Some people claim that you don’t need to be passionate about a business to be able to run it. I guess that’s true to some extent – especially for a large business. You probably don’t have to be passionate about oil exploration to run ExxonMobil. But I DO think it’s important for a small business.
The larger the business, the more distant the leader is from the day-to-day transactions of the business. They are further from the core of the business as well. The leader has less of a direct impact on the survival of the company. As a result they are further from the heart and soul of what drives the business. (Hmm, maybe heart and soul isn’t what drives the success of a larger business?) That’s also why many people have chosen the life of a small business leader. We want to be at the heart of our businesses. We want to feel the ebb and flow of our businesses. We want to be at the center of what drives our companies. We want to be passionate about what our company does.
And we want others to feel and be a part of that excitement also – our team and our customers. That passion, that excitement, is one of the things that can make a small business stand out from competitors. We want customers to want to engage with us. We want them to look forward to interactions with us. We want them to share that excitement with others. And we want great employees that love working with us and serving our customers.
How do we make that happen?
Leader Sets The Tone
As the leader you are in a unique position to develop an engaging culture.
Don’t be afraid to show your own excitement. Too often leaders feel that they need to be distant, aloof, and dispassionate about their businesses. How can we expect others to be excited about our businesses when we don’t seem to be excited about it ourselves? Really. Does that make sense to you?
A few years ago, when I helped run a retail gourmet cooking store (long story!) I pushed the co-owners to get out on the shop floor. Engage with customers. Show them that we were excited that they had come in – and that we couldn’t wait to help them find that perfect piece of cookware, cookbook, cooking tools, whatever. And sometimes it was nothing more than a fun, engaging conversation about cooking. And that was great too! We were building a community that loved what we were about. And we wanted to show that we loved the art of cooking and cool, fun, unique products as much as they did.
Employees as Humans
When all is said and done, all businesses are people. We must to treat them as you would want to be treated. How you take care of those people, how you engage with them, how you speak with them are all important. Keep these ideas in mind:
- Be personable.
- Be approachable.
- Be interested in their
- Be interested in their lives.
- Be part of the team.
- Be a visionary leader.
Even better, look for ways that they can enjoy the success of the company – whether it’s partial ownership or bonuses. If possible have employees share in the business’s success.
Take a true interest in them and they will show interest and loyalty toward your business.
Make Interactions Engaging and Fun
When I walk into a small store or any small business I want to feel that the leader/owner/manager/employee is truly excited to be there and to interact with me, the customer. But how often do you walk into a business and get the distinct sense that you’re almost an unwelcome intruder? You made employees stop talking to each other (or texting or whatever). Do you want to stay?? Do you want to come back? I know I don’t.
Now think about the times when you have walked into a small business and truly and thoroughly enjoyed the experience. You walked away with a smile on your face. You welcomed the opportunity to go back. You may have even told others about it. THAT’S what all businesses need to strive for.
Every part of the experience needs to be welcoming, fun, and interesting – for both employees and customers. Be creative.
Actively seek out feedback (from customers, from your target market, from employees, etc.). Ask how your company can improve the experience.
Introduce Something Unexpected
For most of us getting something we didn’t expect is fun and exciting. For employees, build morale and foster a positive atmosphere. Find ways to give them a pat on the back and reinforce the right behaviors. That could be financial, a gift card, or even sometimes just public recognition of their great work and attitude. Bring in breakfast or lunch or coffee sometime.
How about with customers? When was the last time you did something they didn’t expect – throw in an extra product, give them free delivery, offer a small discount, pay them a visit just to learn more about them. Why? Just for the heck of it…because we value you as a customer. It’s an unexpected thank-you. Want a double-whammy? Give your team the authority to do that. They will love the trust you place in them and their judgment, and customers will love it!
Surprise people every once in a while. See how they react. See how excited they get. See how they tell others.
Our surroundings do have an impact on how we perform. When people are crammed into boring, uninspired, unpleasant places, they become bored, uninspired, and unpleasant. Shocking, right? When your business reeks of an uncaring attitude, we can’t expect employees and customers to care; much less show excitement. Look for ways to do just the opposite. Create an environment that employees (and customers) love.
Step back. Look at the physical environment of your company. Is it engaging? Is it a place employees and customers look forward to being? Is it a fun, comfortable, positive space? If not, change it into a place your employees will be proud to work in and a place that customers will find engaging.
Bring all of this together and build an exciting and positive business. A smile brings another smile – and a yawn brings another yawn. What sort of a business do you want – a yawn or a smile?
I would love to help you make your business exciting and full of energy. I help organizations gain clarity and confidence around a long-term direction and design their business around customer-oriented processes. If you think I can help your organization, feel free to reach out and get in touch. If you think you might need or want some help with all or a part of that process, call me. I’d be happy to chat with you and explore whether I can help. No pressure. Just an informal discussion to explore the idea a little. You can reach me at (713) 907-8429 or email me at BCohen@IDiscoverConsulting.com.
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