My friend Lloyd owns a farm.
Having worked in the nursery and landscaping industry for
more than three decades, I asked him how buyer behavior has evolved over the
years. He summarized it nicely in five words:
Make it for me now.
That’s the expectation. That’s the baseline posture of
today’s retail customer. They demand urgency and customization, and if they
don’t get it, they’re one step away from finding someone else who will get
it for them.
True service is not just about the response, but the speed of the response and the specialization with which we deliver it.
Delivery is not enough.
When someone pays you money to perform a service for them, doing
great work is the bare minimum. The big win is when you make clients look like
heroes to the people who count on them.
My friend Chris does video production with large corporations.
The day he starts any project, he sends his contact person a link to a private
webpage that maps out every single process and timeline for the job. This
embeds expectational clarity into the work, but more importantly, gives the client
something tangible to show to her boss. After all, people who work at big
companies love nothing more than to walk into their superior’s office, show
them that they’re in control, and walk out with a greater sense of accomplishment.
That’s called the second customer. And everyone has one. No
matter what your position is in the service industry, always be mindful of the
peripheral characters who work downstream of the lead role. Because if you can
guaranteed that clients will look like heroes in their eyes, your services will
be in demand for a long time.
We can’t sit back and wait for the world to fall in love
The door must be
opened from the inside.
Despite our best efforts to attract what we want, magnetize
people into our orbit and patiently wait until they respond to our passive
invitation, eventually, we have to step up and make some noise.
We have to go happen to things. We have to put ourselves in
the way of success. We have to find the people who have what we want, grab them
by the lapel and tell them who we are and why they should give it to us.
Otherwise we may never get it.
The world responds to proactivity. And when we’re out in the
community, meeting people, sharing the story of our enterprise, it’s essential
that we leave something behind that’s memorable and valuable.
Moo is the perfect example.
They print the world’s sexiest business
cards. Cards that start conversations. Cards that become social objects. Cards
that are kept and acted on. Cards that tell your story and bring your business to
And because face-to-face is making a comeback, because
talking to people with your mouth will always be fashionable, Moo cards are the
analog friend requests that open that door of opportunity.
They love to print, but they love to help your business grow even more.
Last year I spent four months chasing a potential client who didn’t respond to emails, cancelled multiple meetings, rarely followed up and essentially,
left the project hanging without doing me the respect of simply saying no.
I was officially pissed off.
But instead of lashing out, I laced up. Instead of torturing
myself waiting around for validation, I channeled my anger into an ambitious,
risky and exciting project, one that never would have found legs had I not been
fueled by the fire of frustration.
Once again, emotion was the ember of initiative.
I took things personally, and that made things productively.
And I’m not an angry person by any stretch of the
imagination. But, if an experience bothers me enough to make something happen,
it was worth it. If a person gets under my skin deep enough to disturb me into
taking positive action, it was worth it.
We have to respect everything life has to offer. We have to appreciate the
rightness of every experience.
Especially the ones that piss us off.
If the idea isn’t executed, we never had it.
Regardless of size, quality, passion, practicality, coolness
or marketability, until we physically ship the idea out the door, it doesn’t
That’s why ideas are free and execution is priceless. That’s
why finished is the new perfect. That’s why version done is better than version
Because ideas were never meant to stay that way.
The true measure of success isn’t the idea itself. It’s how
it evolves, where it changes us, how it inspires others, why it matters to us, and
most importantly, what the idea eventually grows into.
We’re told to avoid clichés like the plague.
Then again, clichés start to matter when personal experiences
remind us why people said them in the first place.
Warnings about silk purses and sow’s ears never quite make
sense until we spend four years in a toxic relationship desperately trying to
morph our partner a clone of ourselves.
So what we learn is that most clichés do represent genuine
empathy. Centuries ago, the first time a cliché was uttered, somebody somewhere
felt better. Somebody experienced a greater sense of perspective and comfort
while dealing with life’s difficulties.
Back then, it wasn’t a cliché – it was an act of compassion.
Years later, clichés are useful as advanced warnings and
memory aids. They’re helpful for making sense of an ambiguous world. And they
offer us a handle by which we can lift things.
And even though they’re not the best choice for opening a
speech, writing a cover letter or titling a book, sometimes a cliché is as good
Some businesspeople are afraid to act like people.
Especially owners who are often terminally certain,
unwilling to admit wrongdoing and allergic to apology. And because they’ve been
around for thirty years, they never listen to anybody because the company has
enough customers where they can afford not to care.
Why personally respond to negative online reviews in a
manner that blows people away and creates new customers for life? Why use
social media as a listening platform, view complaints as gifts and turn
feedback into inspiration? And why admit you’ve outgrown some of your
beliefs, upgrade your attitude and rebuild your understanding of yourself?
I’ll tell you why.
Because that would mean changing, and changing means
admitting you were wrong.
If we plan to move forward as human beings, we can’t be
afraid to be human beings. That means being wrong, imperfect, vulnerable and
real. Not authentic or transparent or whatever other bullshit corporate
buzzword rules the day.
Human. People. Our native posture. The one that got us into
business in the first place.
Most people have a business they need to build a brand for.
I had brand I needed to build a business for.
This was never my intention. I never made a formal decision
to approach my enterprise in this manner. But ten years into it, I’m now starting
to realize how much more lucrative it is to work from the inside out, as
opposed to the outside in.
When we start with who we are and what we love – then let
everything flow from there – the work we do is truer. When we start with the
why behind our idea – not the how of who is going to buy it – the work we do is
I was never stopped by not knowing how. I was simply sparked
by knowing why, and sustained by knowing who. And although I never had a plan,
I always had a process.
Now, I’m just getting paid to be myself.
Now, because it’s impossible to fail at self-expression,
because nobody can criticize a life that belongs to me, nobody can tell me that
I’m doing it wrong.
Not a bad way to build a business.
Do a great job and wait for the phone to ring is a broken business model.
It’s complacent, passive and largely unsustainable. And unless you’re
incredibly famous, independently wealthy or impossibly lucky, you need to find
a strategy that provides surer footing. Otherwise your name will disappear.
Not knowing any better, I actually tried this broken model for a while. And
although I found moderate success, I knew I had to make a change or risk
falling off the radar.
So I made a decision.
Instead of sitting in the office, waiting for the phone to ring, I stay in
motion. I keep creating art, keep sticking myself out there and keep making a
difference, every day. That way, when the phone does ring, it’s a surprise. I
actually have to reach back to answer it.
That’s the greatest feeling in world. When new opportunities find you through
the attraction of working, not the arrogance of waiting.
Sure beats sitting in a quiet office all day with my fingers crossed.
The rub about hiring yourself is the absence of blame.
When it’s just
us, there’s nobody to point fingers at.
Should we fail to discipline ourselves, fall short on our
goals or ship mediocre work when we know we could do better, there’s no
assistant to hide behind, no intern to scapegoat and no coworker to blame.
No matter what happens, it’s our fault and ours alone.
This is the best thing that ever happened to us. Instead of
playing another game of blame roulette, we enable a daily practice of taking
responsibility. We paint ourselves into an accountable corner. And we build the
emotional muscle of ownership that is sorely needed to endure the