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The Mission of Southwest Airlines

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Autor:   •  October 29, 2010  •  Case Study  •  2,193 Words (9 Pages)  •  1,882 Views

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The Mission of Southwest Airlines

The mission of Southwest Airlines is dedication to the highest quality of Customer Service delivered with a sense of warmth, friendliness, individual pride, and Company Spirit.

To Our Employees

We are committed to provide our Employees a stable work environment with equal opportunity for learning and personal growth. Creativity and innovation are encouraged for improving the effectiveness of Southwest Airlines. Above all, Employees will be provided the same concern, respect, and caring attitude within the organization that they are expected to share externally with every Southwest Customer.

Key People

§ Herbert (Herb) D. Kelleher: Chairman of the Board, Chairman of the Executive Committee, former CEO and co-founder of Southwest Airlines

§ James (Jim) F. Parker: Vice Chairman of the Board and CEO

§ Colleen C. Barrett: President, Chief Operating Officer, and Director of Operations

§ Gary C. Kelly: Chief Financial Officer and E.V.P.

§ All employees: The Southwest culture depicts all their employees as the foremost most important aspect of their company.

Southwest Airlines has been a model of admiration for the airline industry and businesses from around the world combined. Southwest Airlines is a rag to riches story that has had to fight for everything it has become. Before Southwest was able to take on its first passengers, they had to fight competitors in the court system for nearly three and a half years.

In 1966, Fortune Magazine states, "A San Antonio lawyer, Herb Kelleher, founded Southwest with one of his clients (now a Board member) over drinks at a local bar" (62). Southwest was started in a bar on a cocktail napkin. Fortune Magazine quoted Mr. Kelleher, "it was at the St. Anthony's Club in San Antonio, Texas that Rollin King came to me with the idea of starting a low-fare airline in Texas" (64).

Southwest did not make its maiden voyage until 1971 - From a napkin to the airways with their runway in the Court system. When Texas Aeronautics Commission authorized Southwest to fly, their competitors grounded them within the Court system with continuous litigation for three and a half years. The litigation went as high as the Supreme Court.

Finally, on June 18, 1971, Southwest Airlines took off, with President Lamar Muse, offering flights to Dallas, San Antonio and Houston. The dream of a low-fare, no-frills, customer oriented airlines had finally been realized. They have had some turbulence, but it has grown and expanded ever since. In 1973, Southwest Airlines stated they had their first profitable year. Southwest has not looked back since. They have built a reputation for doing business their own way, not the normal way of doing things.

Today Southwest has grown to the fourth largest airline in the United States. Southwest's Home Page on the Internet states "Southwest has one of the newest fleets in the airline industry." Since 1973, Southwest has done something unprecedented, especially in the airline industry - it has not had a year or quarter where it has lost money. The sky's the limit for this airline.

Southwest Airlines started building its success and a strong strategic management process early in its inception as a company. Stephen Robbins defines strategic management process as "A nine step process that involves strategic planning, implementations, and evaluation" (90). This process really started forming in 1973 when there was a change in upper management. Co-founder Rollin King and then president Lamar Muse had disagreements about business, which drove co-founder Herb Kelleher to submit a letter of resignation from the Board. Southwest's upper echelon ignored that letter - best move that company ever made - and voted Lamar Muse out of control.

The Board went to Herb Kelleher and asked him to be Chairman and CEO. Mr. Kelleher's reaction as told to Forbes Magazine was "I was working for Southwest on the outside - in the courts. I hadn't worked much on the internal operations" (65). Mr. Kelleher was a lawyer and didn't know much about business. After much thought, Kelleher said he would be Chairman, but no CEO, and suggested they hire Howard Putnam from United Airlines to be Southwest's CEO.

Hiring Putnam kind of backfired for Kelleher as he says "I sort of served a three year apprenticeship with Howard. He was new to Southwest and he asked me to handle many of the internal things" (66). In my belief, this is the time when Southwest started to take notice of its employees and their importance. Not only was Southwest growing but so was Kelleher. He was transforming from a lawyer to a businessman.

The biggest help for Kelleher at that time was something his mother told or asked him, Kelleher told Fortune Magazine. She asked, "this is a real conundrum: who comes first, your employees, your shareholders, or your customers? My mother taught me that your employees come first. If you treat them well, then they will treat the customers well, and that means your customers will come back and your shareholders are happy" (240-1). Kelleher was learning business, but the most enjoyable part to him was that he got to know people a lot better, he took time and met with employees from every phase of the company; i.e., customers, Flight Attendants, Mechanics, Baggage Handlers, and Customer Service/Ticket Representatives. He learned, examined, and listened to everyone he could. Kelleher believed "you've got to take the time to listen to people's ideas. If you tell somebody no, that's an act of power and, in my opinion, and abuse of power. I don't want to constrain people in their thinking" (71).

This is the biggest asset that Southwest has. They have always valued their employees' ideas and worths over money and profit. Southwest as a company has accomplished a feat that exemplifies that belief! They have never furloughed (laid off) any of their employees. A Teamsters leader once walked in to negotiate a new contract and said "we don't need to talk with you about job security" (71).

Southwest's company loyalty to their employees has made them stronger and saved them money. The trust and security of Southwest employees shows in how they do their job. The employees know


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