How to Profit from Employee and Customer Love – Staying on the Path Less Traveled

If you are reading this week’s post in the US, Canada, Mexico, the United Kingdom, France, or Australia, you are likely celebrating Valentine’s day (for those in other parts of the world, Valentine’s Day is a celebration of love). Thus, I’m providing a post about loving your team members and customers.

I’ve always believed:

Business, like life, should be built on service and love.

Throughout graduate school and early in my career, I had professors and supervisors who talked about the value of servant leadership or customer service excellence – but no one talked about LOVE!

That all changed for me in 1993 when I read a book by James Autry titled Love and Profit – The Art of Caring Leadership.

James started his book this way:

First, a few straightforward statements about some of my beliefs regarding work and management:

1) Work can provide the opportunity for spiritual, personal, and financial growth. If it doesn’t, we’re wasting far too much of our lives on it.

2) The workplace is rapidly becoming a new neighborhood, and American businesspeople are helping make it happen.

3) Good management is largely a matter of love. Or, if you’re uncomfortable with that word, call it caring because proper management involves caring for people, not manipulating them.

Throughout Love and Profit, James showed how caring for others increased business profitability, and he offered strategies for demonstrating team member and customer “love.”

According to James, “while there are no rules, here are five uncomplicated guidelines that may help.”

  1. Avoid “inbox” management
  2. Care about yourself
  3. Be honest
  4. Trust your employees
  5. If you don’t care about management, get out before it’s too late.

Since “caring about yourself” and “being honest” are relatively self-explanatory concepts, let’s focus on what Autry means by “inbox” management, trusting employees, and getting out of management (and I’d add all service functions) if you genuinely don’t care about people.

For Autry, “inbox” management is a passive relationship style, whereby people wait for problems and issues to appear in their inbox – rather than getting out and taking a proactive interest in others. The antidote to “inbox” management is “walkabout” management (the practice where you get out of your seat to observe and talk to others).

In my words,

Love, in the context of business, requires curiosity and sustained effort to learn about the wants, needs, ideas, and interests of those you serve.

Autry suggests that many leaders, companies, and government agencies act in ways that leave people feeling distrusted.

I put it this way,

Love and trust follow the rule of reciprocity. This means trust and love can’t be demanded. These qualities must be given to be received. If you want employees or customers to trust you, you must trust them first.

Most of us have encountered team members or customers who’ve abused our trust, and those experiences can make us reluctant to extend trust in the future. However, my experience suggests it’s better to assume positive intent (and manage exceptions) rather than assume negative intent and have that negativity reciprocated.

Finally, Autry suggests that there are many ways to contribute to the world. If you don’t love working with people, love yourself enough to pursue a career with limited interpersonal contact.

May you experience the link between love and profit, and in the process, may you profit others through your willingness to serve well.

Please get in touch with me at, so we can explore how to increase team member and customer love in your business.

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Joseph A. Michelli, Ph.D. is a professional speaker and chief experience officer at The Michelli Experience. A New York Times #1 bestselling author, Dr. Michelli and his team consult with some of the world’s best customer experience companies.

Follow on Twitter: @josephmichelli

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