As one of the worst recessions in recent history seems to loosen its grip, both fundamentally and psychologically, it’s time to take stock in what I hope we’ve learned.
Real relationships took a back seat in business. That’s not what caused the recession, but a quick scan of the worst headlines would suggest that if the major ethical lapses reported on Wall Street could occur, then perhaps even the smallest of firms had let go of behavior that looked something like decency.
As we rebound and even boom, I hope that we will see a return to business relationships built on a foundation of mutual respect, trust and decency.
While words like and trust and decency can be hard to define tangibly, there are behaviors that any business can adopt to keep the focus where it should be.
Create more value
Price is a function of value, there’s no question about that fact. And value is delivered in many little ways. Now is the time to deconstruct our products and services, and perhaps more importantly, the way our customers experience our organization, with an eye on making the entire collection more valuable, remarkable, fun, flexible and personal. Doing that can set an organization on the path to a solid foundation of customer loyalty that serves in good times and bad.
Take a holistic view
As we view your customer needs, what if we tried to understand everything they need, including areas unrelated to our products and services? If we can come to appreciate all of our customer’s desires and goals, we can develop a team of strategic partners that can plug into our offerings and help us dramatically deepen our customer relationships.
What if we began to think of our role as a customer booster rocket and “go to” resource for everything they needed? Do this and we also develop a referral network that will turn into our ongoing lead generation machine.
Mine the collaboration universe
One of the greatest developments associated with the growth of the Web is the proliferation of tools that make it very easy to collaborate, both online and off, with prospective customers, vendors, mentors, suppliers, staff and even competitors. We must mine this technology and enable the players in our collaboration universe to expand what they can offer us, our team, and our customers.
And for decency bonus points…
Let’s take a quick look at our closest competitors. What’s happened to them during this downturn? Is there an opportunity to grab market share? If so, resist it and consider lending them a hand instead. I know this may run counter to competitive wisdom, and I’m not suggesting we need to take on their payables, but I do think there’s a long view in being the kind of company that uses their position in the community to establish a statement about what’s really important.
I grew up in a farm community and while it’s unlikely one farmer thought of themselves as fierce competitors of another, they did provide a market with the same products. However, if one farmer experienced a hardship, a broken down tractor, loss of livestock, or need to get the crop in before a big storm, they could usually count on the help of neighboring farms without the need to ask or expectation of payment. Everyone in the community knew that they would probably need this same kind of support and gave a hand willingly. I wonder if today’s small business community could take this view?
Learn from social behavior
Social technology affords us a glimpse into the personal lives of those around us. Certainly this can be abused on both ends, but it also calls out for a new form of leadership that is much more open and willing to blend business and personal.
With mainstream acceptance and sharing on social networks we have the tools to automatically build deeper relationships that take into consideration the challenges and objectives of those around us in ways never before experienced in the business world.
I often use the Mister Rogers quote, “It’s hard not to like somebody once you know their story,” to drive this point home. If we use the shift in social behavior to tell our own stories and learn from the stories of others and we’ll be much more equipped to create a culture of decency throughout.
Say thank you
With the rush and go, always crushed with things to do, it’s pretty easy to get complacent about who and what pays the bills. If we’ve lapsed into this, we need to remake space to thank the people that make our businesses possible.
This process starts with letting our staff members understand how valuable they are and how much we appreciate what they add. (In fact, acknowledging a job well done is the most powerful motivation tool in the box.)
I’ve taken up sending hand-written notes to those I should thank. It’s not that hard to establish a habit of sitting down at a set time each week and sending inked words of appreciation, recognition and observation.
That might be the most decent thing any of us can do.
Image credit: Etsy Ketsy
John Jantsch is a marketing coach, award winning social media publisher, and author of Duct Tape Marketing and The Referral Engine.