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It pays to be nice to staff, says boss

Lara Morgan, CEO of hotel toiletry products supplier Pacific Direct, said yesterday that being kind to staff helps ensure they make a greater contribution to their company.

Morgan – who received attention in 2005 by paying for 22 staff to have a week’s holiday in Barbados for meeting their sales targets – was one of several 'inspirational speakers' at an event in London yesterday run by Escape the City, which organises alternatives to City jobs for dissatisfied workers.

"I was a really crap people manager," Morgan said. "Over-demanding. Domineering. Everything in the Dale Carnegie textbooks that you’re not meant to be.

"And I learned that actually being nicer I could milk them for all they were worth.

"I am the person that took my team to Barbados, but only because that year they made me £1 million. I thought Barbados was a bargain.

"Barbados cost us £57,000 once the taxman read the thing in the Daily Mail and came to me for tax. But that’s OK if you’ve made £1 million.

Morgan emphasised the importance of staff engagement and said that she believed it was a myth that training staff would cause them to leave.

"You need to do some dull stuff as your business grows, like appraisals, but actually they’re not that dull because if you do them the right way, with career development and reviews, your team will stay with you," Morgan said.

"There’s this ridiculous British belief that if you train your staff they will go. That’s rubbish. If you train your staff they will stay, if you train your team and surround them with challenges, I’ve never seem people grow quite as much."

She was however dismissive of the importance of job titles, saying that she thought they didn’t "mean anything".

Morgan established Pacific Direct in 1991. The company now has customers in 115 countries.

Zarine Kharas, the founder of charity fundraising website Just Giving also spoke at the event, alongside Ed Staffor, the first person to walk the length of the Amazon river, and travel author Al Humphreys.

Escape the City (www.escapethecity.org) describes itself as 'a community of motivated corporate professionals who want to "do something different" with their careers' and has more than 22,000 members.