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The Good News Is My Mate Is Alive
A guy I regard as a brother ended up having major invasive surgery last week for a potentially fatal condition. What the hell is going on with the people around me?
It all went well and he’s expected to make a full recovery, which is wonderful because life without him was a fucked-up thing to contemplate.
He has a very large brain, more conservative than mine which is a good balance to my experimental urges.
Most would call him the opinion leader in his business field, in the finance sector. He would reject that because he’s not big on self-hustle and on-trend labels.
For decades he’s had a saying that guides his people and I love it a lot:
Service, not servants.
So much going on in those three words.
Most people get that distinction.
Organisations as a whole, not so much.
When they get a sniff of a short-term commercial sugar hit, businesses will demand their staff kiss arse like they’re Kim Jong-Un’s personal footman.
“Great outfit, Beloved Leader And Father Of Our Nation!”
Service Has Many Dimensions
Service is a longer game than subservience.
Service is telling people what they need to know, in a polite, constructive fashion. Not what they want to hear.
Telling people what you believe they need to know in the first meeting can be a bit of a clown show.
Because odds are you haven’t listened enough to understand what they really need to hear.
(I’m thinking of B2B business relationships here, not café or retail service).
Service is remembering all the details about them next time (and that certainly applies in cafes and retail).
It’s meeting the agreed deadlines. Everyone promises, so few deliver.
It’s giving customers ideas and suggestions outside the scope of what they asked for. Because many clients exist in their own little bubble where everyone agrees with each other, and they could use a different perspective.
It’s about client contact people who know the subject. Not sending charming diplomats who always have to ask someone back at the office.
Service is providing team continuity. So clients don’t have to explain everything to new faces with every transaction.
Service is owning the screw-up, and sorting it out right away. Rather than making the client wait for their case to filter through five layers of management.
When the procurement team has packed away its spreadsheets and left the scene, having pretended to include service in their “weighted evaluation matrix”, service and account management are the single biggest factors in the client relationship.
All the pricing, processes, standards and policies you sweated over fade into the background (thanks to big-end-of-town pitch analyst Cian McLoughlin for this point, he has data to prove it).
Service Isn’t Just External
Service doesn’t get the respect it deserves. Maybe because economists use the term service industries in a way that evokes casual waitstaff.
Service is a profession, and quality organisations understand that. They support the people involved.
They encourage it in their people at all levels, not just frontline staff.
Applying the service mentality internally makes businesses work so much better.
Subservience Isn’t Profitable
My friend’s book of clients could have been bigger, but he’s got good antennae for the clients who demand servants. Those are the flaky ones.
They’re unwilling to take advice, preferring suppliers to pour out a tasty cocktail of confirmation bias that tells them only what they want to hear.
Long term that usually ends in tears, and financial pain for everyone concerned. My friend’s sensible customers are profitable because he doesn’t have to factor as many losing bets on nutters and narcissists.
Subservience feels good to a certain type of client, but they’ll always find someone willing to lick them all over more thoroughly than you.
Subservience is being willing to throw your staff under the bus for every client whim. Want them to work all weekend at an hour’s notice? Sure, our staff would be delighted.
Which is not to say don’t work all weekend sometimes. But if it’s not appreciated, then you should be questioning why you’re working with those people.
Demanding Subservience Isn’t Great For Your Business
You should expect high value for money in your purchasing. That’s business.
But if you expect your suppliers to be servants, it shows. It makes their best people leave, so you must deal with drones and desperadoes who can’t get a gig anywhere else.
Those suppliers won’t be there for you in a crisis, when you need urgent stock during a shortage, a quick replacement for some piece of tech that supports your whole business, or some other situation where you need them.
They’ll be busy helping out the customers that didn’t treat them like dirt the rest of the time.
Subservient Jobs Are Bad For Your Career
Service leads to better self-worth. Strong self-worth means people do a better job, and have the pride that keeps them lifting their skills.
Subservience is the opposite.
You can put a layer of gloss on it for a few years, telling yourself that all the grovelling is worth it for your long-term career.
You have to be a junior at some stage, and that involves learning you’re not the accomplished genius you think you are.
But ten years into a career, when you look in the mirror and see a corporate butler who still has to drop everything whenever the bell rings, that’s a grim realisation.
Lift your service game before it’s too late.
UNDISRUPTABLE: BUY THE BOOK
It’s out in a couple of weeks! Here’s a review from Cyan Ta’eed, co-founder of one of Australia’s biggest tech success stories, Envato:
“Wise, informative and laugh-out-loud funny. Ian writes about the entrepreneur experience with the gritty detail you only get from having done it yourself. An essential, realistic guide for anyone thinking about setting up their own business.”
If you like reading my stuff, I would really appreciate you pre-ordering it. Pre-orders kinda determine whether books live or die, because strong pre-orders mean the bookshops buy more copies and the momentum builds from there. If not, books just disappear.
There will be signed copies on sale thru Booktopia later this week.
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