Go beyond the bottom line to find new meaning in what you do every day
This article originally appeared in the February 2015 edition of INVISION.
Most people think of business as a way to earn a living or invest in the future, not as an expression of human social interaction. But business is actually a social contract. It brings people who might otherwise never interact together across boundaries of race, religion and geography to exchange things we need and value in a combined expression of imagination and creativity.
In our field, selling eyeglasses can bring financial gain. But if the primary focus is on the bottom line alone, we turn the patients into commodities, and their value is solely based on what they are willing to spend.
We have an opportunity to provide added value to the products we sell. Instead of looking at how much money you can make at each transaction, look more into how you can serve each person. Listen carefully to what they say and how they think, not just with your ears but with your whole being. I tend to treat each person at my dispensing table as a close relative, someone I want to help. This makes the experience personal. It adds an almost spiritual value to the exchange.
Ideally, your customers can actually feel your sincerity and concern over who they are and what they need. In almost all cases, they reciprocate. They enjoy being in your presence. The human need to be valued, appreciated and respected has just opened the door to a long-term and enriching relationship. Many of these patients will, over time, become part of your extended family. Their loyalties to you will run deep, and they’ll bring their friends to share in the relationship.
I’ll offer two examples from our own business. As our local economy reeled after the financial collapse of 2008, we had many discussions on the need to stay true to our ethics. One woman came to us with an outside Rx that was essentially the same as her current glasses. We explained the small differences and suggested that she not fill the prescription — that it was not worth the cost. She thanked us for our honesty and left. It was hard to give up the income as we were struggling and every cent counted. But the next day she came in with two friends, and both bought glasses — because of our honesty. These ladies continue to refer new friends to our practice.
Another example was Helen, an elderly lady who was obviously an unhappy soul. She was sometimes unpleasant, but we treated her with respect and sincere friendliness. Over the years, we could see her slowly becoming friendlier, even sharing moments of humor and laughter.
One day a couple in their early 60s came into the office. It was Helen’s niece Brenda and her husband, and they’d made a special trip to tell us Helen had passed away. They talked about how difficult Helen was as a person, setting the stage for their reason for visiting our office. Brenda said: “She looked forward to visiting with you, and would talk about you. She really loved coming in here.” Brenda expressed her appreciation for our ability to work past Helen’s attitude and create a little happiness in an otherwise unhappy person’s life. Brenda and her husband have since purchased glasses from us, because we had such an impact on her aunt.
Sincere relationships contribute to your humanity. They can help your bottom line, too. So next time you greet someone into your shop, don’t just sell a product. Build a relationship, one born of honesty, trust and service. You will experience riches far greater than the money you earn.