14 May Serving Customers and Employees well
This is a part of a series of stories on companies who are attempting to practice Servant Leadership as a way of doing business. The Center for Sharing works with businesses and non-profits in the northwest who want to be part of a society that serves its people well. Inland Tarp is one of these servant led institutions.
It’s Friday at Inland Tarp. Heath and Freddie are on their way out of the office, and I gave them a call. One of the things that first impressed me was their willingness to take the time to talk when most people are in a hurry to get out of the office. I was on an investigative mission to learn what the work environment was like at Inland Tarp. I had recently met Glen Knopp, the business owner, who invited the Center for Sharing to help him facilitate a Servant Leadership class, because he is seeking ways to continue implementing servant leadership at all levels of his company. I asked Glen if he would share how well they were doing on implementing the values of Servant Leadership in his company, but he was reluctant—a mark of a true humble servant leader who didn’t want to “toot his own horn.” I asked him if instead I could talk to his managers to get a report card, which is why I talked to Heath and Freddie.
Here’s what I learned about Inland Tarp. The first thing Heath mentioned was their biggest concern: their employees and their families. Early on, they learned that a happy worker is a good worker. A few of the things they do to ensure their employees are happy include a hardship fund, scholarships for kids of employees and continuing education for people working there.
Heath shared with me that he had worked at two different companies before Inland Tarp and there was a noticeable difference when he joined the staff there. He told me that Glen insists on input from all levels of the company, with a firm belief that the best ideas can come from anywhere. Heath mentioned that there were times early on when he felt like management should have just made a decision, but he has come to the realization that valuing the input of all stakeholders, despite taking more time.
When I asked him about Glen, he was quick to praise him—“Glen is humble, diffuses praises and gives credit to God. He’s always caring and gracious.”
Freddie has been at Inland Tarp longer than Heath, and what he had to share was very similar to what I heard from Heath. He shared how he is happy and proud of the environment they’ve been able to create. “God guides us to be servants to our employees and customers.”
One thing that stood out to me that Freddie mentioned was their care for the customers they serve. He told the story of a customer whose daughter had Leukemia who they have been praying for. They meet as a staff to pray for customers like this one. “We believe prayer is the answer—we want to let God minister through prayer.”
Inland Tarp quietly supports various non-profits in the community. One that Freddie mentioned was a men’s ministry that provides furniture to people in need who live in Moses Lake, in addition to several youth organizations.
It sounds like Inland Tarp is doing a good job if you apply the test of a servant led institution: “The difference manifests itself in the care taken by the servant-first to make sure that other people’s highest priority needs are being served. The best test, and difficult to administer, is: Do those served grow as persons? Do they, while being served, become healthier, wiser, freer, more autonomous, more likely themselves to become servants? And, what is the effect on the least privileged in society? Will they benefit or at least not be further deprived?“