This weekend, I lost a hero. I share my sorrow with the Lehigh Valley PA community in the loss of a beloved friend and philanthropist: Bob Wood.
Bob was the former Chairman of Wood Dining Services, a large regional food service management company based in Allentown PA. Prior to becoming part of Sodexho, Wood Dining Services employed more than 15,000 people serving more than 500 accounts in 28 states – with an impressive 99% client retention rate!
I had the privilege of working for The Wood Company many years ago as a training consultant and learned of the company’s people-first commitment. Bob was the epitome of an engaged and engaging leader who truly cared about his employees and customers. He maintained a corporate culture that was best described on the back of one of the birthday cards it sent to employees:
“The Wood Company’s recipe for success is developing and nurturing its people. We value and understand the difference they can make in pleasing our customers. We believe in celebrating our people’s success and important events in their lives.”
Making people feel valued
I interviewed Bob for my first book, Taking Care of the People Who Matter Most: A Guide to Employee Customer Care. Bob & company were featured in a chapter on how internal marketing could be woven through “ordinary, everyday activities rather than extraordinary events.” Internal marketing wasn’t a distinctive approach practiced at The Wood Company – it was something Bob did intuitively.
Here is one of my favorite stories about Bob and the power of employee recognition. Bob spent a lot of time in the field visiting clients and staff. In his pocket he carried a handful of small gold plastic pins in the shape of pineapples, the international symbol for hospitality that was also part of the Wood Company’s brand. Whenever he saw an employee doing something right, he gave that person a gold pineapple pin. Bob said he never ceased to be amazed at the employees’ reaction when he gave out the pineapple pins.
“I think these pins cost 47 cents … but these people think you gave them a pile of gold. Everyone wants to be part of something … everyone wants to feel that they are valued, that they made a difference. To the degree we can celebrate our people, that’s our greatest tool.”
In making people feel that they mattered, Bob, you made an incredible difference. I am honored to have known you and will continue to celebrate your memory in my book and workshops.