What is it you’d say you do around here?

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One of the best parts of my gig is hanging around and talking to entrepreneurs and small businesses. ExchangeDefender does business worldwide with all sorts of organizations, I’ve been lucky to travel the world with it, and small business is just fundamentally more remarkable when it comes to the passion for detail, quality and reputation. In enterprise they call this quality “leadership” but in small business it’s really all about hustling and making every day better.

This weekend I was out buying something fairly labor intensive and I spoke to several different companies about it. Where larger and more established ones focused on the financials, mind numbing series of options that only made it more difficult to hand over my money, technical details that I’m sure even they didn’t fully understand or had the capability to explain, customer service courtesy.. small businesses focused on the quality and advice. Here are some of the quotes:

“I mean, it could be done for less but I would not put my name on it.”

“What you need to consider is X, Y and Z.. let me show you the pitfalls of each.”

“This is what I do for a living, I would not let you talk to someone else and tell them I did something like that to you”

Literally every interaction is about quality, detail and education.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s not that I dislike luxury. I love it. I own a Mercedes Benz and the dealership I bought it from has 2 concierges that drop off loaners and pick up your vehicle anywhere you are – no need to drive to the dealership. In case you wanted to, the waiting room has free soda and a neverending hors d’oeuvre. The one time I went to the closest Mercedes dealership and decided to wait they had a chef making lobster eggs benedict with the concierge serving a choice of white and red wine. The lesson with luxury is probably all too familiar to my female readers:

When they want something from you they’ll wine you and dine you and treat you great. Then they try to fuck you.

If you’ve ever been on the receiving end of a $300 oil change or $50 windshield wipers you know that feeling.

This is why, whenever possible, I try to give my business to small business. Not because of the treatment but because of the passion and attention to detail. I work very hard for my stuff and I only trust it to someone that is going to take care of it as I would.

The Point

Every small business starts with an incredible promise, passion and care.

It’s a fatal mistake to be 100% focused on products and service – if you don’t sell and market and grow you will disappear. But just as abuse of focus on quality can be fatal, so can the abuse of focus on the profits and sales.

I know far too many companies, may of which you’ve probably been burned by, that grew on a great product and then fell into the sea of mediocrity where all they care is about what they are going to sell you next.

This doesn’t happen by accident. It happens by design and ignorance: owners enjoy the good life, take their eyes off the ball, bonus their sales people over their product people and pretty soon the obsession isn’t about the customer and what the client needs – the obsession is on what else we can sell to the customer. It’s not about adding value anymore, it’s about milking out more revenue from what is already being delivered.

It then feeds on itself. As the business becomes more about the numbers than about the service, it’s owners and creative lifeline of the company take another step back.. The faith is all but sealed then – find a buyer or race to the extinction.

Don’t think this affects multimillion dollar companies either – it happens in SMB too. I used to be a pretty big proponent of a group that was founded on the principles of sharing and holding other people accountable: they shared SharePoint templates, marketing plans, product deployment guides.. but a funny thing happened on the way to the bank: their meetings became about which overcompensated people to fire, how to cut costs and they sat around like the sheep in a room staring at the business revenue and profitability profiles that did nothing for their business but make them feel inadequate. Here is a f’n newsflash:

Your business is not about you. It’s about what you can do for your clients.

Yes, we can argue whether it’s better off to be Daimler/Mercedes Benz or the local guy building Cobra replicas and barely scraping a decent salary.. but there is no argument over what is truly important in business: your clients. Money isn’t everything or the only thing and without clients you get none.

Forget that little tidbit and your clients will forget about you. Quickly.

Happy Monday Folks. Australia, see you in a bit!