Part III: The Quality of Pride is Essential to Business

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In the first two installments of this three-part series, I described the lessons I learned when facing a variety of personal challenges in my life and how they turned out to be extremely useful in the business world. I discovered that it’s all about people-- connecting with them, appreciating them, and really making an effort to understand and help them. As you’ll see in the final part of this series, looking at challenges from this perspective can help managers and company owners handle some of the toughest business challenges we face today.

The quality of pride is essential to a successful business -- customers taking pride in the fact that they are important and being listened to, and employees taking pride in the products and services they produce. When customers know that their satisfaction matters to a company, they’ll tell everyone they know – and this word of mouth is more valuable than any expensive advertising and marketing campaign. It works that way in small and midsize businesses, too, of course. When I was helping my late husband Sid with his dental practice in New York, I saw that each and every person that a patient comes in contact with makes a powerful impression -- from the receptionist to the dental hygienist. Each of these interactions is a "touch point," and together they form the experience that each patient has of the dental practice. When a patient feels insignificant and like they don't count, they're not likely to remain loyal to that dentist or doctor. It works this way in any kind of business. American business overall needs to recapture this level of pride and care.

Every industry and business sector needs to remember that the pride employees take in their work is very important. The turnaround of America's auto industry is the latest high-profile example of what's possible when we encourage employees to take (or reclaim) pride in their work. When I first moved to the U.S. from Canada, whether you were "buying America" was a frequent topic of conversation. It's time to emphasize this once again. We need to revive the kind of thinking that was dominant when our parents and grandparents were working hard to make America great. The pride that everyone took in the quality of their work was something to be admired, and it's a quality that's far too rare these days.

Many senior level executives and CEOs seem to be excited about the innovation and new ideas they're implementing in their companies, but let's not forget to let this enthusiasm "trickle down" to the rest of the team. Let's make sure that all employees who contribute to a company's success are recognized and appreciated. And remember, enthusiasm and new ideas cost a company nothing -- but they can be priceless when it comes to growth, increased revenue and creating more jobs. Keeping each customer in mind every step of the way, as I mentioned earlier, is another essential ingredient in this recipe for growth.

In coming up with a road map for the future, we must be sure to include our young people, of course. I'm a big believer in the value of small business, and I encouraged both of my children to pursue their dreams in terms of the work they choose to do.

Now, it's up to us to create a business climate that's receptive to their ideas and gives them an opportunity to contribute. An alarming number of recent college graduates not only have to struggle with astronomical student loans bills that must now be repaid, but are also having trouble finding a place where they can put their knowledge and skills to work. The idea of owning their own home -- the dream that motivated earlier generations -- now seems completely out of reach to most young people.

I also see the great talent and potential in the high school students I work with each week at a school in Brooklyn. We must create opportunities for these young people and millions of others just like them to put their talent to work. Those of us who have been engaged in the work force for the past few decades have the wisdom and perspective that's needed in order to create opportunities for these talented young people. This challenge causes us all a lot of stress, of course, and there are no easy answers -- but as the NASA ground control team is rumored to have said during the Apollo 13 crisis, "failure is not an option."

Until we create a more receptive business environment for our young people, who can blame them for believing that loyalty -- to customers and to their company -- is an antiquated and irrelevant concept. I'm honored to have an opportunity to offer high school students encouragement and inspiration, but until we can create a business environment that will welcome their contributions, the likelihood that these bright and enthusiastic young people will hit a dead end as they try to put themselves to work remains a serious problem.

Although it may sound like I'm ending this essay on a rather bleak note, the fact is that I really believe there is enormous creativity and ingenuity out there, which can result in some much needed changes in our nation's business sector. As you can tell, I'm a firm believer that the human spirit is capable of great things and able to solve any problem. Just as people helped me overcome a wide range of challenges in my life, I'm confident that together we can create a business environment in which each individual is valued and one that generates enormous prosperity and opportunity for all of us.