Love Your Customers?

Many of us have been reflecting deeply about what might re-power the economy as well as boost our own and our customers’ businesses. There’s certainly no shortage of clamoring, but little feels trustworthy.

Browsing the new Strategy & Business Fall issue, I was struck by a couple of points:

  • The winners in the digital economy are those closest to customers
  • The companies that win at innovation are not those that invest more dollars in R&D; the winners are those who align strategy & culture to innovation.
  • (Of course the latter requires the former, as Prahalad and Krishnan aptly demonstrated.)

Plus ca change, plus c’est la meme chose?  As a Business Anthropologist, intending no disrespect for an excellent business magazine and the journeyman research it reports, my first response was, “Duh.”  But how many businesses have employed Prahalad’s formulae?  Do we know what’s missing?

Though everything seems to be changing, in fact many of the dynamics of commerce remain constant.  People do business with those they trust. And who is that? Those who demonstrate understanding of their ways and regard for their concerns.

My esteemed teacher, Humberto Maturana, articulated what he called the biology of love: “The other is a legitimate other in coordination with me” (the other’s concerns are equally legitimate to my own.)   Commerce is a form of coordination – a form of relating – that engages all of our brains’ emotional wiring.  And thus, as we approach the Thanksgiving holiday in the U.S., I invite you to articulate your love for your customers.

What I love about my customers is their ongoing passion for learning and stepping up to add more and more value.  If you are among them, please accept my gratitude for being on this learning journey with me, and for your commitment to looking after your employees, customers, and communities.

Think love is not important in business? That couldn’t be what’s missing? I invite you to begin this holiday season by letting your customers know what you love about them. See if that doesn’t open ways to get closer to them, to better understand their concerns, and to deepen trust.

Try holding their concerns as equal to your own.  When you realize that will require shifts in strategy and culture - no matter what size your business or division - you’ll know you’re on the right track.

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