Southwest Airlines’ Crazy Recipe for Business and Personal Success
And what you can take away from it.
About Kevin and Jackie Freiberg
Kevin and Jackie Freiberg are award-winning San Diego consultants and widely read and beloved authors. In their books they combine in-depth research and a style of master narrators to tell the stories of many successful companies.
Read more about the Freibergs at http://freibergs.com/.
We’ve already told you that it’s important to have a long-term plan even before establishing your company. Well, Southwest Airlines is a nice proof of this.
It all started in 1966 when Rollin King, an entrepreneur, approached Herb Kelleher, a lawyer, with a simple idea: a cheap airline to fly between San Antonio, Dallas, and Houston. Kelleher’s answer is as movie-like as it gets.
“You’re nuts!” – he exclaimed after hearing the idea. And then, just few seconds later, “Let’s do it!” – he added smilingly.
However, fifty years ago, the airline traffic was heavily regulated, and both King and Kelleher knew they were in for a fight. For the first few years, in fact, almost everything they did was fighting. However, as rival companies campaigned against Southwest Airlines, they couldn’t have even imagined the effects.
Namely, Southwest Airlines just grew stronger. And its employees, in the face of foreign adversaries, started developing family-tight bonds. And becoming a real team.
Ever since then, Southwest Airlines has cherished this mentality. And is built around thirteen foundations.
The first two are, of course, profitability and low cost. But the second three are maybe even more important: family, fun, and love. Of course, they lead to egalitarianism and altruism, but without diminishing individuality or blurring the lines between the owners and the employees. Finally, it all boils down to common sense, which provides for a legendary service, deeply rooted in simplicity and good judgement.
However, Southwest Airlines began as a small company and now it has more than 50,000 employees. In order to keep this family-like atmosphere, they have to be very careful when hiring new recruits. In other words: so as to have a smiling and fun-loving team later, they need to be serious when choosing the members of that team.
So, a passion, enthusiasm and sociability are prerequisites. You can’t teach those things. Southwest leaders want their employees enjoying themselves, and nobody can do that in the presence of lone wolves. There’s a meaning behind the phrase “Southwest Spirit.”
And it’s a meaning the company’s philosophy is based on – a friendly, positive, proactive attitude!
Of course, employees are not the only ones responsible for keeping this spirit up. Leaders have to make an example. So, in Southwest Airlines, whenever there’s a problem, there’s a solution for it. And whenever a plan fails, the attempt is congratulated.
Finger pointing leads nowhere. Talking and teaching does. And the benefits of making a breakthrough outweighs the risk of making a mistake.
Everybody does them, after all.
Key Lessons from “Nuts!”
1. Your Employees Are Your Company
2. Bureaucracy Kills Creativity and Loses Time
3. Everybody Leads in a Family
Your Employees Are Your Company
It’s one of those wisdom nuggets for the ages, that doesn’t get boring no matter how many times is repeated. Namely, your company is made of people; and they are the ones you should take care of. Southwest Airlines knows this best. And intends to adhere to the philosophy – no matter what.
Bureaucracy Kills Creativity and Loses Time
Bureaucracy is what large companies spend most of their time on. Southwest Airlines tries to reduce it to a minimum. For example, they don’t have a seat reservation system – which doesn’t only make flights cheaper, but also makes them faster. In addition, they don’t give out snacks during flights, but before them – which saves time as well!
Everybody Leads in a Family
Southwest Airlines has a strict “No furloughs” policy. That is – no job losses even in times of financial crises. This makes everybody feels loved and taken care of. In addition, it makes everybody feel important and engaged. And capable of leading – if and when a situation arises.
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“Nuts!” QuotesWe’ve never tried to be like other airlines. From the very beginning, we told our people, ‘Question it. Challenge it’. Click To Tweet From day one, Southwest challenged the assumption that permanently reduced fares would cut revenue. Click To Tweet Our turnaround time isn’t the results of tricks, but the result of our dedicated employees, who have the willpower and pride to do whatever it takes. Click To Tweet We have credibility because we tell people what we’re going to do and then we do it. Click To Tweet Motivation comes from showing people that you believe in them. Click To Tweet
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