Wednesday, May 02, 2007

They care about their people!

I had an interesting conversation today with a retired Canadian entrepreneur. They never really retire, you know.

I’ve met this man several times, but not in the year since he left the company he founded. Last month that firm announced a major strategic change, so I called him up to see what he thought about it. He outlined the business case for what they're planning to do, although with little enthusiasm, so I guess he’s onside but not ecstatic about it.

But here’s what he was passionate about.

He complained that he’d heard the news from a friend who used to work for the company. Then he heard about it from a stockbroker. He’s the former CEO, and still a major shareholder, and he obviously feels the company has an obligation to inform them about these things. You can take the entrepreneur of the company, but it sure is hard to get the company out of the entrepreneur.

Here’s the other thing he got hot about. This change will affect a lot of longtime employees. He expressed more regret over what might happen to them than he did about the change to the business as a whole. “It’s a different company now,” he said, but it was clear that he hoped the company would treat the affected employees well.

He also noted hopefully that with the general skills shortage around the country, some employees might be better off, and actually get better jobs.

Clearly, he still retains that entrepreneurial ego, even in retirement, But I was impressed by his concern for his former employees. They’re still his people, and he still cares.

Bottom line: If you’re marketing to business owners, remember their commitment to their teams. If you can make things better for their people, entrepreneurs may just listen to you a little more closely.

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