Those who have read Paul Spiegelman's previous book, Why is Everyone Smiling? The Secret Behind Passion, Productivity, and Profit, already know that the company he co-founded with his two brothers in 1985, Beryl, is a very special human community. Almost everyone who works for the firm is smiling and he explains why.
As I began to read Smile Guide, in which two dozen of those workers explain why, I was again reminded of my favorite passage in Lao-Tzu's Tao Te Ching that describes the leadership and management style among those who have supervisory responsibilities at Beryl:
"Learn from the people
Plan with the people
Begin with what they have
Build on what they know
Of the best leaders
When the task is accomplished
The people will remark
We have done it ourselves."
What we have in this volume are insights as well as "perspectives on culture, loyalty, and profit" provided by 24 people who work at Beryl. As Spiegelman notes, they "speak for 350 coworkers who, having been given a purpose and the opportunity, are responsible for creating and sustaining the company." It should be noted that Beryl's clients are more than 500 hospitals throughout the United States to which it provides outsourced customer service solutions in the healthcare industry. Beryl has turned a commodity business (call centers) into a service for which its customers are willing to pay a premium. As Spiegelman observes, "Our secret is to connect our culture to our customers and, in turn, be able to invest our profits back into our people to give them better resources to do their jobs."
I now ask you to pretend that you are visiting Beryl as I once did and Paul Spiegelman comes out to the reception area to greet you. During the next several hours, he introduces you to several of his colleagues. In effect, that is how the material in the book is presented. Here are specific examples of what you would learn from a series of conversations as revealed in the first three of eleven chapters:
In Chapter 2, Glenda Dearion, Andrew Pryor, and Maricela Rodriguez explain how Beryl measures "fit as well as skill, and the relative importance of each," when recruiting, interviewing, and hiring the people it needs.
Then in Chapter 3, Bob Willey, Jhan Knebel, and Jennifer McDonald explain how Beryl has established and continues to nourish a "learning environment" for which training develops leadership at all levels and in all areas, ensuring meanwhile that training that "teaches" what Beryl "preaches," and during which enthusiasm is "contagious."
And then in Chapter 4, Jennifer Mills, Lara Morrow, and Lance Shipp explain how and why communication at Beryl "must be done in multiple mediums and with great repetition." As Spiegelman explains, "This isn't about announcements...it is about consist two-way dialogue" between and among those who "always know why they're there doing what they do, how it connects to [Beryl's] vision, and what's in it for them" if they help the company - and each of its clients -- get there.
Those who read this book will appreciate the provision of a detailed "Tips and Tools" section at the conclusion of most chapters. However, obviously, the primary purpose of this material is NOT to encourage cosmetic imitation of what Beryl is and does; rather, to help leaders in other companies to learn how what Beryl is and does can guide and inform their own efforts to make their companies more values-based, to make the world better place, and meanwhile to enhance the lives of the people who work for them. Oscar Wilde once advised, "Be yourself. Everyone else is taken." As Beryl demonstrates each day, that is as true of companies as it is of individuals.