Not Your Typical CEO

author: Lawrence K. Fish, The MIT Corporation
published: June 29, 2011,   recorded: October 2005,   views: 3025

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The gods of commerce must have blessed Lawrence Fish, for not only has he transformed a small Rhode Island bank into the third most profitable company in New England, but he has done so while religiously pursuing policies of decency and fairness. Fish looks to his own credo of “customers, colleagues and community” as primary explanation for Citizens’ success. Forget a “focus on technology or finance or strategy,” he says – “we focus on people.” As a service business, there’s little else on which to achieve “a sustainable competitive advantage.” This means, for instance, that all 27,000 Citizens employees should treat customers as “we would like to be treated, and all the time.” This means returning phone calls and emails within 24 hours. Because you “cannot have happy customers and unhappy employees,” Fish labors mightily to make Citizens “the best place to work in the world.” The company subsidizes workers’ pet insurance; provides $1500 tax free in case of any calamity; help with down payments on a first home; and bridge pay for military reservists. These benefits “touch people’s hearts” and also help boost the bank’s image. To further cement the tie between business and community, all Citizens employees volunteer in the place where they live or work. They must also abide by a strict system of ethics. Fish believes that if you make your company a “joyful place to work,” do right by your customers and community, “the profits come back.”

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