business news in context, analysis with attitude

Interesting interview in the San Francisco Chronicle with David Neeleman, the CEO of upstart JetBlue Airways.

Some management related excerpts:

  • “What you can't buy is the loyalty that comes through our dedicated crewmembers…Our people get profit-sharing checks. I got a report the other day that says that 84 percent of our people participate in our stock purchase program, where they can buy stock at a 15 percent discount…It amounts to 15 percent of pretax profits. Last year, that was almost $31 million that we gave back…It's proportionate to their salary. Last year, it amounted to 17 percent of their salary. Everyone who worked there got another 17 percent.”

  • Regarding possible unionization. “I love American history, and I've studied it. I understand we had a big need for unions in this country. You basically had unscrupulous people who were building companies on the backs of their people without giving them health care and without giving them other benefits. They made them take on hazardous jobs and work long hours.

    “We aren't one of those companies. We don't do that to our people.

    “We don't want a third party who may or may not have our best interests in mind or our crew members' best interests in mind because they may be serving a union of one of our competitors. They are trying to equalize us and take away our competitive advantage.

    “We are just interested in dealing with the people we're paying every day. We know federal law allows them to vote in a union at anytime, but we think we can resist that by talking to our own people and giving them enough upside.”

  • On training. “It starts with selecting the right person. It's really tough to change somebody. It's a people business.

    “We're not putting someone off in a factory and have them sitting there and making widgets all day long. We have a saying at JetBlue that you're either serving a customer or serving someone who is serving a customer.

    “So, everybody has this human contact. We have over 100,000 resumes we receive every year for only 1,600 positions, so we can be very choosy about who we pick to work for the company.

    “When they walk out of training, they make good pay and they are an upside for the company. We want our people to want to come to work.”

  • “We focus a lot on supervisors. We have one supervisor for every 80 people. I can't know 7,000 people. But I tell the supervisors, "You can know 80 people. You can know who they're married to, you can know who their kids are, what their challenges are." They know we will deal with their issues, make them feel like there is a personal touch at the company.

KC's View:
Good stuff.

We love the focus on appropriate compensation and generous profit sharing…the willingness to coach people on an ongoing basis…and the understanding that the people who work for the company are assets, not costs.

Lessons that we all can learn from.