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Relational ROI

Why Treating Others Well is Good for Business

by Troy Haas, President and CEO of Brownell

We live in an increasingly challenging, often coarse world where power and money seem to rule over kindness and civility. It’s no secret that trust among our peers and our institutions is at an all time low, declining from 75% to under 20% in the last few decades according to Pew Research. The good news is that we do not have to succumb to the norm. Regardless of the industry you are in, we can have successful, rewarding careers and businesses anchored in treating people well paralleled with doing great work.

Rooted in Good Business

Rooted in Good Business

I have been so inspired by the examples in the travel industry and Brownell’s history; examples that combine business practices anchored in treating others with respect while also expecting the highest levels of performance.  Founded in 1887, Brownell is now a 137-year-old company that has seen its share of challenging times. We have overcome enormous obstacles and thrived through changes by remaining anchored in a legacy of treating others well dating back to our founders.  And, we have remained best in class by expecting excellence in everything we do, from planning itineraries to partnering with suppliers around the world.  Looking back on Brownell’s history, one of the best examples is Jennie Brownell: wife of the second-generation Brownell family member, Professor George Brownell. In the early 1900s, Brownell organized escorted international tours, with Jennie spearheading the business. A woman with an enterprising mindset running an international business from a small town in the South was practically unheard of at the time (but that’s another story!)

A Legacy in Treating Others Well

Throughout her time running the business, Jennie lived out the value of treating her suppliers well, especially when things got difficult. Famously, in 1914 she was escorting a group of Americans in Europe. Berlin was a stop on the itinerary and tensions were high with the threat of war when the group arrived. Jennie went to the American Embassy to get updates where she was told war would be declared on Germany that night, and to get her group out of the country immediately! 
Jennie quickly took her group to the outskirts of the city to a modest inn (not the usual Brownell fare!) to catch a train out of the country. In the early morning hours, she managed to get them on the train bound for Amsterdam, knowing Berlin’s station would be in chaos with the declaration of war. Figuring their journey was going to be a complicated one, Jennie took the step of tipping the porter that early morning in advance with gold coins, asking for his personal care to ensure their bags got to their destination. And despite changing trains four times on the journey, when they arrived, all their bags were there. Jennie was confident that her treatment of that porter made all the difference and ensured everyone in her group made it home with their luggage. Her legacy of treating others well is one we cherish and work to continue at Brownell, even in our modern era.

Aligning Our Values with Our Partnerships

Today, we see the legacy of Brownell carried out in our community and through the partnerships we form with suppliers. We are fortunate to work with suppliers who set high expectations for service and experience, yet also maintain a high standard for treating others well. One of our partners who lives out this mantra is Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts. Their Chairman Isadore Sharp famously anchored his team in the Golden Rule, a standard of human dignity shared by many faith traditions. Mr. Sharp’s emphasis on fostering good relationships at a company as deluxe and influential as Four Seasons inspired me many years ago as it reflects the importance of treating others well in business. Despite a company’s size or structure, we can have a high-performing community and team while incorporating processes and systems that respect our partners, team members, and clients.

Changing Our Mindset

So many of us in travel see wonderful examples of companies or individuals who have found a way to be highly successful in this cutthroat and mediainfluenced business environment while treating others well and doing so as an intentional business strategy. Can hospitality and travel as an industry lead by example in soothing the jangled nerves of our world with this business practice? I believe so! I am thankful for those who have inspired me and our team to live out these values in our company and our industry. I genuinely believe adopting the mindset of treating others with respect and kindness is not just good practice but has the power to positively impact your business.