I’m in the market for a President.
My country is in need of some repair, some short term solutions tied to a long term vision that makes sense, and I’m looking for a leader who can deliver. It happened to be that two Presidential Merchants were on stage together last week, so I tuned in to hear their pitch. At the end of the night, I found myself in the same position most shoppers find themselves in. I wanted to buy something — I mean I really need a President — but I decided to wait. I heard two salesman arguing about features and prices and neither of them answered the real question I had. Why should I buy from you? I walked away depressed.
"As a consumer, every time you buy something — big or small — you put your name, your emotional reputation with yourself and with others next to the business you’ve chosen. You might as well be saying: This is me. That’s powerful. We are hugely skeptical in doing so
…and for good reason."
I heard what they said they stand for, but I couldn’t feel it. Know what I mean? One vendor seemed to have the confidence, but seemed out of touch with nuts and bolts reality. The other one seemed level-headed, but tired. I wasn’t excited to tell my friends about either product. I turned off the television feeling like they were only interested in market share, and not really in me and my needs.
It’s the same in small business — any business, really. As customers, we’re shopping for leadership — and unfortunately leaders rarely enter into the equation. Every time we pull out our credit card to purchase anything — a political donation, a pastry, or a bicycle — we’re choosing to enter into a relationship. We’re saying there’s something about this business that not only speaks to me as a consumer, but speaks about me, about who I am. Underneath that choice to buy (or not) is the answer to three questions:
1. Do they understand what I want?
2. Did they put enough care into the product so that it does what they say it will?
3. Are they the kind of people that will stand behind their product and tell the truth if it's broken, and will they fix it or replace it and offer an upgrade when it’s ready?
As a consumer, every time you buy something — big or small — you put your name, your emotional reputation with yourself and with others next to the business you’ve chosen. You might as well be saying: This is me. That’s powerful. We are hugely skeptical in doing so...and for good reason.
As a business owner, you have to constantly be asking yourself a similar question: if your name wasn’t already on your product or service, would you put your name next to it again? Not the big print, but the emotional fine print, from the integrity of the sales pitch to the way you handle returns and ask for referrals.
Most of us would quickly say yes. But we don’t get to decide — our customers do. If you’ve got a growing base of customers for life — people who tell their friends about you without your asking — and the willingness and ability to turn away business, congratulations. But if that’s not how it is — what are you going to do about it?
The answer is closer than you think. There are many things out of your control as a business owner — or as a President. But there’s one thing you can control which nobody else can: your relationship to your business. In particular, it is your willingness to dig in and find your vision, and stand for it in yourself and with your staff, so you can offer a passion built product into the crowded and easily distracted market. You are broadcasting — every day and in a thousand ways — how you relate to your business, and your customers will relate to it the same way.
How do you want that to be?
Learn more about my Leadership Webinar on October 18th and October 30th. I’ll be talking much more about caring, transparency, and creating a culture of ownership.