Sir Richard Branson is a successful business magnate. He started, owned and operated, among others, the famous Virgin Airlines thirty years ago. He is now planning Virgin Galactic into space in 2018. The business community worldwide admires his spirit of adventure and business acumen. Besides, he is a philanthropist. I respect him personally for another reason. I started my career as a teenager in Calcutta in Airline operations back in 1954; first with the Indian Airline Corporation and later with SWISSAIR. That was a long time ago, when twin engine Douglas C-47 or DC3 were the “state of the art” commercial aircrafts, with a seating capacity of twenty-one. Morse code telegraphy in aircrafts was then the latest communication gismo. Those were the days, Sir Branson!
Branson said “Clients do not come first, Employees come first”. That may sound counter to decades-old business wisdom, but it has worked well for Virgin Airlines. Branson says he’s surprised more companies haven’t adopted an employee-centric management strategy earlier.
“If the person who works at your company is 100 percent proud of the brand and you give them the tools to do a good job and they are treated well, they’re going to be happy,” Branson tells president and editor-in-chief Eric Schurenberg in an interview (source -Google).
Branson’s formula is “Happy employees equal happy customers. Similarly, unhappy employee can ruin the brand experience for not just one, but numerous customers.” His quote is definitely unique particularly in the capitalistic, competitive, dog-eat-dog business world where one can hardly make a profit. I understand now how many corporations are including incentives and perks to their employees with profit sharing, bonuses, stock options, longer lunch breaks with even meditations and Yoga exercise, etc.
It is a great idea – natural and workable. However the concept is not new. It is almost as old as Adam. Believe it or not, it has a deeper spiritual emphasis; simply put in plain words -“good relationship”. Let me share my comments with three simple illustrations:
- Charles Dicken’s “The Christmas Carol”
- St. Paul and his co-workers
- King David and his Captains
Charles Dickens (1812-1870) knew the vicissitudes of human nature and characteristics as portrayed deftly in almost all his books, particularly in his novella “The Christmas Carol”. Dickens proved the importance of good relationship between the owner/master/proprietor and his servants/staff/employees. I am sure you have read or seen the movie, usually played during Christmas.
The main character, Ebenezer Scrooge, the proprietor of a business, was a miserly, morose, and a miserable old man. His relationship with his employees was deplorable. Then there was the timid but kind employee Bob Cratchit and his crippled son Tiny Tim. Scrooge through life experience coupled with strange dreams finally saw the light. His attitude towards his employees and vice-versa changed like an instant metamorphosis. This in turn not only influenced their respective families but extended to their entire community from a cloudy miserable grind to a bright and “merry Christmas” season. I am sure Branson, born in London, England must have read Dickens. “What the Dickens” !
St. Paul, previously known as Saul of Tarsus, was a “Pharisee of Pharisees” and a militant zealot. He was a privileged scholar to sit at the feet of Gamaliel, the popular Guru of that time. Then, everything changed while on the journey to Damascus to persecute and crush the Christian movement. He met Jesus, or Jesus met him. He realized that it was hard to kick against the pricks” (Acts 19). Remember he has just witnessed the cruel stoning and killing of Stephen, the first Christian martyr. Paul witnessed what religious barbaric stone throwers did as they kept their coats at Saul’s feet! Methinks Paul’s Damascus road experience truly started then and there!
He became a follower and later an apostle of Jesus, an excellent definer or proponent of Christianity. He, a good blend of a Jew, Roman citizen, Greek reader and now an Apostle, wrote fourteen books of the NT; possibly fifteen if attributed to as the writer of Hebrews. Paul, ah here we come to the employer/employee relationship, wrote a small epistle exhorting Philemon – a Christian proprietor – to show compassion to his runaway slave Onesimus. What a great example of a Christian “labour relations” of the first century ! This is not a criticism but I wonder if there has been sermons preached on Philemon during their difficult times of the Civil Rights movement and later the civil war in USA. I am sure there must have been.
Besides all the above mentioned gifts or achievements, I admire Paul’s “mix and balance of all virtues”. (In fact, this is where I got my blog theme “in search of moderation” – Philippians 4:4-5). The one I really like is in the last chapter of Romans. After all his theological expose, Paul ends with greeting the Believers, many of them ladies. He then came to Rufus’ mother and adds two simple but profound words “mine mother too”. Read for yourselves how tenderly and respectfully he addresses them. This is genuine relationship, not just preaching and teaching. Of course Paul’s 1 Corinthians 13 is a masterpiece of relationship!
King David knew the value of relationship. if asked a simple question about what made David one of the greatest characters in the Bible? The answers would be instantaneous:
- David and Goliath’
- Psalms particularly the 23rd Psalm
- lineage of Jesus “Son of David”,
- Killing a lion and a bear while protecting his father’s sheep etc. They are all correct responses. Allow me to set them aside for a moment and focus on one more- his relationship with his subordinates, particularly under a dire circumstance (2 Samuel 23:13-17). Here it is:
“And three of the thirty went down and came about harvest time to David at the cave of Adullam, when a band of Philistines was encamped in the Valley of Rephaim. David was then in the stronghold, and the garrison of the Philistines was then at Bethlehem. And David said longingly, ‘Oh, that someone would give me water to drink from the well of Bethlehem that is by the gate!’ Then the three mighty men broke through the camp of the Philistines and drew water out of the well of Bethlehem that was by the gate and carried and brought it to David. But he would not drink of it. He poured it out to the LORD and said, “Far be it from me, O LORD, that I should do this. Shall I drink the blood of the men who went at the risk of their lives? Therefore he would not drink it.”
Can you imagine the mutual relationship and its impact and admiration between king David and the three and from the three to the whole army and from the army to the entire nation, finally into the Holy Bible?
My attempt in this post with the fictional character Scrooge or the Apostle Paul or King David is to show that relationship is the combination of many virtues. I would have continued my theme to one more illustration as # 4 to the relationship of Jesus and his Disciples, you and me included.This would take volumes. Hence, in its stead, I will close with just three magnificent quotes:
- Proverbs 18:24 “A man who has friends must himself be friendly, But there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.”
- John 15:15-17 Jesus said “No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you”.
- John 17:21-23 Jesus, nearing the cross prayed: ”21 that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. 22 I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one— 23 I in them and you in me—so that they may be brought to complete unity.
Wow,that is some relationship! Hallelujah!
God bless, Danny Paul