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.

Success and Service

Serving others should be the core to all we do, particularly in business. In every interaction we have whether it’s the management team or the person cleaning the toilets, we must remember that all business is people business and the medium of exchange are the products and services we provide.

The truth is that most people are willing to help and serve when given the opportunity to do so. But when they feel less valued for who they are and the gifts they have, they will tend to withdraw from others and not be so willing to share. They won’t perform as well as they used to and your interactions will become more strained.

The more you seek to gain from others the less they will be willing give of themselves, causing a disservice to both you and the customer you’re seeking to find as a result. You’ll start to find they start acting indifferently, all the people you interact will pick up on it that they are no longer as important to you.

On the there hand, seeking to serve others shows a very different style of leadership. When we’re looking to see how to help others, it’s amazing how many come to give more freely of themselves in return. All of our lives are expanded for the efforts we put forth and success becomes a natural consequence in our lives and business.

Don’t hesitate to provide service when called upon and be sure to look for opportunities to serve whether you are noticed for it or not.

Be Kind

Among the most amazing writing in history comes the Diary of Anne Frank. Hiding with family in Nazi-occupied Amsterdam in World War 2, she was ultimately discovered and led to a concentration camp where she passed away due to illness. Her father was the only member of the family to survive and hurried to publish the journal shortly after its discovery.

The trials of hiding for several years in an attic is not something most of us could readily endure. Yet Anne Frank’s journal shows us that it is possible. Although not everything in her journal is uplifting, it still has many examples of how we don’t have to be trapped by the experiences we’re having.

If anyone could have been justified for holding a grudge or be angry for their surroundings, Anne Frank would have been right at the front of the line. She was a girl with no country and the occupying force wanted to destroy her for reasons completely unjustified. And instead of harboring anger, we could even suggest she mocked the weapons from which she was hiding. She kept peace at the forefront of her thoughts so she could keep the one they could never take from her: her spirit.

Please think on this as you go about the world. We have all been through things that have caused damage. So many of us just need to know somebody cares about us, that we count, and that our efforts mean something. For the pressures heaped upon us by increasing pace of the world, we could all use a little more kindness to get through the day.

Heck, even the toughest among us could still use an extra smile here and there. We don’t have to turn into total softies because business does require some toughness, but it is possible to have compassion at the same time.

Teamwork

“We’re all working together; that’s the secret.” -Sam Walton

Together
Everyone
Achieves
More

Surely you’ve heard or seen this before? It’s true a group of people can get much more than one person alone. As we put our strengths together we fill in the gaps where others are weak and everyone benefits. It’s how Sam Walton moved Walmart in the direction it needed to become the worldwide organization it is today.

There are conditions that need to be established so all members can perform well. First and foremost the team needs to have common, uniting goals that challenges everyone to stretch and grow. It shouldn’t be so complicated that people burn out, but challenging enough to give sense of purpose and satisfaction when goals are accomplished.

The highest functioning teams have members with a variety of skills, talents, backgrounds, knowledge, and perspectives. This helps keep creativity at peak levels, but also requires having a strong structure in place to promote positive dynamics and communication. This way individuals can still shine in what they do best while the team continues to benefit as a whole.

Making sure we’re reaching these ideal conditions for teamwork takes some work, but it also helps promote a shared identity in which all members can find a shared identity and a sense of belonging. It’s also absolutely worth the effort.

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.

The Power of Teams

Great things in business are never done by one person. They’re done by a team of people. -Steve Jobs

No driver crosses the finish line without the mechanics that built and maintained his car. No waitress serves a meal without the cooks that prepared the food. No band rocks a stadium without the sound engineers or the hands that built the stage. And no pilot flies without the builders of the plane or the engineers that designed it in the first place.

Of course we all have brilliant ideas and knowing our individual efforts does much to help us continue our forward progress. We develop our individual skills and talents, our expertise until we become the thought leaders we are meant to be. We honor individual achievement and for good reason! Recognition for our hard work helps us see that what we do is valuable, matters to others, and keeps us motivated to continue in what we’re doing.

We must also understand that teams are essential if we’re to achieve the greater successes we desire. Unless your goal is to live broke and in complete isolation, it’s impossible for us to develop every single skill we’ll ever need to succeed. There are skills we may just not even want to develop or it doesn’t make economic sense for us to learn.

This is where teamwork is so critical. Our expertise can serve others, just as other can fill in where we are weak. We become stronger for working together and collaborating helps us grow so much quicker where before it might not have even been possible.

It’s okay if you’re not a master of everything you’ll need along the way. The greater your expertise the greater the value you can provide and the better you’ll be compensated for your efforts. Working with others who have done the same is how we achieve greatness far beyond our own capacity.

Think about this as you go to build your team and watch how much faster you all grow for your efforts.