You know the Christmas holiday season is over when the shelves in the stores are filling with Valentine's Day merchandise. The colors pink and red and every shade in between brighten the aisles where the leftover candy canes and stick-on bows are reduced to 90% off!
Valentines' Day I believe is a day of buying "favorites". Just buy me my favorite perfume or candy or jewelry or take me to my favorite restaurant and THEN surprise me with my favorite flower.
Even with all of the "carb craze" and dieting resolutions that are made after the holidays, there is just something tempting about those big, beautiful candy boxes with the little ruffle around the edge. I never really received one of them, as I prefer little velvet boxes filled with non-edibles, but I still think they are lovely.
There is something magical about the boxes, whether velvet or heart shaped that peaks our curiosity that something we love, one of our "favorites", lies waiting for us to discover.
Gift boxes come in all sizes and shapes and they have one thing in common: something special should be inside. I, for one, am tired of the business cliché, "Think Outside of the Box." I think some businesses lost sight of the original "box" that held their businesses together.
What made the base and the supports so strong? What interesting things did they put inside? How did they market their "box" to make it one of their client's "favorites" so that they returned again and again anticipating the new items or services they had to offer?
So as the song says, "What Does Love Have To Do With It?" Everything! Love, just like business, is all about building relationships, working on communication skills and fanning the flame when it starts to die, and remembering the little things that maybe no one else does.
Love Lesson #1- It's day-to-day!
Companies, like people, sometimes let themselves "go." They put on a little weight, they don't take care of themselves and they forget how to romance the person that used to be the center of their lives. The same goes for a business. Businesses can't even start to think outside the box until the inside of the box is maintained on a daily basis.
When was the last time you took a critical look at your hiring procedures and training programs? Have you developed an accountability process for all of your employees, including yourself? Would your customers say that they enjoy doing business with your company?
Many people like to use Southwest airlines as an example of a good business. I personally, have never flown Southwest. I live in Pittsburgh, PA which was, until recently, a USAirways hub.
USAirways has had its difficulties over the past years as it has experienced bankruptcies, it has slashed salaries and benefits as well as thousands of jobs and to say that the morale at that airline is low is putting it mildly.
For the longest time they have been the "only game in town" fighting off their competition with a bruised and battered business and disgruntled employees.
Rumors had been flying, excuse the pun, for awhile that Southwest was considering coming to Pittsburgh. There were plenty of nay-sayers and then last week, Southwest announced, it is coming to Pittsburgh. The stories dominated the local paper.
I read as much as I could about this new "neighbor" and I started to understand the mission and vision of Southwest airlines. Their "box" was built strong, and it stays strong because of its dedicated employees and loyal customers who call them their "favorite" airline.
One article about Southwest stated, "The basic idea is that employees who are treated well end up being dedicated to the company and can't help but translate their own good feelings into good customer service."
My favorite quote concerning Southwest is," The philosophy of the company has always been that it is the job of the employee to serve the customer and the principal job of the management is to serve their employees."
Make no mistake of where this company's priorities lie. You may say it in your business, the question is do you follow through on it, day-to-day?
Love Lesson # 2 It's Challenging!
Being in love is challenging at times! Being in love with your employees and customers can push the limits. But if you've made the commitment you'll do what ever it takes to keep the people who matter most in your business life, happy.
Southwest says that it sends cards to all of its employees on their birthdays, the anniversary of their employment and Thanksgiving and Christmas. There are also Halloween costume contests, poem contest and chili cook-offs. They must find this so important that they employ a corporate committee on corporate culture. I believe that the emphasis on the importance of the employee within the company transfers to how they treat their passengers.
No one ever said taking care of your customer was easy. It is hard, challenging and tiring. The outcome, however, is seeing your name at the top on the list of your customers "favorite companies to do business with."
Where do you rank?
Lesson #3 Make it FUN!
My husband and I recently celebrated our 26th wedding anniversary and I will say that laughing and being silly is the glue that holds a good part of a marriage together. I also have been in business for 21 years and if I didn't make enjoying my business and my clients a priority I wouldn't have the laugh lines I do today.
Everyone quotes Southwest flight attendants antics and our paper carried this current one. Evidently a recent Southwest flight had a bumpy touchdown in Norfolk. The flight attendant said, "Oow, if you were sleeping you're certainly awake now!" She went on to say, "For your continued safety, because our pilots fly much better than they drive on the runway, don't remove that tush from the cush until the plane stops!" This sounds like my kind of flight attendant.
You may be a sole-proprietorship or the CEO of a global Fortune 500 company. The rules of loving your employees and your customers apply to both and everything in between.
A read a quote years ago that said, "If people delivered in marriage what they sold when they were dating, the divorce rate would be much lower."
How can we get the spark back in our businesses? The answer just might be to fall in love all over with our business, our employees and most of all our customers.
Pass the candy!