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The soul of your business

Tuesday, 5 March 2013 | By Walid El-Khoury

Systems are the key to enormous productivity leaps in your business.


But if left unchecked they can take you right back to square one and put you back in damage control mode.


What systems should do


In my Hands-off report I talk about systems as the holy grail for a lot of good things in your business.


How else do you expect to provide the quality of service your customers expect from you each day, while you and your employees enjoy a satisfying work-life balance?


Whatever aspects of your business that you systemise (recruitment, marketing, delivery, customer surveys, training, etc), never lose track of the purpose behind building such systems:

  • Consistency of service
  • Clear thinking for your strategy
  • Work-life balance
  • Risk management

What systems should NOT do


I was interested in a business recently, so I registered on their email distribution. As expected I started receiving automated educational emails signed by the business owner. Not long afterwards the owner invited me to a joint conference with his business colleagues.


There were a few email communications between us, whereby he answered some of my queries on the agenda and speakers, etc. When I confirmed, he went as far as insisting I come early before the conference starts so he can meet me personally. He was “pumped to see me …”, he said.


In brief, I did go early to the conference and I spoke to him directly and at length on two separate occasions. His replies absolutely confirmed to me that he had no idea who I was. And that’s with my name tag clearly displayed! I wondered how he would have reacted if he was not pumped to see me.


As a potential customer this insincere interaction left a bad after taste. And I also found myself unable to refer business to him.  He lost potentially tens of thousands of dollars of business from me, thanks to his “automated” email system. I later learned that he prides himself on delegating the email communication to his staff using his ‘signature’.


I fully appreciate automation and delegation, but in this case that was one step too far in a business that clearly relies on human interaction and trust. If you are unable to give your customers (or prospects) your personal time and attention do not pretend to.


The soul of your business


Some of my clients have told me they enjoy my occasional use of “anatomy” metaphors for business (profits = muscles, cashflow = oxygen, processes = brain). But a genuine and sincere human interaction in business deserves more than an anatomical part.


I believe it is the soul of your business.


The importance of human interaction (in fact, ‘customer intimacy’) has been one of the key traits of the successful businesses discussed by Bo Burlingham in his book Small Giants:


“There are clear limits to [Danny] Meyer’s ability to teach enlightened hospitality. Yes he can give examples of it in action. He can talk about the waiter who sees customers having trouble deciding between two desserts – and brings the second one free. Or the manager who offers to return by messenger or Federal Express the handbag that the customer has left behind rather than simply holding it for her until she comes to get it…


“Beyond that Meyer can provide staff members with a computer system that will help them remember such details and others … what Meyer can’t do is instil the capacity for empathy in people who don’t have it… So he hires for these qualities and skills, the human skills; he trains for the others…”


It’s worth keeping these lessons in mind when you’re looking into the soul of your business.