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Modernize Your Employee Value Proposition with People Over Profit

Seeing employees as more than merely 'assets' or 'capital' can go a long way in attracting and retaining staff, argues Dirk Beveridge.
Employee retention or labor motivation to stay in work tiny person concept. Staff loyalty, workforce protection and human resources care vector illustration. Keeping high satisfaction for hired people

My father had a habit of telling what I refer to as his “Burger King” story. As he would regale us with his experiences working with management, he would always say: 

“Never trade off customer satisfaction at the expense of employee satisfaction. You gotta get the kid to press the ‘Whopper button.’ That Whopper better be hot when it gets delivered. If they can’t do it, you fire ’em.”

Profit over people.

There was a level of truth to that. That was the mindset then.

But as I found myself living in an RV, championing the noble calling of distribution over the past two summers on my We Supply America tour, I saw things through a different lens.

I met with thousands of your employees. I heard hundreds of personal stories.

There was one story, in particular, that stopped me in my tracks.

It made me realize I needed to help distributors see things differently, as well.

I was down in Greenville, South Carolina, when I met a young man by the name of Matt Daniel. Matt is the 27-year-old branch manager for Eastern Industrial Supplies, Inc.

With the video and production crew behind me, I asked Matt about his role in the company and the culture of the organization.

“Everybody is family. Many of the people I have brought here to work were in broken cultures at the companies they were in.” 

I asked him to explain the difference between a broken culture and the one at Eastern Industrial. 

He didn’t miss a beat when he said, “People over profit.”  

Eastern Industrial takes care of the people that take care of the customers. Eastern’s culture is all about people over profits. It’s something I found with each person I met. It’s the undercurrent of their guiding directives that they have embedded in their organization as “The Eastern Way.” It includes these 8 of 23 fundamentals designed to have a positive impact on the lives of others.

  • Give back
  • Care deeply
  • Check your ego at the door
  • Do the right thing, always!
  • Lead by example
  • Be positive
  • Anticipate change
  • Keep things fun

Culture can’t be replicated. That’s what Kip Miller, President and CEO, says. “Other people can have the same products. They can have about the same price. They can replicate service. But what other companies can’t do is replicate culture.”

A people-first culture doesn’t necessarily mean businesses aren’t driven by profit. Businesses require profit. 

But Eastern Industrial sees its culture and profit as a platform to be used for the greater good. Of course, a percentage is used for building and expanding the business. But it’s also used to build orphanages and schools in Tanzania.

And yet at its core, business is about people. Not only does Eastern provide a platform for the greater good, but they also provide their associates with personal and professional opportunities. They even teamed up with a third party, the Chaplains of America, to give their associates a safe space to talk to someone other than their manager about problems they may face at home or work.

For which Kip says, “We want to care about our associates’ mind, about their body and about their spirit.”

Wow, times have changed.

What a contradiction to what we are traditionally taught in business. To what my father taught tens of thousands of mentees. But what I learned from Matt and Kip is that when you put your people first, profit follows. 

Matt is a prime example of Eastern’s willingness to invest in people, especially the younger generation.

His story inspired me to explore the critical reasons why distributors need to rethink their people and talent strategy. 

I surveyed over 230 distribution leaders to uncover the biggest challenges distributors face. Nearly 82% reported that their ability to attract and retain talent is an ongoing crisis. And over 56% say the collective “we” needs to reframe our thinking away from employees as “assets,” “capital” and or “resources.”

In the survey, one distributor said, “We have defined the HR role as a role of People and Culture. The environment we provide will determine our retention and success of the growth and readiness of our amazing people.”

What we’ve seen on the road through the We Supply America tour, in our research and in our conversations with distributors every day has led my team and I to zero in on the humanity of business. The people of business. I developed a clarity of the intersection of one’s work and their desire to be human to fulfill their potential.

This combined with the top human resources trends we’re seeing in distribution were the springboard that led me to create a summit that focuses solely on the evolution of human resources.

Two days and 50 like-minded distribution HR pros discussing the human resources strategies you need to modernize your employee approach and guide your company to success. The Human Resources Summit for Distributors will take place on April 27 and 28 in Nashville, Tennessee, and include panel discussions with forward-thinking distribution leaders who have chosen to prioritize people over profit. I can’t wait. 

With 78% of distributors recognizing the changing needs, wants and desires of employees, our speakers will share their strategies and tactics for creating a more human-centric approach to human resources that unleashes the potential of employees and ultimately leads to increased profits for the company. 

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