Last updated on May 13th, 2019 at 02:22 pm
Personal relationships hold the key
for success in today’s business climate
The slow economy and the events of Sept. 11 have left us questioning our security and purpose. As we continue to come to personal clarity we see the same factors impacting business. Every day more companies are laying people off while others are making significant cutbacks. Everyone is trying to stand their ground in a very confusing environment and in a market that is up one day and down the next.
If that is not enough, add to the mix the fact that the majority of the population was born between 1947 and 1964 – the baby boomers. As these more free-thinking individuals move further into their 40s, 50s and 60s, the mantra has become “What’s the second part of my life about and how do I make that meaningful?” Those that don’t take the entrepreneur route are looking to their places of employment to provide solutions to some of their needs.
With all this evaluation and uncertainty, why are some businesses thriving while others in the same industries and markets are feeling the impact in negative ways?
Successful companies recognize that as individuals begin to reevaluate their values and needs, their businesses have to undergo a similar adjustment. They can no longer operate in the old frameworks. Everything is changing — but in subtle ways.
Leaders are doing in their businesses what people are doing within themselves: a thorough reevaluation of what makes people who they are, what moves and drives them, and what will bring them satisfaction and success.
Today’s leaders are:
* Reinterpreting their mission, vision and core values — repositioning their brands as both a “champion” — one that will carry through troubled times — as well as define their places in the world.
* Communicating in new and different ways, understanding that little things count, to both staff and clients.
* Providing exceptional service in a way that nurtures relationships and reflects true passion.
* Understanding that the American mentality has shifted in the form of heightened consumer consciousness.
Values and goals
If you were asked what you place a value on as an individual, most of you would rattle off a list that included things such as children, spouses, friends, homes, time for personal pursuits, a healthful lifestyle, meaningful work, and so forth.
But how many people commit to addressing and meeting each of those values every single day? Making a list of the things we stand for is easy; the “doing” is the hard part.
Businesses face the same challenge. It’s easy to write a mission statement, create a list of core values, and hang them in the lobbies of the office. How do we get an entire company of people to embody those values in everything they do?
Today’s successful companies take vision, mission and values very seriously. Your vision and values not only define your position in the market, they create a working framework for staff. Surveys, focus groups and one-on-one interviews with clients and staff provide critical proof of the degree to which you are living your mission.
Your mission statement must have meaning and accurately reflect who you are and how you deliver your service. Your leadership must live it and manage by it every day. It is the ruler by which you will be measured. It is the compass that will guide you through rough seas.
It’s the small things that count
Many of the stories that have come out of the tragic events of Sept. 11 depict the importance people are placing on the small things — the everyday actions and activities that have even more significance to people as their core values rise to the surface.
I recently had a conversation with a key manager at one of my client’s offices. She told me that she has worked for the same boss for about 10 years and, in that time, has almost never had more than a “business” conversation with him. This past year he sent her a card with a handwritten note expressing his sincere appreciation for all her efforts. He personalized it with specific examples of things she did that made an impact on the business. She told me she still has the note. She said that this one gesture validates her worth to the company, and to her boss.
Simple gestures are not new, but are becoming even more important as we revaluate our values and define what is important to us. I bet you can’t remember most of what you got for Christmas last year, but I bet you can remember the last time a colleague, boss or client said something nice to you.
Exceptional service with a personal touch
A few months ago several service companies were vying for a $100 million-plus account and were in fierce competition for the job. They all had exceptional capabilities, each with a solid team and business approach. After several weeks of interviews, reference checks, price reviews and proposals, a selection was made.
On the day that the award was given, the owner took the president of the selected firm aside and explained to him how the decision was reached. He stated that they had narrowed the field of candidates to two firms and that, frankly, “the other firm had more experience than yours, but the reason we selected your firm was because you had heart.”
Businesses want to work with other businesses that understand that — we want the quality of our relationships to be equal to or better than the quality of the work.
Statistics like the study completed by Context-Based Research Group which studied the impacts of global crisis on business states, “What motivates people to buy has taken on a new light. Participants in our study spoke of making meaningful purchases, carefully weighing the benefits and risks of major purchases while still buying items that give comfort to them and their families.”
The “me” days of the 1980s and ’90s are over, and self-focused approaches to gaining business are gone. Consumers are as smart as ever about seeing through “smoke and mirrors” and have an even lower tolerance for anything unauthentic, disingenuous or lacking integrity. Anything but an accurate presentation of your product’s attributes will be interpreted as unauthentic.
Our attitudes, values and opinions have always affected the way we work. What we believe and the way we live have a profound effect on how we craft marketing messages, position our products and services, and relate to our employees and clients. Across the nation, at nearly every level of the workforce a subtle shift in priorities is under way.
Employers who understand that career, money and status have been overshadowed by family, personal time and a connectedness with others may find greater loyalty and commitment in their staffs. Refocusing your business values and creating a sense of mission beyond the next quarterly report — a mission defined in terms of service to customers, service to each other, and service to the community — may be the key to success in this new climate.
Diane Chamness is president of Chamness Consulting, a Milwaukee-based firm now in its 13th year; www.chamnessconsulting.com.
May 24, 2002 Small Business Times, Milwaukee