The Real Solution for Employee Retention

The Real Solution for Employee Retention
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By Samantha Thomas

(Backstory: The Love Summit is a business and leadership conference organized by Dream Change, the nonprofit I direct. The aim of the Love Summit is to demonstrate how heart-centered companies impact human flourishing, increase their bottom line, and ultimately create a better world.)

Sometimes "coincidence" just doesn't cut it.

I was first introduced to the work of Mary Miller by accident, and then I was introduced to her, on purpose.

Several months ago, my colleague and kindred spirit, Rachel Druckenmiller (also speaking at #LoveSummit2017) recommended I read a book called The Dream Manager. She told me it was a story about a company suffering from high turnover that successfully implemented a "Dream Manager" program to engage, motivate and retain employees – an example of how love in the workplace positively impacts business metrics.

As usual, I was inspired by Rachel and her recommendation, and ordered The Dream Manager on audiobook that day. I was immediately taken by the main character, Simon, who in a time of desperation to lower his company’s turnover rate and increase morale, had enough courage to not take the “easy way out” – to look beyond the never-totally-successful-standard-solutions to turnover: give your employees a raise; increase their benefits. Feeling he had no choice but to surrender to an open mind and fierce curiosity about what his team truly wanted and who they were at heart, Simon discovered what really motivates, engages and ultimately retains employees: their personal dreams.

I was halfway through reading The Dream Manager, and moved, to say the least.

The next day, I received an email from a woman who had recently returned from an annual trip Dream Change founder, John Perkins, leads to visit the indigenous people of Colombia. The email read:

“Hi Samantha,

I was in Colombia with John Perkins visiting the Kogi last month and we had a great conversation about what you’re doing with the Love Summit.

Hearing that the Love Summit 2017 is going to be in Cincinnati, I immediately wondered if you had connected with Mary Miller. Mary and her husband Tony are the owners of a janitorial company in Cincinnati called JANCOA. About 15 years ago, they came up with a transformational program which changes the dream for their mostly immigrant employees from one where they are simply replaceable (and often replaced) low level workers, to people with bigger dreams for a better life.

The story of this transformation was told by author Matthew Kelley in a bestseller, The Dream Manager. The model has been replicated in businesses in many industries in the years since with great results. It’s an example of what changing the dream of how employers see their team members, and also how team members see themselves, can positively transform lives and raise profits and business results.

What's happened at JANCOA in the years since The Dream Manager was written is even more inspiring as they've helped employees not just buy homes and learn English, but also move on to better quality jobs at the companies many of them used to clean for. This started very much by changing the way they envisioned their future and what was possible.

Mary is a well-known and loved business leader in Cincinnati and an energetic and engaging speaker who combines warmth and years of experience. I think she would be a great example of some of the ideas you’re focusing on in action.”

My train of thought after reading that email went something like this:

1) Mary’s company was the inspiration for The Dream Manager!

2) Mary is a celebrated, heart-centered business leader, who lives in the city that the Love Summit 2017 is taking place in. Her company is headquartered there...

3) Coincidence? Who knows, but I have to contact Mary, immediately!

Well, as they say, the rest is history. Mary will be speaking at the Love Summit next month, and I couldn’t be more excited. In addition to her TED-style talk, she will be leading a workshop that will provide Love Summit attendees with the tools and resources needed for the practical implementation of their dreams in business and daily life.

Check out Mary’s pre-Love Summit Q&A below.

1. Mary, tell us about JANCOA and your role there.

JANCOA is a commercial cleaning company that my husband, Tony, founded 46 years ago, and I joined over 20 years ago. Today I am the CEO and we have three members of our family’s second generation running the day-to-day operations of the business. My role includes being the top visionary, cheerleader and ambassador for JANCOA. Through the community work I am involved with I find programs that advance our team members and their families’ quality of life and advocate JANCOA as a leading business in our region.

Mary and the JANCOA team.

2. What makes JANCOA a heart-centered business?

The very core of The Dream Manager program is the principle of truly caring about the humanity and opportunity for each person. While we must be a fiscally responsible business, we do so by making decisions that incorporate the impact on the people side of the business. Our priorities value the humanity of the people doing the work.

3. What inspired you to create the Dream Manager program at JANCOA?

It truly happened at a time of desperation. That is what I have found moves most entrepreneurs into action, great pain! A consultant fired us and told me he couldn’t help us until we fixed our people problem. We had to take a serious look at how we did business and make a major shift in our priorities.

4. Where can people learn more about the Dream Manager program?

My top recommendation is for them to read the book, The Dream Manager by Matthew Kelly. Matthew does an excellent job capturing the core of what we were trying to create for our team. Secondly, they can find more at Matthew's company, Floyd Consulting. Floyd Consulting works with businesses and people all over the world find ways to pursue and capture their Dreams.

5. Tell us about your new book and why you wrote it.

My book, Changing Direction: Ten Choices That Impact Your Dreams, answers questions I have received while speaking and coaching over the past 10 years since The Dream Manager was published. Many people are looking for what they can do differently to achieve their dreams. I talk about the first steps of embracing change to taking care of ourselves while on the journey to pursuing our dreams. We have choices to make every day and the results of our reality are tied to those decisions.

6. What are three things people can do to start applying their dreams to their life in a practical way?

The first step is to know what it is that you want. It is important to ask yourself about what you want in the future; starting three years from now imagine how you want your life to be.

Once you know what you want, get clarity on why it is important. A great example is if you want to make more money. It’s not just about making more money, but what you can do with more money, your quality of life and how it will change. If you focus just on the amount of money without direction most people end up in a futile cycle of unhappiness.

The third thing that I feel is most important is finding a way to ignite passion in your life. When we realize what we want and connect our natural talents and gifts; that is when our passion comes alive and life becomes more enjoyable. This is the core to all our Dreams.

7. What are you most looking forward to at the Love Summit this October?

The Love Summit is a remarkable opportunity to connect people that desire a bigger future. It is one place to learn practical methods to not only Dream bigger but care more about the future for everyone.

#LoveSummit2017 business & leadership conference tickets available at

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