Friday, December 03, 2004

Why I love doing business.

From now on, I'm gonna post on Friday evening (GMT).
So, for this friday, an oldie but goldie:

Why I love doing business.
A reminder to myself why I do what I do.

As always, you are strongly recommended to print this out when reading.

FIRST: I love making a good impact on people’s lives.
I happen to know a girl that plays guitar and sings in a very successful local cover band. They are amazingly good at what they do. One evening, I was watching them play at a club, and I found myself looking more at the audience than the gorgeous girls on stage. People were having a great time! At that moment, during the short time the band played, the band was really making the life of the audience awesome. I was absolutely mesmerized by it. I realized right then, that it is my destiny, my purpose, and my passion, to make that kind of impact on people. Help them feel better, improve their lives, let them have more fun.

I don’t feel the need to deliver some huge life-altering experience, or something that lasts for years. I am of the strong belief that it is the small things that makes up your actual life, not the huge ones. For instance, I remember a party at a good friend of mine. It was a great party! But the best part came after the party itself. You see, my friend has access to this huge house, and I and some other people spent the night. The morning after, we had breakfast. Hung over and tired, we all sat in my friends sofa, had coffee and bread that tasted like heaven. We talked about this and that as the spring sun started to fall through the windows. I’m pretty sure that it was the best time of my life, right there. A good breakfast with good people.
That’s why the best part of running my eCommerce business is actually sending off the envelopes with the merchandise in them. I love the fact that I touch several thousand people, even if it’s just a little in each case.

SECOND: I love interacting with people.
I love communicating. I love speaking to people. Every single business idea I’ve ever had came from a conversation. Every time I’ve fallen in love with someone, it was when I talked with them. I like people that communicate well, and people that like me like me because I myself communicate well. Without interaction, bad or good, humanity would halt to a standstill in a matter of minutes, and so would any business.

This is why I hate the customer service of so many companies. They grow so large that they are nothing but large, money-making blobs that are utterly impersonal. My local bus company is a prime example of this. Their customer service is total crap. They switch bus drivers like I switch underwear, and most of them are just as service-minded as your average cactus. The very way their company is designed makes it impossible for them to have a personal relationship with me. One time, I lacked the cash to pay for my trip (I lacked less than half a dollar) and they actually tried to throw me off the bus.

Even though I’ve made in excess of 5000 trips with them, they weren’t able to recognize me and say “Hey, Mattias, nice to see you. Sorry you are stripped for cash, this trip is on us.” Communicating with these companies is NOTHING like communicating with someone over a cup of coffee. It holds no resemblance at all. The company has been stripped of it’s humanity.
That is why I love providing FANTASTIC customer service. I mean beating-everyone-else fantastic. As consumers, we’ve grown very accustomed to companies looking upon us as a chunk of large meat carrying a wallet. We are no longer irritated by centralized callcenters, automated customer service, or pre-written email replies. While this allows companies to save a lot of money, it also means it’s incredibly lucrative to offer a more personal touch to your customer service, as customers will appreciate it so much more, because it’s so rare.

I’m going to quote an example from Brendon Sinclairs excellent blog. Let’s say you sell suits. A man walks in, and buys a suit. You will probably never see him again. But what if you did this: Two weeks after his purchase, you send him a letter and a tie. The letter shows that “hey, I remember your name, your skin colouring, and the suit you bought – I thought this tie would go beautifully with it”. Stuff like this is very cheap (compared to generating new customers) and is the kind of small thing that makes people into lifetime customers. It’s also a plain nice ****ing thing to do.

I love interacting with people, and that is also why I love marketing.I love marketing because it equals communication. Communication in it’s simplest, purest form. I love innovative marketing techniques, copywriting, printed ads, direct mail and the like. Good marketing is distilling the very essence and core of a message, into something that is so simple that you can understand it in a few seconds, and then firing it at your audience with incredible force. It’s an enormous communicative challenge, and I absolutely love it.

THIRD: I love the game.
I’ve been selling stuff since I was a kid. Back then, I didn’t do it because of the money (I didn’t really need any), but because I really liked to sell stuff. It’s not different now. I’ve concluded that it is because I love the game of selling. I’ve always liked games like Monopoly, Civilization and Theme Park. Running a business is a game of being smarter than other people. It’s just like a strategy game, but more complex and in real life. I remember a particular detail in Theme Park, where you could increase the amount of salt in the French Fries to make people buy more cola. For some reason, I found that detail to be incredibly cool. Not exactly something you’d do in a real business, but it reflects on what I consider to be the game – tweaking, thinking, creating, dreaming, brainstorming, and working hard to sell. It’s a lovely, lovely game, and it’s so easy to keep score.

FINALLY: I love working with other people.
Solitary work is all well and good, but I’m definitely happiest and most passionate when I am working with other, like-minded people. It’s a completely different kind of energy. But I don’t want to work for someone else’s vision. I have never been able to do that very well. It has to be for my own projects, my own organization. I want to create my own work environment, for myself and for people like me.