Published on: June 18, 2015
This commentary is available as both text and video; enjoy both or either ... they are similar, but not exactly the same. To see past FaceTime commentaries, go to the MNB Channel on YouTube.
Hi, Kevin Coupe here and this is FaceTime with the Content Guy, coming to you this week from somewhere in the vicinity of Dayton, Ohio ... as I continue my driving trip cross-country on my way to my annual adjunctivity at Portland State University in Oregon.
The relationship between employer and employee is something we talk about a lot here on MNB, in part because I remain completely convinced that companies would be better off in the long run if they moved heaven and earth to treat the people who work for them as if they are assets, not liabilities...as if they are an investment, not a cost of doing business that is to be minimized and reduced at every opportunity. I would argue that for the most part - and there always will be exceptions - employees will respond to such treatment by being willing to move heaven and earth for the companies and people for which they work.
Sadly, not everybody agrees with me on this. (Then again, not everybody agrees with me on anything.) And usually, when this topic comes up, prompted by some news story that has attracted my attention and gotten my Irish up, I will get emails from some people who feel I am, shall we say, misguided. They feel that a company has just one overriding job - to make money for investors and/or ownership, and that part of that job requires getting as much out of as few employees as possible, and to pay them as little as possible in the process.
I just cannot accept that, even at the risk of being called misguided. Or worse.
One of the things I've had a chance to do while here in Ohio is to spend some time with the folks at Henny Penny, the Eaton-based company that is known for making fryers and rotisseries and other assorted equipment largely for supermarkets, fast food companies and fast casual restaurant chains. And I've had a chance to tour their local factory with the company CEO, Rob Connelly. This, I must tell you, was an eye-opening experience. I'm not very mechanically oriented, so it never occurred to me what went into actually building one of these pieces of equipment ... and I found the experience to be remarkable on a variety of levels.
What really grabbed my attention, though,was the dedication and positive attitude that the employees I met and observed brought to their efforts. And I learned that investing in employees - most recently through an ESOP that gives the people who work there an ownership stake in the company - has long been a guiding principle at Henny Penny. For example, the company never has had a layoff - even in times when business slowed down, the leadership felt that it was best keep everyone employed, and that while this might take a bite out of profits, it would create a more sustainable company over the long term.
This is the story in which Henny Penny takes considerable, and justified pride.
And what I walked away from Henny Penny thinking was that it is living, breathing proof that a company can do the kinds of things that I think are important in terms of employee investment and remain a profitable, viable business entity. Sure, Henny Penny is private, which changes some of the rules ... but there are lots of example of public companies (think Costco and Starbucks, for example) that also have focused on investing in rather than exploiting companies as a business imperative.
It has been an interesting visit to Ohio ... and it has reinforced for me my feelings about the employer-employee relationship. I'm sorry that some don't agree with me ... but I don't think that I'm the one who is misguided.
That's what is on my mind this Thursday morning. As always, I want to hear what is on your mind.
- KC's View: