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The Sunday Dilbert cartoon the other day had the pointy haired boss telling his staff he says employees are the key to success but that’s only so he can blame them when things go wrong. He goes on to say 99% of them are easily replaceable. This is in the same vein as a former client who used to mumble, “They should be glad they have a job.”

But let’s go to real life where it seems the above is a fairy tale. I was in a meeting with a business seller and buyer and the buyer told us he’s an engineer, loves the numbers, but realizes you’re successful in small business by paying attention to the people, both the employees and customers. Boy did that score points with the seller.

And in a story titled, “A rare private-equity happy ending,” all the employees in a business got a windfall. KKR is selling CHI Overhead Doors to Nucor. They bought it seven years ago for $600 million, fixed it big time, and are selling it for $3 billion. As part of their turnaround efforts, they setup a stock-ownership plan. Bottom line, all the employees get something, some up to $800,000, and the average hourly worker will get $175,000 with some getting more than double that (based on seniority). 

Today’s job market is more fluid than ever and it’s why it pays to keep your employees motivated, challenged, and rewarded. And it’s catching on. I recently saw a high-end business appraisal in which the appraiser praised the firm for all their efforts to provide training and an enhanced bonus program to improve retention. The appraiser knows earnings will be lower and also seems to recognize earnings will still be higher than if a handful of people unexpectedly leave, given how disruptive and expensive it is to replace people.

Bottom line, the people are the key to every business and every buy-sell deal.W

“If everything seems under control, you’re just not going fast enough.” Mario Andretti 

“If you want to see the true measure of a man, watch how he treats his inferiors, not his equals.” J.K. Rowling

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