Peak, by Chip Conley

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Subtitled “How Great Companies Get Their Mojo from Maslow”, this is a book applying the ideas of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs to running a business. Maslow’s hierarchy states that people have different needs, but they can’t even think about certain needs until more basic ones are considered. We have to have food and shelter and safety before we ever start thinking about friends and family. We have to have friends and family before we worry about fulfillment, etc.

Conley applied these ideas in running his hotel management company, Joie de Vivre. He says that everybody involved in a business, from employees and customers to investors, have a hierarchical set of needs. For employees, the baseline need is for good benefits, a fair salary and to be treated well. But that’s not enough to get employees to be loyal participants in the business. Once those basic needs are satisfied, they have social needs – they need recognition from their peers and from their management. If all of their basic and social needs are met, then they look for meaning in their job, where it’s not just a job, but a calling, sharing the company’s mission.

He goes through similar pyramids for customers and investors, and observes that only by reaching the top levels of each pyramid do you get fanatic employees, fanatically loyal customers (Apple), and fanatically loyal investors. And getting those fanatics is a great place for a business to be.

These ideas make a lot of sense to me. As I mentioned at Thanksgiving, I’m fortunate that I’m in a position where I can worry about that top level of the employee pyramid, where I’m looking for meaning in my work. It also helps explain why I’ve been dissatisfied at other jobs in the past, despite getting paid well and having autonomy – I either didn’t feel I was getting the recognition I deserved within the company, or I didn’t share in the company’s mission.

While there aren’t any radically new ideas here, this book presents a good framework to think about the issues associated with running a company. It’s not the answer, but I like the viewpoint it presents, and it’s one I’ve referred to several times since I started reading this book.

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