"It's not personal. It's just business." No phrase has been so abused by people doing business (except perhaps synergy) -- when in fact nothing could be farther from the truth. Business should always be personal. Business is about people. You sell your goods and services to real people, your co-workers and team members are real people, and you buy good and services from real people.
I know that businesses often drone on about their mission and vision statements, and nothing could be less human, if it is not lived out by the organization. However I truly believe when Angela and I crafted the mission, visions, and values of Better Life Maids we purposely chose "To put our values before profits." If you read our CORE VALUES, look at our Mission, and Vision: you can see we strived to build a business around people. As we grow and the business changes, we constantly strive to keep business personal.
I love our clients. Before I hired full-time sales and customer service managers, I knew nearly all them by name. My wife and I did all the sales and customer service and we really took the time to get to know each of them. I feel like our small company still strives to do this with each new client. It still always surprises me when a client calls in, and they give us their address before their name, mostly because we don't identify clients with account numbers, or addresses, but by the people whose homes we clean. I might not know everything about them, but I feel like I understand why they use our service, and I want to make their experience great.
The other day I fell asleep on the couch. My son Kai who is 2 had climbed on my chest, and my daughter Nadia, age 6, did the same. That little moment was the best part of my day. I reflected it on it as I put them in their beds that night, and two things came to mind. First, I work really hard. Second, I know exactly why I work so hard. I tell this story so that you can better relate to me. I hope you will do the same with your clients. If you are primarily working with them to help solve their needs and can relate to those needs, the business will take care of itself.
Don't be afraid to be human with those you work with either. If you are CEO or a new entry-level employee, be a real human being at work. What do I mean? Be authentic, be yourself (as long as your genuine self is a nice person who cares about others this will work; if you are a genuine jerk, please disregard). I was an airline pilot for the first part of my career. And Robin Sharma in his leadership book titled The Leader Who Had No Title described the way we talk at work as "Airport Lounge Speak." Hi Bob, I was calling to better understand the implications of the acquisition and to blah blah blah. And he is so right, I heard people talk like this all the time. There is a place for technical jargon, in fact when I worked as an airline pilot, making sure I used the right phraseology and "jargon" was important to safety. And during critical phases of flight such as takeoff or landing, communications that were not pertinent to the safety of flight were not permitted. Once we got through those critical phases of the flight, I can assure you some great conversations were had. I hope the laughing coming from behind cockpit door didn't worry you too much. By getting to know each other better and share a laugh, we were better able to work as a team, and in turn increase the level of safety of each flight. My main point here is that most of us spend more waking hours at work than we do with our loved ones. Work hard, but get to know your peers. Be authentic and remember that we can accomplish so much more as a team than as individuals.
Make sure you treat your vendors like real humans as well. I know you will have to go different directions from time to time, but do so in a way that is both good for business and good for relationships. I think it is appropriate to let your vendors know if it was some failing on their part that necessitated a change in the relationship, that way if they are committed to making their product or service great, they can take action. I can tell you, we are far from perfect, and we have made countless small mistakes, but I have always appreciated honest feedback. I have two rules I try to follow when dealing with my vendors. First rule is to always take the time to say thank you. You can never show your appreciation too much. My second rule is never bad mouth vendors. We picked their service, it reflects poorly on both of us if I am not able to use those services to the best of my ability. If a product or service is a bad fit for your organization, move on.
These two rules have served me well, and I can tell you, that when media or cross marketing opportunities arise, we are one of the first companies they turn to. This has led to speaking engagements for me, national media for Better Life Maids, and a host of case studies. I strongly believe in making business win-win.
My last observation is to keep your technology personal. All of the communication and technology that we are developing should be used to reach our clients and peers on a more intimate level, but often the opposite occurs. I can't tell you how much I hate firstname.lastname@example.org addresses. Don't create more channels of communication if you aren't prepared to respond. Don't set up a Facebook, Twitter, or whatever social media account only to have your clients communications fall on deaf ears. I also encourage you to be a real human being on social media and other channels of communication.
Remember that the Internet, social, and new media will, only magnify whatever your business is in the real world. So be personal, thank your clients, thank your peers, and admit your mistakes when you make them. If you can't follow these simple rules, perhaps you business needs to stay offline. These are not shortcuts that will make business easier, but instead a shift in how real people choose to communicate with one another.
I know this is a longer post than I usually write, but I hope that I have shared something useful and if we are both lucky, even inspiring. Try it for a day and see how it feels, go through your day being striving to make all of your relationships in business personal. I bet it will be very refreshing to say the least. You won't have come home to be human, but instead can be your best self all day long.