NUTS!

Southwest Airlines' Crazy Recipe
For Business and Personal Success

Kevin & Jackie Freiberg

NUTS! Foreword

by Tom Peters

In 1987, a couple years after A Passion for Excellence was published, I received a letter from Kevin Freiberg telling me that I had missed the boat with my critical comment about Southwest Airlines’ customer service. Fresh from finishing his doctoral dissertation about Southwest’s chairman, president and CEO Herb Kelleher, Kevin was convinced that I needed to take a closer look at the inner workings of the company.

If you’ve read The Pursuit of WOW! (1995) or seen Service with Soul (1995), you know I took Kevin’s advice. I found an absolutely amazing company. I was overwhelmed by the atmosphere and character of the airline. Southwest is “Air Travel’s Greatest Show on Earth” because of its on-time service, baggage handling, low fares, no assigned seats and no heartburn from typical airline food. While most organizations are boring and rigid, Southwest is just the opposite. What I discovered is an organization that dares to unleash the imagination and energy of its people. They make work fun — employees have the freedom to act like NUTS. There is a spirit of entrepreneurship — much more than a decentralized organization chart — an attitude that extends to every corner of the company.

Why has Southwest captivated the interest of Forbes, Business Week, the Wall Street Journal — a virtual “who’s who” of the business press? Because this band of mavericks started a revolution — a revolution whose impact is spreading far beyond the boundaries of the airline industry. In a 1994 cover story, Fortune asked its readers: “Is Herb Kelleher America’s best CEO?” I believe he may well be.

Newspaper and magazine articles have given us bits and pieces of the Southwest picture, but never the whole story. Now, for the first time you have it in NUTS! Kevin and Jackie Freiberg take you inside this crazy company and conjure up the sights, sounds, and feelings of everyday life at this legendary airline. Besides describing how and why the company is successful, they show you the heart and soul of Southwest, and do it in living color.

If you don’t already know it, Southwest reinvented air travel twenty-five years ago with its low fares and zany, irreverent style. These NUTS made flying an event. Today, Southwest keeps air fares rock bottom by keeping costs low, satisfies customers by getting people and baggage to their destinations on time (and gives them some fun along the way), practices the Golden Rule at work and in the communities it serves and has the best productivity and safety records in the industry.

How has Southwest done all this? It’s not rocket science — keep costs low, productivity high, service positively outrageous and black ink on the financial statement. Three extra special things I see: being crazy enough to follow an unorthodox vision, being courageous enough to allow people to have fun and be “real” people who love and care at work, and being smart enough to recognize that their most valuable assets are their people and the culture they create. Southwest never forgets it is in the people business — the company just happens to operate an airline.

So, what can you expect to take away from a book about a great customer service organization that just happens to be in the airline business? Not just stories (though there are lots of very good ones). Examples. Success tips. Hundreds of practical ideas — most of them refreshingly unconventional — to make your business and personal life fun and rewarding. Like what? Celebrate like crazy. Put employees first and customers second. Forget fancy plans. Love one another. And — even if you have a smart, strong and passionate (not to mention wild and crazy) leader like Herb Kelleher at the top — instill leadership in every nook and cranny of your organization.

If you take time to read only one business book this year, I strongly encourage you to read NUTS!