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Freiberg on Southwest Airlines’

Nuts! Southwest Airlines’ Crazy Recipe for Business and Personal Success” is based on what can be referred to as the success story of Southwest Airlines. It is a guide towards how to achieve success in business, harsh as the business world today may appear to be.

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Southwest Airlines is the largest airline in the United States. Situated in Dallas, Texas it had the largest number of passengers carried in the world domestically as of December 31, 2007. Other successes include that the airline maintains the third-largest fleet of aircraft in all of the world’s commercial airlines.

In a report dated July 12th, 2008, the airline operates three thousand five hundred flights approximately per day and it is known to have carried more customers than any other U.S airline for both domestic and international passengers and it posted a profit for the thirty-fifth consecutive year in the month of January the year 2008 making it one of the world’s most profitable airlines.

The book tempts one to look at the history of Southwest Airlines which originally served only three cities in Texas in 1967 that is Dallas, Houston, and San Antonio. As is familiar in the business world, other airlines of the time took legal action in a bid to keep Air Southwest on the ground but it eventually succeeded when the supreme court gave the airline a go-ahead to fly in Texas in 1970.

That legal fight story was later turned into a children’s book ‘Gumwrappers and Goggles’ by Winifred Barnum and then adapted into a stage musical ‘Show your Spirit’ which was sponsored by Southwest Airlines and played in the towns serviced by the airline. This appears a lot like the idea of the airline’s founder and CEO Herb Kelleher who not only strives to build a dedicated and productive workforce but is also determined to make flying be a fun-filled experience for everyone one who flies with Southwest Airlines.

The book is divided into four parts; The first, A legend Takes Off: The Southwest Spirit is born, shows how the Airline fought to get off the ground and of the innovations that came about even in the midst of the fires of tough competition and how the airline was finally able to create a corporate personality. It tells of how the small regional airline prospered in the midst of deregulation within the industry, a number of recessions, and an oil crisis to boot to become the world’s safest and most ‘punctual’ airline. Apart from its first year, the airline has all along enjoyed profitability and massive stock growth.

In the second part, Basics Gone Nuts: Doing Business Basics with a Southwest Twist, the reader is taken through the founder’s secrets of success in Hiring for Attitude and training for Skills. One gets an overview of the company’s recruitment and hiring practices which are built on the idea that humor has the ability to help people or company employees to thrive during change, to remain creative and active under pressure, to work more effectively at all times, to be able to play more enthusiastically and in the process be able to stay healthier.

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The Human resources department looks at employees as more than just resources within the organization but as real people whose satisfaction is valued and respected. This explains why Southwest airlines hire for attitude and trains for skills and also for the reason that fun can counterbalance the stress associated with hard work and competition.

Kelleher emphasizes that life is too short, hard, and serious for most people especially business people for them not to be humorous about it which is the reason fun in Southwest Airlines is taken very seriously among the working crew or staff and the airline’s clients. The idea behind it is that nowadays, most people work smarter, harder, and faster than ever as a result of the changes that need to be embraced especially in the business world. This has resulted in people losing touch with the lighter side of life. Most organizations expect their employees to be serious and businesslike and follow a lot of bureaucratic practices like checking the employee’s personal baggage at the door before getting into the office. In such organizations, humor is viewed as unprofessional and reserve for children and not professionals.

In Southwest airlines, humor is encouraged since they believe that failure to do so in the workplace not only undermines the production capacity, the creativity of the employees, their adaptability, and their morale, but it can end up driving people crazy. The airline also discovered that by putting humor on top of the list during recruitment and hiring they are able to nourish joy, pride, and fun in those working for them on and off the job. This has seen the company achieve the dream of satisfying the work and job security for a lot of people which many organizations might not be in a position to offer their employees.

The book shows how in Southwest Airlines, professionalism has gained a whole new meaning where the professionals are empathetic and believe that the business of business lies in making a profit by serving people and making live more fun for those being served and those serving them. Their kind of professionalism is practiced with flair and without offending those who think of themselves as professionals. The airline’s customers appear to be content with this kind of service judging from the positive comments customers give in their letters of unique experiences with Southwest Airlines.

This kind of professionalism if adopted in organizations today will allow employees to be authentic and real in their workplace. This will enable them to express themselves realistically and creatively as has been done in Southwest airlines where the employees influence the uniqueness of the airline through the projection of their own individuality. The advantage is that a better relationship is enhanced between the employees and the customers who find themselves drawn to the Southwest employees.

From the book, Southwest Airlines is probably one of the few companies where fun, humor, and laughter are treated as life-enhancing gifts. A relaxed atmosphere is created and it gives people the freedom they require to play and have fun while still working.

The third part, Nuts Gone Basic: Doing the Extra Special Exceptionally Well, is among other things about the importance of celebrating the milestones the organization makes, giving back to society in various ways, or social responsibility. It also gives some very useful tips on advertising which if adopted by other organizations can be of great use and also the importance of treating both the employees and customers with care.

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The fourth part The Legend Lives on: Leadership Spices It Up provides useful information which can be of great use especially for those in leadership positions in organizations. This tends to take one back on the part on how to think like owners as opposed to nonowners and how that can be adopted in organizations to bring out the potentials of the company and those working there. Since ownership is considered to be a state of mind, one is fully engaged to be active in pursuing the organizational objectives because owners are likely to focus on the business implications of their actions regardless of what others think about it, unlike the nonowners who live by the laid down rules.

In conclusion, Southwest Airline’s success can thus be attributed to among other things, the hiring of self-driven people who have an entrepreneurial drive and enthusiasm, the company therefore assumes the role of creating a suitable environment that nurtures that entrepreneurial spirit to bring out the employees full capabilities while boosting the organization in various ways.

Reference

Freiberg, K., Freiberg, J. (1998). Nuts! Southwest Airlines’ Crazy Recipe for Business and Personal Success. Bantam Doubleday Dell Publishing Group.

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