Inspired by Jan’s blog My business is me…or is it? I had a flash of realisation. A realisation of how there has been a big shift in SK Chase. The shift relates to our customers and our team.
I left school young (16) and although I attended college (and I use that term loosely – my report card stated 37% of classes had been visited – 35% was the minimum to pass) I didn’t really gain a huge amount from my education. There are so many reasons for that, which I won’t go into in this blog post – let’s just say my learning style wasn’t aligned with my teachers teaching style.
In contrast, when I started my first job in London I realised that I was quite bright after all and found ‘working’ to be pure bliss. I loved it. I loved that I had a purpose – that there were customers you could help – that all my colleagues were so diverse and most important of all – that I fitted in. I fitted in because the culture and work ethics were spot on. I had great bosses; they were fun AND hard working. They gave opportunities that 18 year olds rarely get (I lead a familiarisation trip to Dallas & Houston within my first six months of working there). And most importantly of all, they believed in me.
At the time I didn’t think too deeply about how businesses worked – I just knew this one did. (I didn’t think too deeply about anything – apart from whether my shoulder-pads and hair, for that matter, were big enough – it was the late 80s after all).
Back to school
Later when I moved from London to Edinburgh I started to feel a bit lacking in the business world because I didn’t have a university degree and whilst I’d gained a huge amount of valuable ‘on the job’ experience I realised it would be helpful to understand the deeper workings of organisations.
As I was in a marketing role at the time, I enlisted on a Chartered Institute of Marketing course and was swiftly introduced to the concept that “Customer is King”.
I was taught that customer-centric businesses are those that are most successful; that those businesses that invest in marketing are those that are the leaders in their field; that more marketing experts were needed in the board room; and that most important of all, that customers came above
And then, when I set up my own business, I put into practice what I learned at college – and was the most customer –focussed person in the universe… This would be fine if it wasn’t for one thing.
It was to the detriment of our team.
I put our customers ABOVE our people. I believed they were MORE important than the person I was sitting next to.
Of course I don’t deny that it’s absolutely vital to put customers first when you’re setting up a business (and if we hadn’t, it’s unlikely I’d be here writing this blog).
Our team are our business
However now I know differently. I know that our people are so, so important. As Jan says, they ARE our business. More important than believing customer is king is being good people doing good business; having a heart; loving your team and walking the talk.
During my 10 years working for Usit in London, not once did my bosses talk about Customer being King. Not once did they tell us that we had to put our customers before all else. They simply provided an environment where we were encouraged to grow, to learn, to be creative and to have
fun doing it. And guess what the result was? That we listened to our customers and treated them with the greatest respect – and that respect was reciprocated.
It’s the collective whole that makes a business work. You can have the best Marketing Manager in the world, but if the internal workings of the business don’t value EACH function and each individual working within each function, then it can feel hollow.
So I go back now to the shift that I referred to at the beginning of my blog post. As Annabelle mentions in her comment on Jan’s blog – we’re a much more ‘staff-focussed’ business than we ever have been, and I believe it’s to our customers’ benefit.
It reminds me of that lovely statement that Ritz-Carlton employees carry around with them on little cards – “We are ladies and gentlemen serving ladies and gentlemen”.
It’s an AND not an OR.
In other words, yes, customers are king – AND so are your people