Seth Godin has a post titled Look me in the eye that drives a good point home.  He gives a couple of examples about the value of a face to face transaction (confrontation), then goes on to say this:

Small organizations have the privilege of looking their customers in the eye. Small doesn’t necessarily mean small in numbers. It’s an attitude. Does your organization require a form to get something done, or does one human choose to interact with another? Does bad news come in the form of memos that obfuscate the truth, or is it delivered face to face?

This is a huge point.  I am learning the value of relationships and I have had the opportunity lately to build some relationships that will expand my thinking and my world.  This is the way I approach my consulting business, I tell potential clients that I want to build a relationship, not just make a quick buck on one job.  There is more value, financial and otherwise, in a relationship than in a one time, billable job, such as referrals, friendships etc.

Another example of this that I experienced happened after 9/11.  I had been laid off and was doing anything and everything to get by until I landed a job that came close to supporting my family.  For a while, I managed a business for a friend of mine and it put me in a place that was totally non-technical.  It was basically a local shopping channel, we would broadcast every evening, late into the night, then the next day, our customers came in to pay for and pick up their loot.  That probably gave me more people contact than what I was normally used to, but since we saw many people nearly every day, I built relationships, I got to know them and hear their stories and their struggles. 

I also had to build relationships with my employees, and by doing this, they honestly worked harder.  I worked hard to keep communication open between me and them.  They were making a little over minimum wage and I made a little more than that but not enough to realistically support my family.  Money was tight all the way around and my hands were tied, in that respect.  It wasn’t long before I made it my priority to keep the employees I had, especially the hard workers.  I don’t know if I managed the “right” way, the way the books and classes tell us, but I did the best I could and the only place that I had any leverage is in the relationship.  I had high expectations of my employees, I would praise them when they did well and went above and beyond, and I would be in their face when they slacked.  But I made sure that they always knew where they stood with me. 

That job is probably what drove this relationship mentality home in my mind.  I didn’t have the luxury of e-mail back then, in that world, like I do today, so it was all face to face contact.

Seth concludes his post with this challenge:

Here’s a fun project for this week: try to do as much as you can in person. Or by phone. Especially the hard stuff.

It takes effort, but in the long run, it’s probably worth it.

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