We need leadership, mentors to pave the way. People to create examples of what businesses can and should be. A foundation that starts with exceptional customer service, a healthy and balanced working experience; where people are the bottom line, not money.
Maybe it’s time to get back to basics. Back to the days when a solid work ethic, a reliable handshake and a firm word were the order of the day. When the focus was about providing a great experience and customer satisfaction. Fifty years ago, you could still find a job out of high school that you could keep until you reached retirement age. That job also came with a pension and benefits. Today you’re considered lucky if you’re postgraduate degree lands you a temp gig for three to six months. Customer satisfaction and the great consumer experience have been replaced by convenience and speed of delivery at the expense of overworked, underpaid employees with no security, all in the name of company profits. Small businesses have been replaced with big box stores and online shopping. I noticed airport stores are being replaced with vending machines. My question is where have all the people gone?
I miss the human interaction that used to be a necessary part of almost every human transaction. Some of my fondest memories are connected to my early childhood on my grandmother’s farm in Barbados. Ma, as she was affectionately known, was the light and the fabric the held our family together and I miss her greatly. Her cooking and baking filled the house with such a sweet aroma. All the ingredients for her sweet and savoury dishes came from her farm. Ma grew the finest sugarcane crop on the island, raised chickens to sell their eggs, and raised livestock to be sold to the slaughterhouse. The property also had fruit trees including. Ground provisions were also plentiful. I admired my grandmother for her business skills. She managed her farm, raised her children, grandchildren and looked after her aging/ailing parents. Her farm also produced in abundance to overflow and was profitable. People came from all over the island to purchase her goods. She was able to barter, gave goods on credit knowing that person would keep their word to pay her when they could. It was more important to her that the person had food to eat than simply making a profit. The success of her business was visible because her home was the first in the district to have running water, electricity, phone…etc. This was all a bi-product of her work ethic, generosity and by providing a superior product that keep people coming back for more.
Ma’s winning formula consisted of the following:
- Being kind to people.
- Putting other people’s needs above her own.
- Being consistent and reliable.
- Knowing her product and services.
- Knowing herself as a business owner who produces a good product.
- Asking for help when she needed it.
- Not listening to people’s negative comments about a woman running a farm on her own.
- Not being distracted by her circumstances and never giving up.
- Tapping into her faith and belief in God.
- Being grateful for all she had and was able to provide for her family.
Don’t get me wrong, I am not saying that every aspect of business these days is wrong or that some of the changes over the last 50 years have not been good. On the contrary, I like to be able to shop from my from my sofa for things the world over… what I am suggesting is that in moving away from a market place rooted in direct human interaction we might be setting aside a necessary part of our ability to maintain a relatively peaceful world.
I think it’s time we start to put people’s needs first instead of the bottom line and pleasing the shareholders. Customers are the true stakeholders of any business. Without them there can be no businesses. If you are looking to expand your business, ask yourself: “Are my customers walking away from our interactions feeling good about the experience?” If the answer is no, look for what is missing and invest in elevating the level of customer service in your organization. Where can you add value to your services that will leave the customer blown away, such that they start referring everyone they know to you? Get back to basics and watch your business flourish!
With Love and Grace,