“Always treat your employees exactly as you want them to treat your best customers.”

Stephen R. Covey

It’s often said that if you can go on a trip with someone, you can pretty much handle anything together. Well, I’d like to propose a new test: try running a business with them for two decades. That’s right, twenty years. That’s longer than most Hollywood marriages, and certainly longer than my endeavor to become a morning person.

Enter Chris. Chris wasn’t just any business partner. He was the kind of guy for whom a hearty laugh made him raise an eyebrow, and too much merrymaking made him worry we were losing focus. If grumpiness were an Olympic sport, Chris would have been a gold medalist. But here’s the thing: behind that seemingly impenetrable grimace was a heart of gold.

We embarked on our entrepreneurial journey with the kind of naive enthusiasm you’d expect from two people who had no idea what they were getting into. I brought the optimism, and Chris, predictably, brought the skepticism. It was a match made in business heaven.

Over the years, we faced our fair share of challenges. There were times when our profits looked more like the EKG of a man who’d just run a marathon after a three-day fast. But through it all, we had one guiding principle: people first, profits second.

Now, I know what you’re thinking. “That’s a lovely sentiment, but how did you actually make it work?” Well, it wasn’t always easy. For instance, when we had to decide between giving our employees a well-deserved raise or splurging on those sleek, modern desks from the latest office design magazine, Chris would raise an eyebrow and comment, “Are these desks for doing business or launching people into space?” I’d chuckle, “Why not a bit of both?”

But in a move that was pure Chris, he volunteered to build our office desks. Yes, you read that right. The man who’d raise an eyebrow at too much merrymaking was now in the workshop, sawdust flying, determined to craft the perfect workspace for our team. The results? Let’s just say our office had a unique, rustic charm. And while the desks might not have had the sleek lines of a designer brand, they were built with love, dedication, and a touch of Chris’s signature grumpiness.

Chris taught me that while profits can buy you a lot of things (like, say, slightly used office decor), they can’t buy loyalty, dedication, or the kind of camaraderie that comes from knowing someone’s got your back. And let’s be honest, in the grand scheme of things, isn’t that what really matters?

Stephen Boudreau serves as VP of Product + Content Marketing at Virtuous Software. For over two decades, he has helped nonprofits leverage the digital space to grow their impact. To that end, Stephen co-founded RaiseDonors, a platform that provides nonprofits with technology and experiences that remove barriers to successful online fundraising. He is an avid (but aging) soccer player, audiobook enthusiast, and the heavily-disputed UNO champion of his household.

Copyright ©2024 Stephen Boudreau.