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August 15, 2002

Jack Covert Selects: Jack Covert Selects - The Customer Comes Second

By: Dylan Schleicher @ 9:43 PM – Filed under: Management & Workplace Culture

The Customer Comes Second: Put your People First and Watch em Kick Butt by Hal Rosenbluth and Diane McFerrin Peters; HarperBusiness; 304 pages; $26.95; Hardcover; August 2002; ISBN 0060526564 Confession is good for the soul, so here I will admit to you that I am easily bought. Now, I dont mean this in the Soprano sense of the word, instead, see this example: About six years ago, a publisher flew me to Philadelphia to meet Hal Rosenbluth, the owner of the third largest travel management company in the world, Rosenbluth International, and the author of a strong-selling book from the early 90s called, The Customer Comes Second. I learned a lot about the company during my trip and could see why Fortune picked Rosenbluth International as one of the 100 Best Companies to Work For. However, the experience did not make me a convert to Rosenbluths ideas. In fact, I didnt even deserve to be there (heres the easily bought part) because I went on the trip without having read any of Rosenbluths books. Honestly, I thought Rosenbluth was wrong in this basic premise: Companies must put their people first. Yes, even before their customers. There. Now Ive said it. I know its controversial. It makes people nervous just to hear it, but it works. At the time, this idea was indeed too controversial for me, a long-time merchant who believed with certainty that my customers drove my business, and that my employees roles revolved around satisfying and maintaining those customers. As Ive grown as a businessperson and manager, Ive come to love books that offer controversial ideas about how companies are or should be run, even if they rub against my old school grain. In the past 3 months, Ive begun a change initiative within my company, spent a lot of time thinking about my management style, and learning how to create a productive, positive and high-energy workplace. For me, this new edition of The Customer Comes Second comes at just the right time. The programs that Rosenbluth International has developed and implemented are humanistic and employee-centered. The focus of the organization is to create an open environment populated with nice people who strive, as friends, to make their company better. Rosenbluth emphasizes that while the companys main concern is its employees, its employees main concern are its clients, which makes for happy employees and happy clients. Some of the advice is timeless: only hire the right people, make learning fun, and create an environment that inspires ideas. For example, Rosenbluths associates created and contribute to a voluntary fund that will provide financial aid to any associate and his/her children, parents, spouses or partner, in a time of personal crisis. More specifically, in an industry devastated by 9/11, Rosenbluth International returned salaries to pre-9/11 rates as early as January 1, 2002. As you can imagine, Rosenbluths is a unique culture and The Customer Comes Second will inspire you to weave compassion into your workplace.

About Dylan Schleicher


Dylan Schleicher has been a part of the 800-CEO-READ claque since 2003. Even though he's stayed on at the company, he has not stayed put. After beginning in shipping & receiving, he joined customer service and accounting before moving into his current, highly elliptical orbit of duties overseeing the ChangeThis and In the Books websites, the company's annual review of books and in-house design. He lives with his wife and two children in the Washington Heights neighborhood on Milwaukee's West Side.