As others see us

Jun 11 | 2021

Now we are all slowly coming out of enforced isolation, one wonders how standards have suffered? This applies as much to personal standards as it does to business ones.

Tony Allen: And finally...Specifically, I’m going to talk here about that often overlooked area of a business which relates to the outward appearance that we present to the world at large. It’s very easy to overlook this often neglected aspect of a business because, quite frankly, we take it very much for granted. Not seeing the wood for the trees is a most apposite nostrum when applied to our businesses. Sometimes we have to relearn the art of seeing our business through the eyes of a stranger.

Obviously, during the pandemic most companies have suffered, sometimes catastrophic, effects upon their financial stability. In turn, this has resulted in damage to the company ‘esprit de corps’. This often becomes all too apparent as we attempt to return to the old business model, even though so much has changed in our business environment.

This turns out to be all too evident when we look at the harm done to many companies within the retail sector around us. Maybe we don’t think about it enough, but the fact is that the moving industry is very much retail based. We supply to the general public and we carry our shop front to the customer’s front door in the form of a nice (hopefully) shiny vehicle attended by (hopefully) motivated friendly staff. Our sale is normally a ‘one-off’, often brought about by recommendation.          

A friend of mine said to me recently that over recent months we’ve all become a bit stodgy. Not the sort of language that would appeal to Harvard Business School but I see what he means. The outward appearance of our business is so important, but it’s very easy to take it for granted. We can become so blinded by the various aspects of our company that we don’t even notice how important ‘first impressions’ can be. As is often said (many times): you only have one chance to make a first impression!

In our smallish local high street we have two coffee establishments. The first one can be described as: ‘I’m not sure that they are going to survive’ and the second is: ‘It’s amazing how quickly they’ve got back on their feet’. Which one would you be inclined to visit?

If we take the first establishment, there are light bulbs missing, the floors are not all that clean, the windows are dirty and so on. Most of all, the staff don’t seem to be very well motivated – and I know that we are talking about people who have been furloughed for over a year – but that isn’t the point. Outward appearance is the point, it’s not difficult to take the personnel to one side and to involve them in the company by telling them what is expected regarding the fundamentals of good customer relations. This is even more surprising considering that this business - as with the moving industry - is not likely to be affected by the onward march of online retail.

If we take the second coffee shop, I suppose it’s too much to say that it was a ‘magical’ experience, but there was no doubt about the fact that they had obviously applied some thought to the customer experience and inculcated this in the team of individuals in their employ.

I always remember going to see the buyer at a customer of mine. He obviously looked like he needed a good night’s sleep and, knowing him as I did, I mentioned it. He replied that he was fine but it was the company that was tired! I’m sure you would agree that that was not a good image for a company to portray to its staff. I could see what he meant.

I guess at the moment the moving industry is busy satisfying what must have become a pent-up demand. Maybe too many of us have become somewhat lazy over the recent months and to quote the old adage: ‘If you want something done ask a busy man.’  Maybe now is the ideal time to take stock and consider how market expectations have changed over recent times and to look at your company from a stranger’s viewpoint.

Look around you and you will observe that most successful companies apply high standards. Ask yourself the question, are companies successful because they apply high standards or do they apply high standards because they are successful?

I know what I think the answer is …