I’m an unabashed promoter of Southwest Airlines. As someone who travels a great deal, I find the company’s customer service, pricing, and all-around flying experience to be the best in the industry. Amazingly, in 2009, Southwest continued its profitability streak for the 37th consecutive year, a remarkable feat amidst the worst recession most of us can remember. A review of their 2009 “One” Report helps define what makes Southwest so different: Its focus or passion in three areas – performance, people, and our planet.
In terms of performance, the company reduced overhead by eliminating the bottom least productive 10% of their flights. They also increased revenue with their early-bird check-in program, and trimmed costs where possible by offering voluntary early retirement, freezing overall comp and executives’ salaries, avoiding fleet growth, and conserving jet fuel.
According to Southwest, “With a Warrior Spirit, a Servant’s Heart, and Fun-Luving Attitude, our employees carried out the mission of Southwest Airlines – dedication to the highest quality customer service, delivered with a sense of warmth, friendliness, individual pride, and Company Spirit.” Even in a recession, they donated $11.6 million and more than 45,000 employee volunteer hours to charity.
Finally, Southwest, like many other corporations, takes its green initiative seriously.
How hard could it be to follow their example in your business?
- Eliminate the bottom 10% of clients, customers, and activities.
- Put a hold on employee count and management salaries.
- Reduce overhead and trim where possible.
- Continue to give, knowing that it always comes back to you.
- Define your culture as one with a “Warrior Spirit, Servant’s Heart, and Fun-Luving Attitude.”
Of course, if this were as easy as it sounds, all the other airlines would do it too. Not surprisingly, just about every one of Southwest’s competitors is unprofitable, horrible to fly on, and certainly not having any fun. I’ll continue to fly Southwest, own its stock, and preach its way of business because I believe in them – as do millions of others.
Note: On page seven of Southwest’s report, you can see the numerous 2009 awards and accolades, including its rank as the seventh most admired company in the world and the world’s most admired airline company; according to Fortune Magazine. Not surprisingly, they also have the highest customer satisfaction rating and the best on-time performance of any airline. Interestingly, Alaskan Airlines comes in second in both categories and they have adopted many of the Southwest ways of doing business.