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Columns

January 13, 2014

LYONS: Higher job satisfaction leads to better economy

To paraphrase Tolstoy, every successful small business shares the same traits. And they all begin with high-quality employees. I’m thinking of three local establishments where I’ve traded for years: an auto repair garage, a dentist’s office, and a one-size-fits-all country store where I buy cattle and horse feed.

The aptly named “Toad Suck One-Stop” carries everything from crickets and minnows to motor oil, pain remedies, kitty litter and homemade sandwiches. If you get up early enough, they’ll even fix you breakfast while somebody else loads feed sacks into your truck. (Toad Suck is a place name designating a long-ago ferryboat stop on the Arkansas River.)

It’s much the same at George Jett’s auto garage down in Little Rock; also at my dentist’s, whose name is Lamar Lane. The first thing you notice is familiar faces. People who work at these places stay for years. And they do so because they’re well-paid, earn decent benefits, and are treated respectfully. So they like their jobs, take pride in their work, and are glad to see familiar customers.

Now I’m not going to lie that I love going to the dentist. But I do like feeling among friends, even if it means hearing Dr. Lane carry on about his LSU Tigers. (Because my wife was born in Baton Rouge, where her daddy played ball, I get a double dose.)

Something else: How a business treats employees also tends to be a reliable predictor of how they treat customers. Dr. Lane does high-quality work and stands by it. If a crown breaks, he replaces it for free without asking if you were shelling pecans with your teeth.

My man George Jett hires good mechanics, values their skills, and guarantees their work. If the rattle’s still there, he’ll drive the vehicle around the block and then put it back on the lift to figure out why — also at no additional charge.

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