Guest Post by Lorne Pike
As business people, we can all get tremendous value from defining a few principle statements.
For what will we be known? What offerings make each of us less vulnerable to competitors trumpeting lower prices? What core values can we be trusted to deliver?
Once, as I was reading for inspiration to help answer these questions, I was shocked by an author’s statement that we should erect a high fence along the borders between our clients’ business needs and their personal issues.
Don’t even engage in such conversations, he warned. Keep business, business.
You may think that a guy like that should run for president, but I felt immediately it was not only the wrong advice for me, but for virtually anyone.
In my world, business is never just about business. Yes, getting paid is pretty freakin’ awesome, but there are other ways to feel awesome and better ways to get paid than ignoring the fact that people have lives outside the office.
We all prefer companies or consultants or teachers or doctors or police officers who show genuine concern. Whether we’re getting a coffee or marketing strategy or traffic ticket, listening and caring can be competitive advantages.
Care makes us care.
Mom always told us to keep good company and to treat people well, and our moms were the best business consultants we’ll ever have.
In my work as a communications consultant, I help clients focus their resources on their most profitable markets, relationships, and activities. I get them to grapple with what their true brand is, and how to win customers’ hearts. However, sometimes my meetings will focus more on the client’s sick relative or their beloved dog that just died.
Clients have shared the tears of an impending divorce, or how they’re wearing thin from constantly trying to be a loving parent and a success in business. And yes, in return, some clients have asked me about my own juggled joys and struggles as a single dad who is also a marketing consultant.
Don’t we all get incredible satisfaction whenever a client says that because of us, they can now explore a new market or see better sales results or finally understand what needs to be done in a problem area?
As important as maximizing margins in the current quarter may be, wouldn’t it feel at least as ”” and possibly even more ”” satisfying if our input had also helped that person with challenges outside the office?
When I sense a client is struggling personally, I do not shy away from asking if things are okay. I certainly respect their privacy if they say they want to focus on business, but whether they choose to share or not, they are often visibly touched to know that even in a business meeting, someone cared enough to just ask and listen.
A few times, clients have told me that a competitor of mine had offered his or her services at a lower price but the offer had been declined. My clients said they stayed with me because our relationship held value that went beyond the marketing services being provided.
Genuine care can save your business from ever being a commodity.
Obviously we should never pretend to care just so we can get someone’s business. That would be cold. But is it any less cold to avoid caring just so we can focus on earning?
I often block out an extra 30 or 60 minutes at the start of meetings with some clients, because I know they like to share before we ever “get down to business.” Make no mistake though, we are down to business the whole time.
There should be no barrier between when we care and when we earn.
The writer I mentioned at the beginning would call those chats bad business.
My clients call them opportunities to recharge and make wiser decisions in both their marketing and their real lives.
I call them chances to earn the air in my lungs and remember why I call myself a consultant.
For what will you be known? What offerings make you less vulnerable to competitors trumpeting lower prices? What core values can you be trusted to deliver?
Being a kind company can indeed be a competitive advantage. It can pay to make Mom proud of the company we keep.
Lorne Pike is a communications consultant focusing on strategy development, website design, social media, and search engine optimization. His speaking topics cover business and personal communication, social media, blending business and family, and branding. He blogs at PikeSPeak, is a member of Rotary, and is involved in his church. A lover of music and cooking, Lorne enjoys running incredibly short distances and collapsing. He is Dad to three daughters and one son-in-law and has the perfect granddaughter.