Businesses Shouldn’t Focus on Money in 2016. Here’s Why

“On the face of it, shareholder value is the dumbest idea in the world.” — Jack Welch

For those of you who aren’t familiar with Jack Welch, he’s most noted for being the Chairman and CEO of General Electric between 1981–2001, during which time the company’s value rose by 4,000%. General Electric is perennially named one of the world’s top 10 most admired companies, and number 1 in their industry. So when Jack speaks, people listen.

But Mr. Welch isn’t the only person who holds this view that making more money for company owners shouldn’t be a company’s strategy. Sir Richard Branson, Virgin Group’s magnate who’s been responsible for the more than 400 companies the group has created throughout the years, holds a similar belief. As does Herb Kelleher, co-founder, Chairman Emeritus, and former CEO of Southwest Airlines (also a perennial top 10 in Fortune’s list of most admired companies).

Warren Buffet of Berkshire Hathaway (a third perennial top 10), Walt Disney of The Walt Disney Company (a fourth), Steve Jobs of Apple (a fifth), and so many other leaders who’ve created the world’s top, most respected, most successful brands all hold this common belief that a business’ priority should not be centered around bringing in more money.

A business’ top priority should be delighting customers. It should focus on giving customers more, on providing them with the best experience available. And if that best experience isn’t currently available, your business should create it.

Think about Walt Disney and the entire Disney brand. It’s all about “making dreams true.” When you watch a Disney film, and certainly when you walk through Disney World, you experience the magic. It’s fantastic! Each year, Disney World raises their prices on tickets, food, souvenirs, etc. And each year, they have more and more people excitedly pay for the experience because that’s what consumers value — the experience.

When Virgin Atlantic first started, they had one plane, with one route, and every one of the experts thought they were idiots. But Virgin provided an (at the time) unheard of member lounge with complimentary everything. Food, drinks, the whole nine!

Everyone thought this was crazy, that there was no way spending so much money on these “frivolities” could possibly lead to a successful venture, especially with so many well established players in the industry. But people quickly decided they’d rather pay more for an enjoyable travel experience (including “Upper Class” service at discounted rates, and complimentary limos to/from the airport), where they actually felt like humans rather than a piece of data being pushed through a funnel.

That was in 1984, and more than 30 years later, people hold the same disposition. Customers look for great service. Customers look for friendly faces, for helpful associates, for businesses who treat them like royalty, and for the best experiences available.

Instead of focusing on money in 2016, you have got to be focusing on delighting your customers and users!

All of these companies and leaders mentioned above, and dozens of others, focus on creating an aura around their businesses and products that people want to experience — not something that they just have to have to get through their day. That’s why these businesses have become some of the most successful and perennially most admired companies in the world!

If customers know you care about your bottom line, they won’t be your customers. As the new year begins, and plans are set in motion, you need to focus on delighting customers and providing the best experience possible.

If you were a customer, what would you want?

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Originally published at on January 4, 2016.