Sunday, March 26, 2017

Good Business=5 Good Relationships

Whenever someone asks me what I do for a living, my gut instinct is to talk about lean manufacturing, the Toyota Production System, Six Sigma, blah, blah, blah, blah. Root cause this or heijunka that. Usually, when someone says, "hey, what do you do?", that is how we're supposed to answer. Consultant. Doctor. Car Salesman. Nurse. Dog Neuterer.

Why not relationship builder?

Because if you really think about it, we all really build relationships for a living. That's what we do. The strength (or weakness) of our business is really the sum total of the strength(or weakness) of these 5 relationships:
  1. our families
  2. our team members (employees)
  3. our customers
  4. our community
  5. our suppliers
If we make it a priority to delight, not satisfy these 5 stakeholders, the scoreboard takes care of itself. It really doesn't matter if I own or work in it 1000 person manufacturing company or a 12 person frozen yogurt shop, like my wife Gloria.

First, our families. Business Consultant is only 1 of the many roles I perform. Husband, father, son, brother, uncle, football Back Judge, lacrosse coach. All of these roles contribute to me being OK to be around (I think). Nobody ever said they wish they spent more time at work on their deathbed. There's nothing more important and satisfying as a good balance of all of our roles.

Second, our team members. Am I paying people simply to do tasks, or is my intention to help continuously develop them?  One of TPS principles is "to continuously develop your people." How much time do I spend doing this? Shouldn't this be my only job as manager/coach/supervisor? Or, are people scapegoats when things go wrong & expendable? Do I express appreciation and gratitude for their efforts? Do I look to see if I can help if they're distracted or upset? 

Third, our customers. Funny thing is, if we work hard to develop our team members, this relationship really takes care of itself. Still, do I call or visit customers just to check in to see how we're doing and tell them we love them? Do we bend over backwards when they complain, or do they go into the "quality system".  One reason people like doing business with small businesses is because they feel valued and important.

Fourth, our community. Do we reach out to the schools, charities, neighbors, soup kitchens, etc. to see how we can help? This doesn't always need to be about money. One of the root causes for the success of my wife's froyo shop is her effort to help reading teachers, little leagues, churches, scouts, etc. etc. 

And fifth, our suppliers. If they struggle, we struggle. Our customers don't really care if our excuse is our supplier's inability to perform, Do we show our suppliers respect by challenging them? If we're a "lean" company, do we share what we've learned? Do we involve them in problem solving? In our goal setting?

Our business isn't about a product (others can and are making it 99% of the time) or our packaging or branding. It's really about our ability to make and keep friends! People do business with people they like and trust.

I can't wait for the next time someone asks me what I do! (Hope they don't just walk away before I get through all 5).


  1. This is great Bill. We are managing relationships & peronalities on a daily basis. We could all use a little more psych training from time to time!

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