Here's one to think about: According to Howard Schultz, Chairman of Starbucks, customers always come second - employees matter more. Schultz believes that happy employees spread their enthusiasm to customers, one of the reasons that Starbucks now has more than 7,500 stores worldwide and still ranks among Fortune's 100 best places to work.

Starbucks employee training includes business, leadership and products. The link between training and success is not accidental, it's company policy.

According to a recent article in "Business 2.0," the Ritz-Carlton hotel chain takes a more conventional, but no less effective, approach. Basic rule No. 10 in their "Little Book of Great Service" is "-when a guest has a problem-break away from your regular duties to address and resolve the issue." Ritz-Carlton is the only service company to have won the prestigious Malcolm Baldrige Award - not once - but twice.

The company also ranks first in the most recent J.D. Powers & Associates hotel survey, an award they earned while adding 23 new hotels in the past 27 months. Nonmanagement annual staff turnover at other luxury hotels: 44 percent. Ritz-Carlton: 25 percent.

Once again, training plays a key role.

Established in 2000, the Ritz-Carlton Leadership Center in Chevy Chase, Md., is open to any company or individual who wants to learn the hotel's service secrets. For two days (and $2,000 per person) more than 800 companies have offered their employees Ritz-Carlton service training. Among those companies is Starbucks.

You don't have to pay more than $2,000 per employee, but you do have to take training seriously whether you believe in "employee first" or "customer first." Readers of this column already know about state and regional training grants. Available training ranges from job-specific skills to a new program, "Spectrum Train-the-Trainer."

For more information on Ritz-Carlton, Spectrum and other training, please go to the Web site at www.bluecc.edu. Click "College Resources" then "Business/Industry" and look for the new link "Training Resources." Tell us about other good ones you know. We'll add them to the list.

Art Hill is vice president of customized training, apprenticeship and the Small Business Development Center at Blue Mountain Community College. He can be reached at 1-888-441-7232 or through sbdc@bluecc.edu. Web site: www.bluecc.edu. Click "College Resources" then "Business/Industry."

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