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26 Apr

People Business

People Business

When I was nine years old, I started working for my Dad at his men’s clothing store in the garment district, Los Angeles, California. When I became a teenager, I sold my first suit. I was very excited because I was able to sell a suit, dress shirt, socks, shoes, the works. I was very proud of my first big sale. My Dad was proud as well, but was quick to correct me on a very important issue. He told me that I was spending too much time on the merchandise and not enough time with the customer. My Dad made it clear to me; “we are in the people business” and the relationship with our customers is far more important than the products we sell. Decades later, I have never forgot this experience and value my Dad’s advice to this day. Many corporations can get lost in their products or services and lose sight of the most important part of their business; people. Here are three best practices to help corporations increase their relationships with the people around them. 


Discover what is important. 

The first best practice to increase your engagement with people (customers, employees, stakeholders) is to discover what is important. This requires some important questions and the ability to listen carefully. The best example I can provide is when I was the manager of the linens department at a major retailer. The vice-president came down to the floor and introduced a new pillow, our finest, priced at $1,000 for one pillow. Most manager’s were shocked and knocked down the idea immediately. I encouraged the product to be placed on the sales floor to gauge customer reactions. As you can imagine, several customers were sticker shocked and did not focus on the quality or thread count. One customer came in asking for our best pillow. I instinctively showed our $1,000 pillow. At first, he was shocked at the price. Instead of reacting, I listened and asked a very important question: “Do you have a suit you enjoy wearing?” The customer was quick to answer: “Oh yes” he said and began to describe how beautiful the suit was and how it made him feel when he put it on. I then asked: “Do you mind if I ask how much you paid for the suit?”. He responded: “$5,000”. I replied: “you really must love that suit”. He agreed happily. I then asked another important question: “how often do you wear this suit?”. The customer thought about it and said “about once every two years”. I replied, “I see, and how many times do you use your pillow?”. There was a distinct and long pause, the customer thought about it then said: “I’ll take two pillows”. From there, we could not keep the pillow in stock. While not everyone will spend $1,000 on a pillow, if you find out what is important to that person, the best solution will be accepted and appreciated. Find out what is important to your customers, your employees, your vendors, and write it down so you can refer to it often. This will strengthen your relationships with people

Personal and Professional Growth


Gallup has interviewed over 133 Million people in 113 countries and found out the most engaged employees have a manager that develops them both personally and professionally. The relationship with people is directly related to how you engage. If you are not taking the time to personally and professionally engage your employees and customers, you are not fully realizing the importance of your relationship. For your employees, set S.M.A.R.T. goals for both personal and professional achievements and track them every 90 days to build better relationships. With customers, keep track of milestones in their business, birthdates, and other life cycle events. When you contact your customer, keep some calls professional and other calls personal. Simply say “Happy Birthday” with no agenda other than expressing the desire to be more engaged and build a stronger relationship with people.


Recognize Your Mistakes

Both managers and leaders may not recognize where they went wrong and but shift responsibility on someone else or a failed process or system. One example is when a manager or leader has to terminate someone. It’s easy to say “that person did not do their job or made a mistake so we had to let them go”. It’s more important to think where the manager, leader, or company went wrong. Was the job description effective? Was the hiring process diverse and inclusive? Was the employee properly coached and evaluated? When a problem surfaced, was it dealt with equitably and quickly? It is ok to terminate someone but it is not ok to assume the manager or leader had nothing to do with it. In order to recognize mistakes the manager or leader must have an open door and open ear policy and be willing to take feedback and be vulnerable. The more you can learn from recognizing mistakes, the better your relationships with people

Our firm is called “Nonprofit Engagement Advisors” for a very specific reason. Our focus is engagement. The proper solutions will surface after engagement and the relationship are strong. Our firm assists any size nonprofit with any service they require. From fundraising, to strategic planning, to technology, to governance, to insurance, and training. If we are engaged properly, we can be the one stop solution for any nonprofit organization. Regardless of who you serve, every corporation and every nonprofit organization is in the people business. Therefore, your engagement, strategies, and communication (marketing) should focus on the relationship you have (want) with people

Brad Lebowsky, MBA


Connecting people, communities, and resources to grow exempt organizations.

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