What Makes the Best Employees

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My father was managing a liquor store/bar when I was born. By the time I was 11, he’d become the owner. The summer before 6th grade, while my friends went to day camps or swam… I “worked” at my dad’s store instead. Granted an 11 year old really can’t do much in a liquor store – I stocked a shelf or two, and fiddled with the Lotto machine when no one was paying that close attention. What I did more than any menial labor was study. Ahh the retail world.

My father had spent his entire adult life working in it; first as cashier and salesman, ultimately climbing his way into managing and ultimately owning a business. Like many suburban kids, I was in awe of his journey. Moreso, I was determined to figure out what lessons my dad could impart on me. To see how the means justified his ends.

My father and I would wake up at 5:45 in the morning, and take a leisurely drive from our south suburban home down I-94 to the south side of Chicago. Long before insane traffic would clog it, these early morning commutes offered up some of those life-lessons I not-so-secretly clung to as a child. I recall vividly asking my father “What makes a good employee?”, hoping he’d divulge some industry secret I’d later use to secure my future fortunes. He thought briefly, and answered directly:

“Honesty, loyalty, and dependability.”

Yes, far more than any specific skill – like being able to count back change correctly, or having a sunny disposition – what drove my father to retain his employees came down to three very specific conceits.

Honesty. To my father, it was often a literal interpretation. “An honest employee doesn’t steal from the register. They don’t swipe merchandise. They take money, and don’t give out favors.” As I would grow up, and into professional world, I reinterpreted my dad’s advice. Honestly to the modern office, means to stand by one’s word. To accept responsibility of assigned tasks, and to carry them out without subterfuge. An honest employee doesn’t misrepresent their skills or knowledge – rather, they communicate clearly when they have a problem, and always seek to rectify it rather than cover it up. An honest employee owns their position, and accepts both the praise and plunder of their wins and losses for their company. Their successes are your successes. Their failures are your failures.

Loyalty. “A loyal employee doesn’t moonlight. They come in, do their job, and I don’t have to worry about them.” In a less-than-stellar neighborhood, a loyal employee under my father’s employ would exude a sense of ownership in the work they completed for the store. In our modern business world – the world where sidehustles are second nature to each and every millennial – loyalty is truly hard to come by. Heck, I myself have held more positions in my 15 years as a professional than both my mother and father combined. And while every twist and turn in my career has often been of necessity (as I have long been a startupjourneyman), I have always remained loyal to those who I’ve worked for. I believe in never burning a bridge. You never know when the right relationship will come back to benefit you both.

Dependability. My father defined this strictly in terms of adhering to a posted schedule. Does the employee show up when I tell them to? Do they stay through their shift, or do they try to cut out early? In retail, these are key metrics that drive performance. Elsewhere throughout the business world, the conceit is just as important. A dependable employee is one who takes on the tasks they are given and can be trusted to see them to completion. They meet expectations, and even attempt to deliver results beyond the expected. They have drive, which combined with honesty and loyalty, creates an invaluable asset to a company. Remember: it doesn’t matter what widget you manufacture or service you sell if the people behind the desks are not worthy of your brand.

I took my father’s three word answer to heart. When I got my first job – as an order taker (and later delivery driver) for a local pizza chain – I was hired becauseI told the owner that I would strive to be honest, loyal, and dependable. I’ve used the same answer in nearly every job interview I’ve had, and the response have never dulled. When you hire someone to become part of your business, you are either adding to the foundation that holds it together, or you are placing a weak patch that won’t bear weight the second you’ll need it. And it’s these three ideals…. Honesty, Loyalty, and Dependability that DreamCSX has used with every single person we’ve brought into the fold.

Because if we’re not honest with you, if we are not loyal to you, if you cannot depend on us? Then neither of us are working to achieve the dream. We’re merely sleeping through it.

Marc Fishman is proud to be DreamCSX’s Marketing Dreamer.