Wednesday, November 16, 2011

live it or leave it

I was in an office yesterday with a framed (and dusty) mission statement on the wall.

It was HUGE.

It rambled on about how important every customer is to them and how they will work hard to exceed our expectations, yadda, yadda, yadda.

It was obvious though that the mission statement had lost its mission.

I was left waiting. The place was dirty. The employees were talking loudly to each other and not wanting to make eye contact with me. The curtain was wrapped around a plant in a way that had the ficus screaming at me

(yes, I hear plants)

"HELP, I am being choked and this curtain has been here for ... months!"

In short, this was an office badly in need of some authenticity (and leadership and common sense and lots of other things, but it is the lack of authenticity that I took with me).

We have to be living it.

The difference between standing for something and saying we stand for something is the difference between authenticity and the usual business crap we have been listening to for the last 30 years and nobody even hears anymore.

Our authenticity is what cuts through the noise and gets us noticed.

Last week I said "different is better than better" and I think it is. But I also think authentic beats different. Because without authentic

(the place where our brand's DNA meets our customers' needs, wants and desires or maybe we will just say desires because that sounds more ... well, just 'more' - giving people what they desire - I like that, that's what we should be doing)

different is ... well, it's just not enough.

Having an authentic brand isn't about whether our thingamajig is cheaper or better than someone else's thingamajig

(unless our brand is all about being the cheapest or being the best - which for our sanity I hope it isn't)

it's about the kind of relationship that emerges when we are who we say we are - it allows our customer to be themselves, too.

It creates a connection that creates loyalty and even allows us to make mistakes sometimes - a kind of jumping off point.

It sounds easy and it is, but it isn't at the same time. It is hard work. It takes courage and a willingness to release trying to be everything to everybody.

(and I hope we have all given up on that already - it's a doomed business model)

So, after unwrapping the plant and leaving that office without saying a word I have nothing but gratitude to them for the lesson they offered up ... and, I'm sure the place that eventually gets my business will be grateful to them, too.

* if you can't stand the heat print by blimp cat studio

(I should add that most likely the reason I took away the authenticity lesson from this situation is that I am dealing with one of my own trying to decide between my usual chicken charity giveaway Thanksgiving weekend in my shops vs. the free-shipping that the changes on Etsy has me considering - maybe thinking in terms of what my customers desire will help me figure this out)

8 comments:

SummersStudio said...

Well said

Catherine Ivins said...

xo LeeAnn

sheila at shecological said...

Fantastic as usual! I recently started a part-time retail job and after a month of trying to cope with "the public", I found myself totally relaxed and happy after I read a thing about the importance of genuine/authentic interaction. I think it gives a person, or a business, a core strength.

Catherine Ivins said...

ooh nice pic Sheila- yes, authenticity gives us a core strength- I like that - something that no one can take from us - something we can strengthen with practice- good luck with your new job!

elizabeth said...

"it's about the kind of relationship that emerges when we are who we say we are - it allows our customer to be themselves, too."

Yes! And you can feel this.

Thinking about the mission statements at the giant company where I previously worked, it always makes me wonder if a mission statement can ever make people want to stand behind it when it's hard to even understand it because it's couched in techno-babble. Something like that print just feels more authentic. :)

I'm sure the plant is very grateful to you.

Catherine Ivins said...

Hi Elizabeth- I used to work for a big company, too- with those achievement posters in every office (ugh) and a mission statement that was hard to relate to since it was about increasing shareholder value - nothing genuinely 'real' in it to grab us.

Jane Pierce aka zJayne said...

You sure have a way of saying what I want to say and with the words that spill out and make me want to follow you anywhere!

I tell you from the top of buildings - you make a difference! Great timing for me!

Catherine Ivins said...

xo Jane - you always, always inspire me!