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Your people – and not you or your product – will ultimately determine the fate of your business.

janheadshotwebBy Jan van der Hoop

My wife and I had the great good fortune recently to join some friends on a trip to France and Spain. It had been a while since we were last in France and we were excited to be back, in spite of all the comments from others about watching out for the French ‘attitude’.

We have consistently found that stereotype (like most) totally unfair and misplaced. The locals we met throughout our trip were nothing short of welcoming and delightful. With one exception – a waiter in a lovely little restaurant in Cassis. It was such a shame, too… the drive there along the rugged south coast had been spectacular; the restaurant was just lovely, right beside the idyllic harbour; and the food was delicious. And the four of us practically had the place to ourselves for a midafternoon rose and moules.

rude waiterYou’d think he’d have been glad to receive us. Unfortunately, the service was surly and most unwelcoming. Don’t know if he was just having a bad day, or if he’s in the wrong job altogether… either way, he got me thinking about how the people decisions we make leave us vulnerable, whether we are aware of it or not.

Good hiring practices – and the rigorous application of high performance standards – are the best risk management practices available to you.

Think about that hapless restaurant owner in Cassis. He had clearly invested heavily in his restaurant – the building, the kitchen, the team, promoting and building his business… only to have one guy’s indifference sully his hard-built reputation.

Whether he knows how the guy is treating his customers (or not) is immaterial; the damage is done. I’ve no idea how many other hopeful customers were subjected to his indifference/outright rudeness – but there it is, the uncomfortable truth: your brand, your reputation and your good name are not in your control. It is your employees’ standards, attitudes and values that ultimately determine how your customer will feel during and after they have done business with you.

Not 100% sure how your employees are treating your customers when you’re not looking? Best find out, fast.

Putting up with people whose attitudes and values don’t fully align with yours or the company’s brand promise? Or who likes to share their bad days/weeks/months with others? Best do something about it, even faster.

Looking the other way amounts to management malpractice… and it could just cost you your business.

Jan van der Hoop is President of Fit First Technologies. Jan can be reached via e-mail at [email protected]

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