I could talk about their brands, their global clout, their sales growth or their stock market value. Not today. The mystical factor that distinguishes Procter & Gamble from everyone else is people. From 1837 to the present, P&G people have been the company’s sustainable success factor. To many in the consumer packaged goods industry, this isn’t an epiphany. But what is it that makes the people at P&G stand out from the rest?
1. The character of P&G can be summed up in one word — Exploration. Throughout its history, P&G has exemplified a restless and driving spirit to improve, to learn and to explore. No matter what they do, from technology to advertising, they believe that it is not as good as it can be or as good as it ought to be.
2. There is a dedication to integrity in every area of the business. P&G people have a tremendous trust in each other, but the ultimate judge is in the data, such as market share and productivity. Yes, they are intensely competitive, and they compete with each other, but with fairness that ultimately strengthens everyone. And if anyone should make progress at the expense of others, it isn’t for long.
3. They have the ability to disagree and freely do so. This is because P&Gers are intrinsically curious and forever intent on finding the best decision. Once taken, they cooperatively move forward toward the common goal.
4. P&G people are highly competent. This begins with recruiting discipline. Yet interestingly, you seldom hear of ‘water walkers' at Procter & Gamble. That doesn’t mean they aren’t bright. They are, and department by department, the company is stocked with dedicated people that are better than their competitor counterparts.
5. P&G is a challenging work environment. The organization is structured in a way that almost every proposal requires concurrence from a peer. Management is inclined to ask questions rather than give orders. It takes individuals with a lot of confidence in their intelligence and spirit to work happily in this kind of system.
The tenets that supply P&G with outstanding people have existed for almost 200 years. In fact, the five factors that I’ve listed were taken from a speech delivered to the employees in 1981 by Owen Butler, Chair of Procter & Gamble. In his concluding remarks, Mr. Butler said, “the challenge of doubling our business in the next decade should be no more frightening in 1980 than it was in 1930 or in 1880 because, just as the base which we need to double has grown, the resources have also grown. We have more good P&G people to get the job done. I have no doubt that we will take great pride in the results.” For the record, 1980 sales were $10 billion. 2011 sales were $82 billion. Mr. Butler passed away in 1998. No doubt he is sleeping very peacefully.