Last night was an exciting night in the Futcher Household. Our first Futcher Fotos clients were coming over to look at their pictures.
Carefully, I set the scene. The laptop placed in the center of our glass coffee-table would display a slideshow of our favorite photos. My daughter helped me create a romantic atmosphere using the topper from our own wedding cake and a lit heart-shaped candle. Quickly, I searched my limited i-Tunes library for an appropriate song. As the couple arrived, we seated them on the couch and started the slideshow. Two pictures in, the bride started tearing up.
That was the moment I was rewarded for all my work. Yes, the check will come in handy (especially since we had spent nearly every penny we have in start-up costs), but the moment when we were able to bring joy to a dear couple was beyond priceless.
Today as I continue to bask in the delight of a job well done while at the same time listening to my dad vent about a company trying to get him to pay for a product that had harmed his health during what was supposed to have been a free trial, I can’t help but wonder if there are lessons we can learn about doing business the way the pioneers did.
Perhaps the scene that best illustrates business in the pioneer days can be found in The Long Winter. After Almonzo and Cap took a life-risking mission to obtain wheat, the storekeeper was tempted to sell this wheat to the starving, stranded townsfolk at an unfair profit.
But the townspeople wouldn’t have it. As a group gathered to protest, one man reasoned with the storekeeper. “You got to treat folks right or you don’t last long in business, not in this country.”
Today, treating folks right has become less and less part of the business formula. “It’s not personal, it’s just business,” we say as we wonder why our lives are not as fulfilling as they could be.
We make our purchases at national chain stores or through invisible online sources and work in jobs where customer service is more about trouble shooting than having rewarding interactions. Instead of doing business with neighbors whom we go to church with and invite to our birthday parties, we spend stressful days interacting with strangers, trying to protect ourselves from being taken advantage of.
Though we may have more money than our pioneer ancestors, we seem to have lost something. Something intangible. Something that happens when the people we do business with become our friends.
So what can we do to regain this? Here are some thoughts.
- Take pride in what you do (whatever it is).
- Make eye contact with the people you do business with. Call them by name when appropriate.
- Choose more personal means of communication. Stop by someone’s office, for example, rather than shooting off an email.
- Schedule interruptions into your day so that you are able to take the time for the people you do business with.
- Don’t be afraid to mix business and pleasure to a reasonable degree.
- Ask your clients how they are doing on a personal level.
- Always keep the needs of others in the forefront of your thoughts.
- Go the extra mile for your clients even when there is no monetary profit in doing so.
- Consider starting your own small business.
As a Customer
- Shop small businesses when possible.
- Even at a large store, make it personal by going through the same cashier line and getting to know the individuals who are serving you.
- Make eye contact and small talk with cashiers and others you’re doing business with.
- Reward a job well done with repeat business and/or by telling others about your experience.
- Consider small but thoughtful gifts for those you do business with regularly, such as your postman.
- Make online orders more personal by sending notes of gratitude when a purchase meets expectations.
- Even when you are upset with how you’ve been treated, talk to the person serving you as you would a friend.
Perhaps, if we make an effort, we can bring back the missing element in business and find more fulfillment in what we do.