Back a couple of years ago while working on my MBA, I had to read Nuts: Southwest Airlines Crazy Recipe for Business and Personal Success. At first I looked at it as an assignment I just needed to get done, but what I found was an amazing story about a start-up.
Southwest Airlines was a renegade airline back in the 80’s and 90’s. The company started out as a regional airline in Texas but has became one of the biggest airlines in the US. Many people attribute Southwest’s success to their low fares but over the years Southwest wasn’t the only company with low fares. So if low fares weren’t the cause of Southwest’s success, what was? Below are some of the reasons I attribute to Southwest’s success.
- Celebrations help Southwest motivate team members to achieve their mission. Southwest’s team members work together to achieve goals then celebrate achieving those goals with a party.
- Giving back to charities keeps employees motivated by letting them know they have a purpose other than just a great career at a great company. Together they are helping the Ronald McDonald House all around their hubs.
- Maintaining a company newsletter that is interesting and keeps the employees engaged.
- Painting the Planes builds morale and a sense of pride (and is just fun).
- Southwest creates an internal news letter that allows for company wide communications.
- Southwest has a innovative marketing campaign that includes using front line team members for their ad pieces.
- Southwest celebrates win and losses with all team members which allows for more communication between team members.
Management of Change
- Southwest is known for creating an environment that allows for a culture of change.
- The Southwest “Walk a Mile in My Shoes” program encourages change management.
- Southwest hires personnel who might not have the industry bias toward their area of expertise.
Ethics & Integrity
- Charitable contributions and giving back to the community.
- Honoring all contracts even when legally Southwest could back out.
- Herb is able to work closely with unions on contracts in good faith.
- Southwest puts employees first, even over profit.
- Southwest team members take an ownership role in their jobs.
- Southwest team members regularly do jobs outside of their scope. Herb can be seen working with the ground crew around Thanksgiving.
- Southwest team members are encouraged to show their unique personalities throughout their work. Herb arm wrestles for charity and publicity.
Power & Politics
- Southwest keeps a policy of giving all levels of team members too much information. This allows for all team members to know what is going on with the company at all times
- Southwest has a policy of “being serious about work, but not taking yourself serious.”
- Southwest has an open door policy meaning that all levels of employees can talk wit the CEO or any manager.
- Southwest’s motto for decision making is “do the right thing”.
- Southwest uses the “do the right thing” attitude for all team members, not just leaders.
- Southwest givse their employees as much information as possible, which improves their decision making ability.
- Simplicity is one way Southwest speeds up decision making, this prevents paralysis analysis.
While this book has never been listed as the top 10 business books to read, I think it’s a must read. A lot of the things Southwest did in the early years has been copied many times over now. Southwest was one of the first companies to embrace the weirdness factor and only hire weird employees. If you are looking for a book on how to run a successful start-up, start with this book.