business

Sexual Harassment: Mediasplaining vs. Fact


By MJ Plaster

As the list of outted perverts grows, it makes you wonder if it would be easier to create a list of people who don’t sexually harass or inappropriately touch people over whom they have power. At the same time, it seems that men are in danger of having their every glance and utterance cataloged to prove harassment. It doesn’t help that everything has become a microaggression.

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Is “The Customer Is King” All It’s Cracked up to Be?


By MJ Plaster

Suspend reality for a moment and pretend business doesn’t answer to its gods, the shareholders—or in the case of small-to-medium businesses, monied interests. Whom would you choose for top billing—customer or employee? Before you make up your mind, read about some of the success stories at companies who put their employees first.


The Virgin Enterprise
Sir Richard Branson, who runs the Virgin empire, ranks shareholders concerns dead last in third place. In his universe, his extremely successful universe, the employee is king, followed by the customer. In an interview with Forbes, Branson says he wanted to get away from “Stepford Service” by taking “[an] informal approach to customer service at all our Virgin brands.” What he means is, “Free the employees to be themselves,” within reason. He doesn’t value cookie-cutter employees. When something goes wrong, he insists on quick resolution. That has proven a winning combination across his franchise.

Ford Motor Company
Putting employees first is not some new-age concept. If we harken back to the early days of Ford Motor Company when the company introduced the assembly line, we find that Henry Ford paid his employees the then-exorbitant wage of $5 per day, double the average wage. It wasn’t altruism. He believed not only that employees should be able to buy the products they make but also that his sales would increase if his employees could afford to drive a Ford. Regardless of his intent, how many other workers could afford a Model T back in the day?

U.S. Airlines
When Southwest Airlines (then Texas Air Southwest) began shuttling passengers among Dallas, Houston and San Antonio, the public snored, but the big airline executives revolted all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court, which declined to hear their case against Southwest. How dare a little competitor invade their fiefdom! The big airlines did manage to relegate Southwest to smaller airports. As an unintended consequence, passengers enjoy easier, less stressful access to airports when flying Southwest.

As Southwest began to grow, other airline employees took note of the employees’ free-wheeling, playful interactions with customers and their equally casual attire. Flying Southwest was fun—not only for the customers but also for the employees. Airline personnel pointed to the company’s competitive pay scale. To recap, Southwest let’s its employees be themselves, they work in a fun environment, and they are paid handsomely to do it. Most Southwest employees will tell you they love working for the airline. How does this affect the customer? Flying Southwest is one of the most pleasurable ways to fly if you don’t mind flying in coach.

Small Business
The employee-centric model holds true for small business as well. Southerners have an expression: “If Mama isn’t happy, no one’s happy.” In this case, “Mama” represents the workforce and “no one” represents the customer. Specifically, when managers and owners show their appreciation and gratitude to their teams, and foster a pleasant working environment, the customer wins in the end.

In an interview with CheckWorks, Dale Rodgers, owner of Armed Exterminators, says that “people first” is his M.O. “My employees are number one, followed closely by our customers. Without happy employees, you won’t have happy customers,” Rodgers says. “Our customers know us and trust us. We get very good referrals for our service, and we treat them well. Our employees know how to speak to [the customers] and how to treat them; they’re always polite. We’re blessed with great employees.” His employees have extended the model of respect to the company’s customers, and everyone’s happy.

Can “Employee is King” Go Too Far?
Whole Foods has a bit of a sordid reputation—even among its loyal customers. This cloud rests on pricing and misguided or misinformed employees. Business Insider reports that Whole Foods CEO John Mackey conceded in a town hall meeting to prioritizing employees over customers “to the detriment of the customer.” For example, who benefited from employees were telling customers that the stores were GMO-free? The customer or the employee? It sure made life easier on employees who were ill-informed at best. Customers were happy until they learned otherwise.

Amazon acquired Whole Foods this year. The online behemoth has already addressed customers’ most vocal complaint—price. They have cut dozens of prices by 25 percent. Minimal interaction with Amazon takes place only in the event something goes wrong, and I can tell you from experience, they are quick to handle complaints. Customer service spares no cost to make customers happy.

For example, when a Prime delivery reaches customers late for any reason, Amazon extends an addition month of the premium service free of charge. For me, it translated into six free months tacked on to last year’s subscription. So far, I’m one month into the new year, and I have received a free month. However, their superb customer service has little bearing how Amazon treats its employees, which is deplorable according to The New York Times. Amazon disputes the report.

So, what’s the verdict? Unless you are willing to pay your employees extortion-rate wages and salaries, their well-being should be of paramount importance—as long as it translates into a superior customer experience.

That’s my opinion. What’s yours? Let us know on our Facebook page.

Are You the Worst Boss in the World?



By MJ Plaster

“Oh, dear God, it’s Monday, and I don’t know whether to stab out my eyeballs or slit my wrists.” If that’s what runs through your employees’ minds after the weekend, I know a secret. You might think they loathe their jobs, but it’s more likely they hate you, their Cretan boss. And, what’s worse, these bosses may be so self-absorbed that they have no idea their employees feel this way.

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Six Business Finance Lessons For The Year Of The Rooster

We have entered year of the fire rooster according to Chinese astrology. Whether you believe in astrology or not, your business can benefit from lessons the fire rooster has to teach us. Each animal of the Chinese zodiac calendar represents traits people want to embody and qualities that people struggle with. Here is a list of the main business finance lessons year of the rooster teaches: Continue reading

5 Business Myths to Toss in the New Year

Coworkers throwing crumpled paper into waste basket, selective focus

By MJ Plaster

It’s a new year, and everyone’s new calendar holds a world of possibilities and promise. Unfortunately, your heavy baggage doesn’t magically check itself at Old Man New Year’s door; it follows you. So, instead of counting calories or pullups, or in addition to, if you’ve already committed to those things, why not vow to toss the business myths that have weighed you down all these years?

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Helping Your Employees Be More Productive


As an employer or a manager, it is your job to make sure that your employees are doing their job. Furthermore, it is your job to make sure that they are working to their highest potential. Let’s take a look at some ways that you can figure out if your people aren’t working their hardest and how to help them get more done.

How Do You Know That There Is a Productivity Issue?

There are many ways that you can determine if there is a productivity issue in the workplace. First, you may notice that some employees are able to get more done during the day than others or that they have accomplished more in previous months or years. Second, you may notice that orders aren’t getting fulfilled or that items aren’t being delivered to clients on time. Finally, you may notice that workers seem listless or otherwise not engaged in their work, which could indicate that they are burned out or overwhelmed. Continue reading

Insane Business Advice That Sounds Interesting—Part One


dumb crazy pug dog with nerd glasses as an office business worker with pencil in mouth isolated on white background

By MJ Plaster

In our crazy world where up is down and down is up, big risks can net monstrous results—but not always to the up side. It’s easy to confuse novel with insane and disruptive with destructive. I was tipped off to an article a few weeks ago that led to several nights of burning the midnight oil to bring you this menu of insane business advice. By the end of this article, you will look at everything through the risk vs. reward lens and make decisions based on facts, not stale clichés.
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