Practice Immunity

By Beacon Staff

I was sitting in Coffee Traders last week with a fellow business coach and we were discussing my writing for the Beacon (and elsewhere, such as my blog).

At one point, she asked me “What if people who don’t like what you write?”

My response was something along the lines of “I don’t really care. They have that right.”, which surprised her a bit. She agreed that it was the right attitude to have, but she was a little surprised that I
actually had it. As we talked, it became clear what I really meant.

Practice Immunity.

This doesn’t mean that I don’t care about my writing or my work. The fact is, I do – a lot. The name of this column is “Business is Personal” because I feel business dealings are a personal reflection on someone, not something you put in a box at the end of the day, then go home and act differently (AKA “situational ethics”). My column is a lot like the business and marketing strategies that I teach: I want you to gain from them, just like I hope that business owners use what I teach to make positive, substantive changes in their business.

See, I know that the stuff that I teach and write about actually works. I know because I’ve personally used them in the Flathead & elsewhere. I’ve seen others use these things successfully as well, so I want you to implement them partly because I enjoy watching smart business owners succeed. On the other hand, I’m not going to lose any sleep if you don’t use them. It’s your loss.

So how does this relate to you, and where’s the lesson for the business owner? An example might help, so I’ll use one that’s local to me. Don Bennett.

A little more than 2 years ago, Don opened Freedom Bank in Columbia Falls. You probably heard some of the rumors. “Don’s broke and the building isn’t even done.” “Don’s building is way too expensive, he’ll never make it.”, and so on.

The takeaway is that Don didn’t listen to any of them. He practiced immunity.

Immunity from naysayers – there will always be naysayers – and those who hadn’t ever done what he was doing, hadn’t done the research he had done and thus couldn’t imagine that it could be done. Some have probably said the same kinds of things about this paper. So be it.

Anyone who has paid attention knows Bennett doesn’t have to worry about losing his building anytime soon. In fact, Freedom has set the bar for new business construction in Columbia Falls with the nicest building in town at a strong location.

But he didn’t stop there. He looked for a slight edge.

One of the simple, but effective things that I teach business owners is seek out the “jagged edges”, and be the only one with the nerve to step up and fix them – regardless of what your industry typically does or says. Jagged edges are things that irritate everyone about doing business with people that do what you do.

Don’s example? Having the brass to ignore a now-ridiculous industry norm by eliminating a dusty old (but still standard) banking policy that is a throwback to the way account processing was done decades ago – shuffling microfiche, punch cards, and ledger books.

Yep, I’m talking about “Deposits made after 3:00pm are credited the next business day”.

Obviously, banks had to do this 40 or 50 years ago so that they would have the time to process the paperwork for the day’s business, but in 2007 there’s absolutely no reason for it. Unlike everyone else, Don recognized and acted on it. Deposits made at his bank are credited that day, right up until closing time. Some would look at that policy change as an increased cost, primarily because they can’t or won’t think like a customer. Think about it: How many times have you adjusted your schedule, or interrupted work to get to the bank by 3pm? Is “…3pm” a customer friendly policy?

While it appears trivial, it’s one of those slight edges that I spoke of last week, and it’s one that no one else has bothered to emulate. Why is that?

My mentor Dan Kennedy says that people will sit and watch you do something different, observe the results, but rarely do anything to emulate the change. In my experience, he’s exactly right.

Practice immunity.