Stop Chasing…Love the Ones You’re With

12794472_10153416797931625_7651695519936410007_n

 

Stop chasing, and start cultivating. I don’t usually write about business, but I felt like this particular topic applies to all relationships. As an entrepreneur I hear a lot of my colleagues noting that they can’t find their “ideal” client. It was one of the topics of a recent event we hosted in our boutique, Alis Living.  Many good ideas were shared around the room, from “share your story, so people will get to know you” to “make sure you also share testimonials from satisfied clients.” Another very important thing I thought about after the meeting is that we  must really take the time to get to know the people we desire to serve. Without the sales pitch, find out a little about the people you encounter. Who are they? I don’t only mean, who are they demographically; but who are they personally? Where do they live? What is their family life like? What makes them laugh, cry, angry, sad? What do they read, watch, play? What is important to them? And then what are their needs, their hopes, their dreams?  As I reminisced about the meeting, I also noted that the topic would be appropriate for nurturing your personal circle of friends. In exercising a little curiosity, you will discover who you resonate with and have a desire to serve, or to spend time with…or even better, both.

Thinking back through the past year of opening our boutique, I took note of the “customers” who have become friends, and how that came about. By no account have we created a large customer base, however, we have made a few really good friends. I’d like to offer a little insight into developing those fab few:

  • First of all, you don’t always need a zillion friends, likes, or customers to sustain a profitable business. It can be much more satisfying for everyone if you have a loyal base that you serve well. These are people you are happy to call your friends, remember their birthdays (really remember them, not just sending the obligatory card, or facebook post.) These are the people you would invite to your wedding, baby shower, birthday party, back yard bar b que etc. These are also the people who really read your newsletter because they enjoy what you offer,  are interested in what YOU are doing, and want to help you succeed. They regularly support your business with their presence, their dollars and their referrals.
  • Second, spend time with them. Listen to their stories, and be interested in what is happening in their lives. Time and attention are two of the most precious ways you can express gratitude and admiration. Also, it is a great way to learn how to best serve them. Show them you are listening, and that you care by incorporating what you learn into serving them.
  • Third, show your appreciation in tangible ways. In your business, give unexpected discounts, meaningful gifts, and make sure you keep them informed on what’s new. In friendship, share unexpected little gifts. People are under a lot of stress these days, and knowing that you are thinking about them can lift someone’s day. It lets them know they are really important to you.
  • Fourth, if you are collaborating on a project, be in it. If things aren’t going well, communicate and work towards resolutions. Commit to only what you know you can contribute. Even if you’re not communicating, but you’re also not present, you’re sending a message of disinterest. Leaving people wondering when and if you are going to get in the game is inconsiderate, a drain on their time and resources, and not a great way to build and maintain a healthy relationship.
  • Fifth, Show up – If you don’t have a full house for an event, party, etc., people are still counting on you. They’ve created space in their busy calendar for you… I can’t stress this one enough…Keep your commitments. Years ago, my mother told me a story that one of her friends shared with her. The woman’s son wanted to start a business and he asked his mom for ideas for a name for the business. Without skipping a beat, she said; call it I SHOW UP. Apparently, she felt that it was important that his potential customer base be confident that he would be where he said he would be, when he said he would be there. All good relationships are rooted in this kind of trust and commitment. My customers know that if there is even one registration, I’m there. If there is someone I want to show appreciation to and there is room in the workshop, I will offer a complimentary registration. People are counting on me and I value their commitment to me as well. I know business people on both sides of this issue. If you are one of those people who is constantly breaking commitments, either because you have time management issues, or because you over book, or you just blow people off for what you think is greener grass at the moment, you will be building your business and personal relationships on a house of cards. Eventually, it will blow down. At the very least, it will be superficial, and less than satisfying, and you will always be chasing new customers/friends.
  • Finally, Have fun with it all. Enjoyment is one of the things that makes life and work rewarding. Enjoying my clients, customers, friends, and family has lifted me through the tough journey of our first year in a new brick and mortar business. Seeing faces light up, bearing witness to aha moments as they unfold, and hearing life changing good news have given me priceless memories this past year.

Nurturing relationships as they develop builds a strong and rewarding foundation in your life and in your work. My baby brother has owned a local air conditioning business for well  over a decade now. Mark is a wonderful service provider; fair and attentive to his loyal customer base. Over the years, he has earned their trust, and their referrals. When he was a new entrepreneur, he attended an advertising and business building conference and he later shared his take away from that conference. His big AHA that came from the expert facilitators is that it is far more important, productive, and profitable to take very good care of the customers you have, the ones right in front of you, than to spend time and resources chasing new work all the time. That bit of wisdom resonated with me, and it is how I have endeavored to show up in both my personal and professional life. Which relationships are right in front of you that you could be giving more attention to?

Not what I planned to write today, but…there ya go. On a side note, and inspired by this train of thought, I’m thinking it’s time to host an invitation only VIP customer/friend appreciation day at the store. Stay tuned for details!