Make A Connection

Stand out by making a connection.

By Mark Riffey

More than ever, Business is (still) Personal. Due in part to physical distancing and related situations, people are starving for connection. COVID didn’t make us less personal. It gave us the opportunity to be personal from a distance. Many interpreted that as disconnected completely.

Going to Zoom is fine. Going to Zoom in an impersonal manner is not fine. Some feel working remote is impersonal. I get it, but I don’t see it that way, despite doing remote work since 1999. It works for me but everyone is different. For others, I know for sure that it doesn’t.

One of the things that makes it work is connection. I have a fair number of friends that I first met online. I’ve met several of them either once or twice – or never – after over 20 years. I talk to a fair percentage of them every weekday. Some, I talk to every day or almost daily. As with people you’d meet at the water fountain, we’ve talked each other through good times and bad. One of them I’ve seen once for dinner since 2004.

It’s not only personal relationships. I’ve met only a small handful of the clients I’ve worked with since 2007. I briefly met my favorite, best, and longest-term client at a tech conference in 2004. They first asked me to do some work for their company few years later. In total, we’ve spent a week together since 2007. As you’d guess, we have a pretty great connection.

Most people crave connection. They always have.

Your job is to figure out what can you do to create those connections. It doesn’t matter how, but some things work better than others. Use a remote tool like Zoom or similar. Have a discussion in the parking lot. Stand on the sidewalk while they’re in their doorway. Do whatever you can to start a conversation and make a connection. Even if it’s not what we’re used to, we know how to use those muscles. Figure it out.

Connection with your team counts too

Take better care of your people. Treat them better. It isn’t hard and it doesn’t always have to be about money. We all know how to do it. It’s easy to let these things slide. Don’t. When you take better care of them, they’ll take better care of your customers.

I remember something an employer did for me back in 1987. It wasn’t a big, expensive act – but it was special and I remember it to this day. At the time, that company had seven employees. Today, they’re a very successful company with over 350 employees. I have no doubt there’s a connection between their care for the team and their success.

Another employer did something much more substantial back in the early 90s. Didn’t have to, but they did. Another was flexible when my dad’s health was failing. I worked from dad’s place for 10 weeks, doing the best I could to get my work done between helping mom and dad. We’d known each other less than a year at the time. Think I’ll ever forget that “favor”?

What they did doesn’t matter. That they were paying attention and helped how they could – that’s what matters.

Transparency creates connection

As small business owners, public-facing transparency is rarely something we do by default. Most of us keep everything to ourselves. We watch younger companies – often fast growing ones – talk in public about everything and we scratch our heads.

If something blows up, they don’t fix it and move on. They fix it, and break down exactly what happened and why. They discuss their strategy for avoiding that risk in the future. In public. On their website.

Got a favorite (or least favorite) vendor? Search “downtime root cause analysis your-favorite-vendorname” and you may. If you’d like an example, here’s the root cause analysis of a well-known Amazon outage from a few years back.

These days, trying to gloss over a problem is a waste of time and a great way to alienate your customers. Yes, some businesses can’t be this transparent due to regulations, but most aren’t constrained like that.

With most customers, explaining what happened and how you’re going to fix it will strengthen your relationship. However, some will leave. The ones who leave because you explained it are often the ones who weren’t convinced anyway. They were already looking for a reason to leave.

Every business has these opportunities.

Mark Riffey is an investor and advisor to small business owners. Want to learn more about Mark or ask him to write about a strategic, operations or marketing problem? See Mark’s site, contact him on LinkedIn or Twitter, or email him at mriffey@flatheadbeacon.com.

Stay Connected with the Daily Roundup.

Sign up for our newsletter and get the best of the Beacon delivered every day to your inbox.