Book review: Nuts!

Nuts!, Southwest Airlines crazy recipe for business and personal success is the story of Southwest Airlines. Lars Pind told me about this book, and I have to agree: It’s a joy to read about a company that values freedom, creativity, people and, yes, love.

If your driving principles are love and fun, can you still make a profit in todays harsh business world? Well, here’s a few stats on Southwest:

  • They’re the only airline in America who have had a profit every year since 1973
  • They’ve grown from 3 planes and 250 employees in 1973 to 200 planes and 25.000 employees in 2002
  • They service twice as many customers pr. employee as any other airline
  • They have never mass-fired employees
  • They have the highest customer ratings

So there!

The book is both a history of Southwest and a walkthrough of their values and how they do business. And it’s a wonderful read. I found myself laughing out loud many times, eg. when Herb Kelleher, the charismatic CEO, arm-wrestled the CEO of another airline over the right to an advertising slogan. They thought it’d be better than going to court over it, and turned it into a media event called “malice in Dallas” (and got a lot of free publicity out of it, by the way).

My favourite section in the book, is about how Southwest party. They seem to have big and small parties all the time, and they’re not above throwing a christmas party in july or september, if that’s the only time it’ll fit in the calendar. They use these celebrations to reinforce their culture, to keep their shared history alive, and to have fun.

The message of the book must be that Soutwest’s amazing success doesn’t come in spite of their focus on people, love and fun – but because of it. Their culture has resulted directly in a company that people feel proud to work for. Where employees feel like famliy member. Where many employees are willing to walk that extra mile, and where astounding acts of generosity and kindness seem to be the order of the day.

You can read the book simply as an entertaining story, but it is also full of concrete advice on how to achieve some of the same result. It’s not in a how-to format, but it’s there.

Soutwest shows us what business should be like, and the thought that Southwest are the exception and not the rule is a little sad. Let’s change that!