Relationships Are Key

If you haven’t seen this in the news, McDonald’s is installing self serve kiosks in all of their restaurants. Recognizing McDonald’s may not be the pinnacle of the customer experience and for all the arguing we heard in the news a while back about people wanting to get paid $15 to flip burgers, this is certainly a great cost-saving measure for McDonald’s that comes with a twist of irony. It also highlights an interesting trend that seems contrary to everything business ought to be.

The backbone of any business is the relationship it has with its customers. Good experiences and interaction for the customers keeps them coming back, and placing them ahead of profits ensures they do so for years to come. Placing profits ahead of customers might mean we make a boatload of cash in a short time frame, but at what price for the long term? Obviously McDonald’s is a huge corporation and the idea that they would make this move without a lot of research and development seems highly unlikely. It also seems unlikely that customers will enjoy being treated with such little regard over the long term. On the other hand, their business model is all about delivering cheap, crappy, over-salted food to customers as fast as they can and perhaps removing part of the human interaction really is the ideal move for them. Time will tell.

To be fair, fast food has never been my business model, but this still feels counter-intuitive to all I believe about business. To get back to the original point, the advent of computers and even more so the internet makes it too easy for us to get sucked into the idea that relationships aren’t as important as they once were. We only need to look at upcoming generations with their permanently bent thumbs over smartphones and tablets to see how these tools can easily separate us when they should be the ultimate tools to pull us together.

The other part of this could have to do with the scale of the product that’s being exchanged;  perhaps a commodity as common as a cheeseburger doesn’t fall under the same rules of building relationships with customers, but a kiosk isn’t likely going to be able to answer questions as fast as a person can, nor are they particularly good at smiling or interpreting the customer’s mood and body language.

As we continue to conduct our own business, let’s take a closer look at how we are interacting with our customers and clients. Do we see them or our products and services as our commodities? Are we actively working to increase trust with our clients and build our relationships with them, or are we just trying to squeeze every last penny out of them that we can?

Obviously we need to make money lest our businesses just become really expensive hobbies, but if we follow the principle that money follows value, we can dramatically improve the customer experience, which in turn boosts our reputation, and the money takes care of itself. It might be a longer game to play, but it’s also more enduring and frankly it’s just the right thing to do.

Accept Responsibility For ALL of it…

Let’s be blunt: if you truly want to succeed in life and business you need to take responsibility for everything you have ever done and said. Not just the parts where everything is shiny and perfect, but all the bumps and rough spots, too.
 
Not only is a function of being honest about who you are and what you stand for, it’s a function of integrity and doing the right thing. This doesn’t mean we have to beat up on ourselves when something hasn’t gone according to plan. One would hope your intentions are good and that the mistake just boils down to a miscommunication or error in calculation. That and accepting responsibility for our mistakes is also the fastest path to making corrections so we can put things back in order for the benefit of everyone involved.
 
The bigger bonus is this means we also get to accept responsibility for our triumphs as well. As long as we don’t get carried away into ego, we’re then also free to celebrate our successes for a job well done in solving the challenges in front of us. This boosts morale for all improved and keeps everyone on the team focused forward for the next round.
 
In both experiences we’ve grown, conquered, and ready to tackle the next great thing we’re ready to do. Accept responsibility for all of it, and you’ll be at the top of your before you know it.

Integrity

Integrity. A quality we often speak of yet don’t always fully grasp its full meaning.

In short we hope and expect people to do what they say they are going to do when we make agreements with them. It’s an essential factor in moving both our personal affairs and businesses forward.

How often do we consider what it means for our own actions? It would seem reasonable if we expect these things of others that we should offer the same respect in return, not only for the other person, but ourselves as well.

Keeping in integrity with ourselves, in seeing challenges through regardless the personal inconveniences not only demonstrates to others character they can expect and trust, we increase in our own values and personal assessment. We know we are capable of greater things by staying true to the smaller things. As we grow in trusting ourselves we indeed accomplish more.

As we grow in character we need fewer rules because they are no longer a question. We just do the right thing and our lives and businesses expand accordingly.

Opportunities Abound!

Never in all of history has so much information and opportunity been so readily available to so many. We are practically drowning in it! The advancements of the internet are changing the way we communicate and we’ve barely even begun to see the long range effects, but it’s not hard to see it’s going to be a wild ride! It’s more important now than it’s ever been to know what it is you want out of life.

As you consider all the opportunities in front of you, remember you also have the option to not pick any of them and create something entirely new. There are countless untapped angles waiting to be explored. You have knowledge and expertise others don’t, and even if it’s an area that’s already been covered, nobody has your particular point of view.

Why not shed your light on the topic? Why not sure what the world exactly what you know? It’s okay if it’s outside what we’ve already seen. In fact that’s even better! All the tools are available for you to step out on your own: all they need is your decision to do something with them.

Happiness Is…

Happiness, inner peace, harmony, integrity…

As Gandhi points out, they are all very closely related. Aside from the positive aspects of doing the right thing, it’s also just more practical.

Think on this:

When we’re telling different stories to different people, or even just flat out lying, we have to work extra hard to remember what we told to whom and when we did it. We end up creating even more stories and lies to support the ones we’ve already told. Keep doing this long enough and we ultimately lose track of this crazy web we’ve spun and the whole thing falls apart.

It can happen on a personal level or professionally. Worldcom is one of the greatest examples of where those lies and stories can lead to. They filed for bankruptcy in 2002 after accounting fraud was uncovered, losing an estimated $107 billion in the process, cost more than 20,000 people their jobs, and the lives of thousands more were altered from the collapse of their stock holdings in the company.

Now let’s flip it around and think about what it takes to tell the truth. Here’s the secret:

You just tell the truth.

That’s it.

It’s literally that simple!

There’s no need for additional stories or anything else to support it because the truth just is. It means you only have one thing to think about, speak about, and act upon. It clears your mind of nonsense and you can move into a far more beautiful state, which in turn leads to happiness.

 

Personal Relationships

“Personal relationships are always the key to good business. You can buy networking; you can’t buy friendships.” -Lindsay Fox

Lindsay Fox is an Australian businessman. He formed his trucking and logistics company with one truck in 1956 (62 years ago as of this note) and according to Forbes he is worth roughly $3.4 billion US dollars. That’s quite a few zeroes!

It would be very difficult to build an organization of that size that has lasted that without learning a few things about business. With that much money comes a lot of power and odds are pretty good he could do just about anything he feels like doing whether we like it or not. So to hear him suggest that personal relationships are key, it’s worth paying attention.

It’s easy for us to get excited when we’re making lots of money because it does give us more freedom. We can buy more stuff and do more things than we used to.

However, we need to remember that stuff is just that: stuff. It can come and go and has little to do with who we are. We must also remember that people are ALWAYS more important. It’s far more important we use stuff to help people rather than using people to get more stuff.

It’s okay to want a better car or a bigger house. Just keep it all in proper perspective.

Your Inner Circle

“Everyone is your best friend when you are successful. Make sure that the people that you surround yourself with are also the people that you are not afraid of failing with.” -Paula Abdul

Let’s carry on our discussion of relationships from yesterday.

First off, if you remember listening to Paula Abdul on the radio, you’re definitely another child of the 80s. If you’re not sure who is, just think big hair, drum machines, and fancy dance moves. The 80s was an interesting decade for music for sure! But I digress.

She still makes a good point, though. Obviously we want things to go well as much as we can. Nobody likes to be overly stressed or struggling to get through challenges when we would really rather be on the beach playing with our friends. And when things are going well everybody wants to hang out.

The real test of our relationships comes when things are not going as planned. When we’re maybe not as available as we used to be or asking for some help to get through the rough spots, our closest of friends will rally around us, lift us, and help us get through. Of course we can’t just sit around and let everyone else handle the mess for us, but even having someone we can talk to when things are hard can be enough.

It’s these people, the ones that stay closest to us when things are hard, the ones that sacrifice on our behalf and expect nothing in return… These are our genuine friends, that deserve our love and respect above all others. If we’re living correctly we should want to help anybody that needs it, but it’s okay to give this core group a little more attention.

We should certainly offer the same love and respect in return. It’s how we pay it forward and help everyone around us rise right along with us. I’ve offered my help to others just as I have also asked for it and my relationships with my dearest friends have grown tremendously. There is nothing we can’t handle when working together and I cherish that above all else.

Laser Focused!

“The successful warrior is the average man, with laser-like focus.” – Bruce Lee

Such wise words that should inspire all of us! It has been argued that Bruce Lee is the greatest martial artist of all time. I would suggest at the minimum he was at least  the most influential.

His words are so true. We each have our own different struggles to deal with at times, but it’s a general truth we tend get what we focus on the hardest. It’s why I like to encourage people to always think and look for positives even when things might not be going as smooth as we would like them to be. It might take some practice, but it’s TOTALLY worth it.

Many people we know or here about have created tremendous wealth in spite of the meager beginnings: Jim Carrey was a dishwasher as he worked his way the ranks of stand-up before he got his big break. Among others you’ll fine Zuckerberg, Gates, Bezos, or  Elon Musk who can all talk about their humble beginnings as they worked out of their garages and for a while Musk was sleeping on a buddy’s coach as he was building Paypal.

None of them were particularly concerned about their surroundings as they were working on their businesses. They were common people with extraordinary ability to focus. Which is what we’re saying now, too!

Developing your expertise around your own passions will make it much easier to get focused and keep it that way when things get rough.

Value vs Success

Try not to become a man of success, but rather try to become a man of value. -Albert Einstein

We touched briefly on value vs money the other day. Let’s take that a step further and relate value to success instead. To paraphrase, it’s the difference between internal and external results of what we do.

Being a person of value means we’re focused more on improving ourselves internally, becoming better people, placing our morals ahead of results. It means we won’t take shortcuts, particularly when we know they could hurt others even if we’ll be better off in the end. Yoda would tell you that’s the path to the dark side!

Others begin to trust us more because we do what we say we’ll do. Our word becomes more valuable and we attract others that believe in the same values. Accordingly our network grows as does our ability to provide further value to others and the things we want begin to follow. Even if there is a dip in the cash flow it isn’t for long because we’ve rooted ourselves in correct principles and it becomes so much easier to duplicate what we’ve already done because our hearts and minds are in the correct place.

We can of course short cut these things for a while to get more gains without having done the proper work. We can put money ahead of people, use them and take the shortcuts to getting fancier cars and houses. We might think we’ll look better to others when we have these things and to some degree this is true.

However, these things are superficial and won’t stick around long if we’ve haven’t done the work to back up what we project to the world and it will undoubtedly crumbling down around us. There’s nothing wrong with wanting these things, but they must come in the correct order and based on correct principles.

Learn to be a person of value and let the success follow. You’ll find success faster than you might think and you’ll be a better person for it, too!

Money vs Value

How many times have you heard that money isn’t the most important thing in the world?

It might not be the most important thing in the world, but I still rank it right up there with oxygen! It’s hard to do much in this world without it unless you really want to live off the fat of the land. Even then the tax collector will come find you for property taxes. Sigh.

Still, it’s not entirely wrong that about money being the only thing we pursue in business. Placing money over people might make us money for the short term, but it isn’t sustainable and eventually people will stop trusting you.

Far better we create value for others and let the money follow. A willingness to share and place others before ourselves creates trust and people are far more likely to join us in our pursuits. Money then becomes a natural byproduct of all we do and the greater the service we provide, the greater the income.

That doesn’t mean we have to do anything for free! If we don’t make any money then we just have an expensive hobby that we can only sustain until we run out of funds. It’s more about making sure we keep it all in the right order.