Last week our local chamber of commerce had their annual "big event". And it was a very BIG event. Most people who are active in the chamber show up at this event. It’s probably their biggest fund raiser of the year. Plus it’s a lot of fun.
This year, for the first time, the event had a theme and people were encouraged to dress the part. Being a tropical theme, many people wore loud, colorful shirts, sunglasses, shorts or other beach-appropriate clothing. (Yes, even in February in Minnesota, we wore beach clothing!)
What made this year’s event more fun than most was a guy I call "Flan". (There’s a reason I call him Flan, but that story will have to be told another time.)
Flan is a very active and well-known member of our chamber of commerce. He’s a great guy. Always willing to help out. Just an all-around classy guy.
This year, Flan decided not only to dress-up in accordance with the theme of the event, but he went the extra mile and actually disguised himself. He changed his hair, grew out his beard and he looked like he was wearing a "new tan from a bottle." He also had a few other subtle changes to his appearance.
His disguise was not so extreme that he didn’t look like himself. But he did look different. He looked different enough that if you did not know it was him, you might not recognize him. This was especially true with this event, where the lighting was low, the music was loud and the drink was flowing freely.
So, Flan had a lot of fun talking to people he knew but who did not recognize him. He’d start a conversation with someone and, initially they’d have no clue who he was. Eventually he let them in on the secret (while those of us who knew laughed ourselves silly).
I mention this because it reminds me how easy it is for us to miscommunicate and misunderstand each other. In any communication, each person knows what they mean. But that meaning is not always obvious to the other people in the conversation.
Just like Flan’s true identity was not always obvious to the people he spoke with at the party.
When we’re communicating with someone, we know who we are, what we mean and what we’re talking about. But the other person does not necessarily know these things. It’s easy for us to forget that the other person might have a completely different understanding of the situation.
This is especially true when we’re dealing with new customers.
It’s easy for us to forget that people who are new to our company know less than we do about our products, our services, our policies and our business. It’s easy to forget that we should cover some basic information with them to help them see the whole picture of who we are and what we do.
Being more thorough in the early stages of a business relationship can also help us get more business. A new customer does not necessarily know how good we are at what we do. Nor do they always know about the many ways we help our customers or clients.
By giving new customers more information we give them the opportunity to know more about how we might help them in other ways or how might help them in the future.
The other thing Flan makes me think of is how little change it takes to make a difference.
He didn’t change his appearance to an extreme degree. But it was enough that people saw him differently, even to the point of not recognizing him.
Sometimes making a few small changes can add new energy and fun to a business, especially in the eyes of your customers. Businesses, like people, can get into ruts. And customers can get bored buying from the same old place all the time. That’s often why they switch to a new store or restaurant or beauty salon or whatever.
People like change, in small amounts. It can add a little excitement to their lives. It sure added fun to the event last week, thanks to our good friend Flan.
Think about how you might do this with your business, your job or your practice. Could you make some small changes that would get people to stop and notice? Could you tweak and tune certain aspects of your business to add some new energy and fun?
Here’s an idea that might help:
Get a pen and a piece of paper and write down 25 ways you could change your business for the better.
They don’t have to be big changes. Make them small, "do-able" changes that won’t take a lot of time or money. Get creative and crazy. If you get stuck, get help from friends, co-workers, vendors or customers.
Write your list of changes today, while this idea is fresh in your mind. Then set the list aside for 24 hours.
The next day, take a look at your list and circle the top three things you’d like to try. Then one by one, implement those changes. Do one a day or one a week or whatever works for you. Just do it.
Then watch what happens. And please let me know.