When my daughter's boyfriend, Doug, asked me for some 'time to talk' I knew what was coming. On the night he asked me for my daughter's hand in marriage, I had already prepared a list of 28 questions (yes, really) and a few reading suggestions.

At the top of that reading list was a book you may have on your bookshelf already--The 5 Love Languages by Gary Chapman. It's an important book to read if you're in any relationship, but as a business leader you can glean some pearls of wisdom, too. It's not just communicating empathetically and clearly that keeps your relationships blossoming. It's about getting to the heart of what really matters to your significant other (and customer!!) and delivering it to them consistently.

I recently read The Discipline of Market Leaders by Michael Treacy and Fred Wiersema and it re-ignited some of the 'love language' ideas on how to better focus our business activities to focus on our core values to provide what customers actually want from us. In their book, Treacy and Wiersema break down the way that market leaders prioritize their customer interactions into the '3 Love Languages of Business':

  1. Customer intimacy--excelling at connecting to very specific customer service and experience needs (think Zappos)
  2. Product leadership--masters of creating top of the line products and services in their category (think Apple)
  3. Operational excellence--delivering quality products at a great value in an efficient manner (think Walmart)

This 'Love Languages of Business' breakdown highlights the importance of companies avoiding the trap of wanting to 'do all, be all' and throw all of your efforts behind branding your customer experience and what they can expect from you that keep you above the competition. Can you offer great products at a low price with the service levels your customers want? Yes! But can you be the absolute best-in-class in all of these areas? Absolutely not, it's time to focus in on your specific Love Language.

The important thing to note on these 'Love Languages of Business' is that each of the languages is completely valid and common. They act as a different lens for how a company defines their foundation for being beyond their core values.

At my company, Blinds.com, our main focus is on understanding our customers' experience needs and growing an employee-empowered culture to serve them. Smart pricing and product innovation is important to us, but the Love Language we speak is Customer Intimacy and is a driving force behind our major business decisions.

This is quite the opposite from a company like Apple who focuses most of their energy on developing beautifully designed products. Customers don't stand in line to buy their latest gadget because of their award winning call centers or shockingly low prices. Apple knows what matters most to their customer and they deliver it again and again.

Neither of our business perspectives is less valid or less beneficial to the customers; we are just different. And different is good.

So, what happened after that encounter with my daughter's boyfriend? Four hours (and a few bottles of wine) later, I was shaking hands with my future son-in-law and am now a proud 'Papa Jay' to their beautiful 1-year-old daughter, Naomi. Clearly he did some reading...