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Sep 18, 2014

Long before the iPhone 6 was launched, I was hooked on Apple.

My first desktop computer was a MacIntosh SE II with a whopping 1 mb of ram, and I’ve been an Apple fanatic ever since. But as much as I crow about their products, I rave even more about the counter-intuitive culture that is continually on display at Apple’s 434 retail stores now open in 16 countries.

On a recent Tuesday morning, I was at one of the Apple stores in a nearby mall awaiting my scheduled appointment with a “Genius,” the official job title for Apple’s trained and certified service technicians.

A tribute fitting a true hero

Suddenly, I heard a thunderous ovation break out on the floor. As I glanced around, I counted 27 blue-shirted Apple employees on the sales floor who had all turned away from their customers and all were applauding and cheering wildly.

Like all the people in the store that day, I was more than a little curious as to what all this commotion was about, when suddenly a young man emerged from one of the doors in the back of the store. The noise grew even louder as he made his way towards the front doors at the mall.

Every employee stopped doing whatever they had been doing previously to approach him, shake his hand, give him a high-five or a hug, and pat him on the back saying, “Thanks, Kyle!”

With a tribute fitting a true hero, I figured this guy was some kind of iconic celebrity in the Apple world. Perhaps he was a relative of Steve Jobs, or maybe the inventor of the iPhone. So when the applause finally ceased, I asked the Genius who soon approached me, “Hey, who was that Kyle guy?”

“Just an associate of ours who’s worked here for the last year. Today is his last day.”

As I discovered later, everyone who works at an Apple Store gets this kind of reception on his or her first day AND on their last day.

Your culture is showing 

Think about that for a moment because it flies in the face of everything you’ve ever been taught about business. You know — the customer is always No. 1, right?

Not so. Apple store employees literally turn their backs on customers to acknowledge and pay their respect to their own. It’s only for a few minutes, but just the same, this can’t be good for business, can it?

Not according to Apple stock prices. In fact, this is the exactly the kind of counter-culture stuff that sets Apple apart, creating legions of enthusiastic, flag waving fans all over the world.

Woven deeply into the Apple culture is an unspoken credo that essentially says, “Our customers are very important to us, but our people will always be Numero Uno.”

So, when was the last time you received a standing ovation at work?

On point

When you go out of your way to acknowledge and appreciate those on your front line, the results will shine through on your bottom line.

This was originally published on Eric Chester’s blog Chester on Point