If you're a fan of Wall Street and Gordon Gecko, you'll remember one of his famous quotes: "The point is, ladies and gentlemen, that greed, for lack of a better word, is good. Greed is right. Greed works. Greed clarifies, cuts through, and captures the essence of the evolutionary spirit." While that could be true, for some, it also pays to be kind in business. For me, I've found that kindness is good, kindness is right, and kindness works. If you're looking to grow your customer base and build loyalty, work to create a culture that internally and externally exemplifies, "being the good kids in the sandbox."
From personal experience, being the good kids not only helps your company get repeat and referral clients, it also helps you sleep at night and feel good about yourself. Here are three things that my business does to play well with others.
1) Take care of your team
Building a good reputation in your industry starts with taking care of your team. Good customer experience comes much easier when you have good employee experience. Your business can't take care of customers and clients if the people working in your office don't feel your love.
At my company, we make the team feel included by giving everyone a voice in decision-making. We found if employees feel heard and included, they will feel more invested in the organization. Research backs this up. A 2021 Deloitte survey showed Millennials are 85 percent more likely to feel engaged when working at an inclusive company.
Additionally, my company takes care of the team by focusing on their physical and mental health. Each employee has a wellness plan that allows them to exercise or take classes in things they desire. This helps avoid employee burnout, so everyone can be at their best.
2) Make and keep friends
You can consider your competitors as potential enemies or potential allies. I prefer allies. One of the ways my company has found success in a crowded events industry (i.e., keynote speaking) is to make and keep friends among competitors. Instead of seeing other speakers bureaus as enemies, my company treats competitors as potential collaborators.
To make and keep friends, my company instituted a very unique and unprecedented co-brokering agreement with other speakers bureaus that allowed everyone to share exclusive speakers and benefit financially. We flipped the model and shared more of our agency fee with the other bureaus (the exact opposite of the old-school speakers bureaus). Other bureaus usually don't allow anyone else to market their speakers, and they allow a tiny agency fee for the other bureau when one of their speakers is booked.
For example, if we wanted to book a speaker from another bureau, it was a tiny agency fee and, candidly, not an incentive to book their speakers. Of course, we still would recommend those speakers if they were a great fit for our client--and this is another example of being the good kids in the sandbox.
With our new model, we allow other bureaus to market our exclusive speakers AND they get the lion's share of the agency fee. It's a multi-win, and we've done really well with this model. As you can imagine, this really concerned some of the old-guard bureaus. We even got a few nasty emails about our model not working. We virtually smiled, thanked them for their advice, and still extended our kindness to keep the doors open. By shifting this model and remaining friends with other speakers bureaus in our industry, we have been able to grow and thrive.
I know of many service industries that do the same. I call it "coopetition"--cooperating with your competitors for the greater good. During the pandemic, we've seen many stories of businesses helping each other. For example, restaurants and health institutions share supplies with each other when they are running low. It's the right thing to do, and let's face it, you never know when you'll need help, so it's also strategic to help others.
3) Handle turbulent situations with grace
No one ever said being a good kid was easy. Bad things happen, and when they do, you want to handle turbulent situations with grace. At my business, sometimes the keynote speakers we book for events don't perform as expected, get sick, or have travel issues. In order to keep a client relationship going with that event planner or convention, we make things right by finding a substitute speaker and being sure the event goes smoothly.
Our approach is to be accountable, honest, and look at the long-term relationship. You might lose a fee this month and also gain a client for life. Moreover, handling situations with grace will turn your critics into fans. Clients who are dissatisfied might tell a handful of people to stay away from your business. However, if you fix a problem for a client, customer, or employee, then they will tell everyone how great you are.
I've worked in a number of companies over my life. Some have done well, and some have done poorly. The companies that have performed the best work hard at being the good kids in the sandbox. If you do your best to treat your employees well, make friends with your industry partners, and handle the bad situations with grace, then your business will grow--and you'll get to sleep at night. Not a bad bargain. My nonno called it, "Doing well by doing good," and we're doing pretty well and pretty good.