In the business world, the bottom dollar often rules. It can be easy to stop seeing the client as a person and start seeing them as a paycheck or number instead. I’ve watched this transpire many times during my career. But I’ve learned an important concept along the way, one that has transformed my personal and business life and can transform yours too: View your clients as family. Treat them like your closest kin or your dearest of friends – the ones you love the most.
As a business leader, viewing clients as family requires a shift of mind. It requires looking at those you work with under a new lens. It entails putting the Golden Rule into practice: Do unto others as you’d like them to do to you. Once this shift takes place, you’ll never see them the same again.
Many business leaders and businesses do not operate under this view. Some even dissuade their employees from developing personal relationships with clients for fear they may grow distracted and lose sight of their goals. Others fear that treating their clients and employees like family may backfire, causing people to take advantage of them. In essence, viewing clients as family seems counter cultural in our competitive society. But I’ve found that the more I care about my clients and colleagues, the more success I find and the happier everyone is.
Here are a few ways business leaders can put this concept into practice:
1. Communicate effectively and efficiently. Return every single email, text and phone call in a timely manner. We’ve all been on the other side of an email, text or phone call, sending something into the abyss and then anxiously waiting for a response. In days past, communicating required going to great lengths, handwriting and mailing letters and leaving messages on answering machines. Today, most of us carry smart phones in our pockets. A simple text or email takes just seconds or minutes to write. Yet taking time out of a busy schedule to send that email or text can mean the world. It shows you care about the person on the other end, that you are attentive to their needs and that their concerns and ideas matter. It shows you value them and prioritize them. It helps you stand out among the rest. And on a practical level, it assures the other person that you have indeed received their communication. Nothing says “I care” more than taking the time to respond to someone in a timely manner.
2. Pay attention to the details. Do you remember the last time a co-worker or bossremembered your birthday? Can you recall the last time someone inquired about your family, your new pet, your vacation or your knee injury? Paying attention to the details goes beyond business transactions. It includes personal details as well. Paying attention entails taking the time to listen when someone shares about their life and taking the time to ask what’s going on. In our hurried society, listening has become a near ancient art. Most people are so busy focusing on their own lives that they scarcely take time to notice the details in others’ lives. But slowing down, listening and making time to learn about those around us can be hugely effective for both our business and personal relationships.
3. Go the extra mile whenever possible. Truett Cathy, founder of the popular fast food chain Chick Fil A, understood this concept well. From the start, he sought to stay true to his values and think of people before money. He was often quoted as saying he wasn’t really in the chicken business at all, but was really in the people business. He went on to become a very wealthy man, but his true success was not measured by his bank account. It was measured by the way he loved others.
Truett Cathy valued every single person he encountered, from the cashier to the customer to those higher up in his company. From the beginning, he chose to close his restaurants on Sundays so employees could spend time with their families. He also went on to invest in the community in many ways. In 1984, he created the WinShape Foundation, which encouraged leadership development and offered academic scholarships for team members. He then went on to establish WinShape Homes, which provided long-term foster care for children, and WinShapeCamps, which offered kids a unique summer camp experience. Even up to his last days, Truettmaintained his values and integrity, viewing people as family at all times. He truly lived by his Chick Fil A purpose statement, which includes the phrase “being a faithful steward of all that is entrusted to us.”
Going the extra mile could entail a variety of actions – commending someone in person, sending a note or gift of thanks, showing up when a need arises, taking that phone call late at night, giving an unexpected bonus to a deserving or overlooked employee. Going the extra mile shows you care not just about your business, but about the actual person. It sets you apart from the rest. It shows your clients, employees and colleagues that you are human too. It builds bridges instead of causing divides. As a byproduct, it may even ignite more motivation in others. Business leaders can never go wrong by going out of their way for others.
4. Remain sincere and honest at all times. Too often in the business world, we see or hear about lies, deception and corruption. It can be tempting to not tell the full truth or be sneaky in our transactions, but in the end, nobody wins. Sincerity and honesty remain two admirable traits that will help you stand out in this cut throat world. Remembering the Golden Rule, ask yourself, “How would I want to be treated? Is this deal fair? Is it honest?” If your answer is no, consider changing your actions. One can never go wrong by being honest. In the end, the truth always wins, so why not start with it in the first place?
5. Do what you say you’re going to do. Too often, business leaders do not follow through with their word. They make empty promises that sound good but never move forward with action. Once you shift your lens and view your clients and colleagues as family, you begin to truly love and care about them. True love sticks to its word. It does not back down when times get hard. It does not make poor excuses. If you say you’re going to pay someone at a certain time, do it. If you tell someone you’re going to deliver a deal, do it. This will not only boost your reputation but will build a better relationship with those around you. Being a man, or woman, of your word, is profoundly vital in the business world.
Bob Chapman, CEO of multi-billion dollar company Barry Wehmiller, penned a book called Everybody Matters: The Extraordinary Power of Caring for your People like Family. In it, he reminds us that “leadership is the stewardship of the lives entrusted to you.” Just as parents are entrusted children, we as business leaders are entrusted colleagues and clients. It is our duty – and privilege– to treat them with the utmost care at all times.
After two decades in the entertainment industry, I have known both success and struggle. I have seen money come and go. In the end, making money is not that important to me. On my deathbed, I am certain I will not be counting my money. Instead, I will be thinking about how well I’ve loved people during my life. I will remember the people I’ve encountered over the years – their faces, their laughs, their value, their lives. I will remember what really matters.
Viewing clients as family may require a lens shift, but it can prove invaluable. It can change your business, but it can also change your life –and your heart. Bank accounts constantly shrink and expand, but quality relationships can last a lifetime.
Jason Davis, CEO of One One 7.
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