The last few years have been tough — we’ve all been through a lot. However, while our realities and expectations have greatly shifted, both personally and professionally, it’s afforded many of us a refreshed definition of what is most important. In turn, this has also created renewed perspective on how we, as individuals, would like to be treated; and how to be better individuals to others. This sentiment can be helpful in all aspects of our lives — but especially in how we lead in business.

Richard Branson once said, “if you take care of your employees, they will take care of the clients.” This is an undeniable truth. The key to happy customers is happy employees — and that’s what being people-first means. Your employees should be your most valued asset — without them, there would be no products or services to offer, or customers to ensure are happy and delighted. In fact, 85% of respondents to a recent IDC survey agree that an improved employee experience and higher employee engagement translate to a better customer experience, higher customer satisfaction, and higher revenue for their organization.

These days, maintaining employee happiness may feel challenging, however, keep in mind that it doesn’t take big changes alone to create this feeling. Sometimes, a lot of little changes can create the bigger impact you seek — and an even greater positive impact to your customers — making it a worthwhile investment of your time and energy.


Not only with your direct reports but make yourself available to everyone. Sure, we’re all busy and have what often feels like a never ending “to do” list, but never forget that you have likely needed help or guidance at one point or another too. By creating “open space” that focuses on the human element of business, employees can feel more supported, more seen, and in some cases, more heard. If employees know that you’re receptive when approached and that they will be treated fairly, these types of interactions will ripple down to create improved customer interactions, as well.

Empower Your People to Succeed (and Fail)

As a leader, you can easily fall into the trap of over managing everything and everyone, after all the buck stops with you right? Wrong. We all need to have accountability for what we are tasked with, and that takes trust. But trust is a two-way street, not a highway and a bike path. That means as a leader, if you expect your employees to trust that you are doing your job — to manage the company in their and the customers’ best interest — you need to find ways to let go and trust your people to do what you hired them to do. And if a mistake is made, move forward. Knowledge and innovation stem from learning, and without lessons to learn from, we can’t get better. Create space for your team to think, explore, and grow. They will likely teach you something you didn’t know or think of before, making you better in return.

Cultivate a People-Focused Culture

A people-focused culture within your team and the organization is going to amplify itself throughout all engagements with customers and prospects. Your customers will become witness to, and feel, a sense of community, camaraderie, and chemistry, which in turn, influences their trust and confidence in staying with or selecting you as their partner. Business is about relationships and becoming an extension of another’s team — not serving as a drive-through order taker.

Embrace and Promote a Growth Mindset  

Encourage employees to share their concerns, not only work-related ones, but family, health, pets, etc. This can deepen connections and nurture and grow relationships and knowledge. This in turn, creates more awareness of what others are experiencing and the best ways to work together with empathy. People grow when we embrace the fact that the lines between work and personal lives have blurred, and when we operate like that inside a company culture, with a growth mindset, we become more attuned to customers’ needs, as well.


People leave jobs for a variety of reasons. If an employee does decide to take their career in another direction, treat them with honesty and fairness. You want people to look back at their time working with/for you as time well spent with people that were great to work with: who held themselves accountable and treated everyone equitably. Up until their very last day, treat those who decided to leave as you did when they were first welcomed into the organization. Continue to be their advocate, and if they are a good employee, make them feel like they always have an open door and a home to “boomerang” back to. The same principal holds true for customers too. People remember individuals and organizations who do the right thing, the right way.

Looking Ahead

The Great Resignation may have made its mark on history, but it’s vital that we don’t overlook the important lessons it gave us to avoid a repeat in the future.

At the end of the day, people are people, and because of this plain fact, we must treat employee happiness like any other relationship in our lives. To be successful, it requires understanding, trust, communication, empathy, and support.

With these key tenets at play, not only can you create a rich culture, but a business worth doing business with.

Paul Vian is a seasoned sales executive with over 20 years of experience in Europe and North America. Paul has a comprehensive understanding of customer relationships and the entire enterprise sales cycle. In his role as Chief Revenue Officer at Apps Associates, Paul is responsible for driving growth across all areas of digital transformation, measuring client success and developing partner strategy. Prior to joining Apps Associates, Paul worked for INAP and Verizon Business in a variety of sales leadership roles. Paul is enthusiastic about education, training, exceeding customers’ expectations, and creating customer value. Paul resides in Massachusetts with his wife and three children. Paul enjoys watching and coaching soccer, cycling, and traveling.

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