A CEO's Employees Bought Him a Tesla. Here's What Made Him Such a Valued Leader.

The way your business treats its people can translate directly to your bottom line.

learn more about Shoaib Aslam

By Shoaib Aslam

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

One of my favorite sayings has always been, "Don't step on anyone on your way up. You might need them on the way down."

The only problem with that maxim is that it's a tad moralizing. In my experience, people should be prioritized simply because it's good business. And because it leads directly to a better bottom line.

When referring to people, I mean both work associates (that includes employees, business partners, business associates, etc.) and customers.

Here are three ways to prioritize people that can have a direct impact on your business's survival.

Keep customer-feedback channels open

Zoom's meteoric story of success is not only one about pivoting and scaling. It is also a lesson about people.

If there's one thing Zoom CEO Eric Yuan did right from the outset, it was to keep the user-feedback channels wide open.

In Entrepreneur's December 2020 Startup Magazine, Yuan said that team members didn't ever need to change the way they received feedback because they had been doing it correctly from the start. They were also sensitive to customers' "pain points" and made an effort to understand their difficulties.

By keeping these feedback channels open, Zoom was able to stay on top of customer requirements and so consistently deliver an improved product to their ever-increasing number of users.

Related: How to Really Hear and Use Customer Feedback

Your employees are your company's lifeblood

Across my businesses, we use a combination of freelancers and staffers to get out the products and services we need. Regardless of whether someone is a nine-to-fiver or if he or she only does the occasional gig for us, I try and emphasize relationships above all else.

This can translate directly to a company's bottom line. And nobody demonstrates this better than the CEO of Gravity Payments, Dan Price.

Price has a history of putting his people first. And the loyalty of his people to him is the stuff of legends —or at least the makings of a great Hollywood biopic.

During the 2020 pandemic, his employees volunteered to take pay cuts to keep the company afloat after he explained the company's pandemic-driven losses to them. They also once pooled their money together and bought him a Tesla.

No moralizing lesson is required here to show the business value of putting people first.

Related: Happy Employees Create Happy Customers

Being small is an advantage

Small businesses have one key advantage over larger ones: They can leverage personal relationships while building their brand.

It's all about the people.

The Yes Way Rosé co-founders proved this by building an entire brand on the back of one personal Instagram account. That account started off as something they were doing for fun. It was all about helping people and providing something useful for them.

Once that Instagram account had five-digit followers, the duo started making things happen.

Even now, they still keep things small, with the two co-founders being the only full-time employees.

In the case of young entrepreneur Madison Semarjian, who created a "Tinder-for-Clothing" app, only to be faced with a Goliath competitor shortly after, it was her ability to connect directly with users, one-one-one, that kept her in the game despite the competition.

After a bug in the app led to people buying out-of-stock items, Semarjian connected directly with users, explained what had happened and thereby created some of her most loyal customers.

This circles back to Eric Yuan's approach of always listening to customer feedback.

Related: 7 Ways to Turn Instagram Followers into Customers for Life

The world runs on the backs of people

Despite the enthusiasm for the digital revolution in a post-pandemic world, we must not forget that people do best when surrounded by other people.

Businesses are built by people, run by people and exist to serve people.

Mathematically, it could be stated as follows: people = money or happy people = lots of money.

People are more important than a company's bottom line because people are that bottom line. Pushing sales without pushing customer service and happy employees isn't very sustainable business.

By focusing on people, both staffers and customers, entrepreneurs can build a solid foundation of loyalty and satisfaction, which will keep their houses steady even during shaky times.

Shoaib Aslam

Entrepreneur Leadership Network Contributor

Founder & CEO of Start My Business, Serial Entrepreneur

Serial entrepreneur Shoaib Aslam is passionate about helping startups. His one-stop business-services company, Start My Business, helps businesses with idea validation, mentorship, business-software tools, design, marketing, accounting, funding, legal assistance, SEO, branding and much more.

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