“You can never complete this mission,” says Dale Partridge, cofounder of Sevenly and author of People Over Profit. “This isn’t something you achieve.” Partridge is talking about what it takes to become a “people over profit” leader — that is, a business leader who understands that their employees are people and that people should be valued over money.
But Partridge doesn’t mean to say that no one can become a people-over-profit leader. What he means is that being a people-over-profit leader is something that requires constant thought, attention, and effort. One does not simply become a people-over-profit leader one day and stay one forever. “It’s something you keep an eye on and work towards every day,” Partridge explains. “It’s a lifelong, business-long goal.”
Partridge’s book, People Over Profit, explores the seven beliefs of people-over-profit leaders — including tenets such as “Quality Speaks” and “Courage Sustains,” — while probing a provocative and fascinating question: What if valuing people over profit were actually more profitable?
I was intrigued by Partridge’s book when it arrived at my office — not only did the title and content strike me, but the book came with stickers and an artfully designed canvas bag; I’m sucker for a nice aesthetic impression — so I reached out to arrange an interview with him. Below is a transcript of that interview, minimally edited for style and clarity. The interview took place on May 6, 2015, one day after the official release of People Over Profit, which you can purchase here, if you’re interested.
Recruiter.com: What first pushed you to ask the question, “What if valuing people over profit were actually more profitable?”
Dale Partridge: I’ve been fired a lot from previous jobs, and I remember hating the way that businesses currently operated. When I became the owner of my own company, I recognized that when people were happier and when people were more engaged and felt not just cared for, but loved and appreciated, that the staff was just over-the-top generous with their time and happy to be there.
I always say it’s a failure of many leaders to say “We’re like a family here,” or “We are a family here.” That’s actually not true — because you’re not a family. You are a business, and so many people have bad connotations with family, so I want to be careful how I use that.
But what I do want to say is, the more we make people feel appreciated and show them that, the end of the day, we’ll choose them if it’s a choice between them and money, then there are components [to the business] that resemble family connections, or a really close community.
You still have to be profitable. My message is not people instead of profit. And I’m not a communist. I’m a total capitalist. The fine balance you have to strike is you can’t go out of business because you value people so much. That’s irresponsible.
But the pendulum is so far to the left: we’re over there and we don’t really care about people at all. There is no metric of valuing people on the stock market. The whole traditional business model has been built on, ‘I don’t care what you do, just make sure that you’re profitable.’
I think that work has become one of the only places that we really have community today. We spend much of our lives doing it. Work is life. If you hate your job, you hate your life. Having people love their jobs has become a valuable tool. Value people over profit in your heart and be responsible, and you’ll find out that your company is more profitable. It’s been shown time and time again by the greatest leaders around the world.
RC: How can we start to push the pendulum more toward a balance, as you say? How can we start to value people over profit — without losing sight of profit entirely?
SP: I think that it starts with having business leaders be empathetic. The most dangerous person in the world is a guy that says, “Hey man, it’s not personal — it’s just business.” That guy is an insane jerk. I would go back and say, “Okay, bro, what’s not personal in this life?”
Emotional leadership is what leaders need to be focusing on. That’s the ability to have that maturity to say, “Hey, you know what? I’m not going to look at this person as just part of a machine at my company. They’re a person.”
And I’m going to say, “How am I going to make this decision differently knowing that this guy that works for me is an employee, and he’s also a man, and a husband, and a father, and he has bills, and responsibilities, and he has his own flaws and brokenness, and he’s a great person in many areas, and he struggles in these other areas?”
That’s really hard. Making money is so freaking easy. Not for everybody, but I’ll tell you what: the guys who run big companies, they know how to make money. Like, good job, guy who figured out how to make money. You’ve now joined a club of, like, 200 million people who can do the same thing.
The difference in leadership is when you can do people well. That’s a whole other level of leadership where I go, “That guy is incredibly successful in his business, and people like him.” That’s a totally different level that I’m trying to help leaders today have a vision for and grasp.
RC: How have people reacted to the message so far?
DP: It’s been going great. The book’s only been out for a day and a half, but it’s an Amazon bestseller [At press time, the book is the No. 1 new release in "business ethics" on Amazon -- ed. note]. We probably sold about a thousand books just yesterday [Meaning May 5, 2015 -- the day the book launched. -- ed. note].
I think it’s a message that the business community has been looking for. It’s one of those things where people say, “You put words to my emotions.” That is what I’ve been hearing a lot.
Cutthroat business leaders and traditional capitalists on Wall Street are going to look at it and go, “Oh, this will never work. You’re not talking about capitalism, you’re talking about a commune!”
But the new generations, the millennial entrepreneurs — they’re going to build this stuff into their businesses. They’re really going to push the needle forward and create companies that value people over profit from the very beginning.