Taking Time to Reflect
This time of year always reminds me of my childhood friend, Dave. Growing up, he was one of my best friends and the closest thing to a business partner that a kid could have. We used to cut lawns and run paper routes together, and when winter rolled around, we shoveled snow until our backs ached. Dave and I never made much money, but the lessons we learned were invaluable.
His grandfather owned a local gas station. Dave’s grandfather took pride in his work and put all his heart into it. Dave learned a lot watching his grandfather and applied those lessons to our work. Come Christmastime, Dave insisted that we send out cards to our customers, and in every last one of them, we had to handwrite a personal message.
“Why don’t we order cards with messages in them?” I asked. “We could save ourselves a lot of time.”
I had barely started high school, but I thought paper routes and mowing was customer service. After all, we were serving the customer.
“In business, every time you ask a question, the ultimate answer should be about your customers, and no two of them are alike. In my book, that means their cards shouldn’t be either,” Dave said.
That Christmas, Dave and I raked in holiday tips. Compared to our friends, our revenues soared, but that was only the start of it. The personal touch made an impression on our customers, and whenever they found themselves in a tight spot – they returned from vacation to find their lawns had grown too shaggy, or an unexpected blizzard dropped a few too many inches on their sidewalks – they called us.
That experience taught me firsthand that all businesses succeed or fail based upon their relationships with their customers and partners, and all relationships are personal. VSP Vision Care is the largest vision care company in the country and VSP Global has reach around the world. But the same values apply that did to Dave and me: We aim to treat all of our customers and partners as individuals with their own needs. It is a similar challenge that many other businesses face as they grow in size: As you scale up, it is more difficult to meet the needs of individual customers, but it is no less important.
While that’s true year round, the holidays are a perfect time to reflect on that idea. People and relationships matter. So, let me say thank you. I hope that you are able to take some time during this holiday season to think about and be with the important people in your life. Wishing you a happy and healthy 2016.