I recently read Rutger Bregman’s “Humankind – A Hopeful History”. I was drawn to its title because its promise of a hopeful past was just the medicine I needed to balance out a pretty challenging present. 2020 has been a massively challenging year for us all globally but also to me personally, as it has for many people I know and care about. What I wasn’t expecting was how Bregman’s historical storytelling on the kindness of human nature would reset my concept of how to do business (this is not a book about improving business performance). In particular, it made me question the Machiavellian theories we have been taught that drive much of how the business world operates today, not to mention our politics and economies. The core message was about tuning into our natural instinct to cooperate over compete, and to trust rather than distrust. Human kindness and honesty, adding real value, and striving to make authentic connections are the foundation for true business success. Which got me thinking about the real power kindness has when doing business.
Dog Eat Dog, Cut-Throat, Nice Guys Finish Last, we’ve all heard those sayings and in some very deep way we have believed them to hold a grain of truth, but from experience, the best success I have had in business was when the opposite values came into play. When I genuinely respected a client’s business and ethos, when there was a good relationship based on honesty and trust, and when there was a genuine desire to work collaboratively with a common goal of helping one another succeed that the real opportunities for both parties really opened up. What’s more the mutual respect forged between a client and myself meant a happier working life which then seeps out into personal life.
As a branding agency, our primary goal is to create an identity for our clients that inspire brand and customer loyalty and trust. One of the most impactful ways to inspire trust and loyalty is to genuinely earn this through being true to your word, genuinely interested in adding value to those around you and being kind and respectful. This quite simply is good business. A logo and brand is only part of the picture, true business success is to operate from a foundation of giving true value to your customer and have your brand identity reflect this. Making kindness part of your brand vision will have a huge impact on your reach. Referrals and word of mouth are some of the best ways to expand your customer base. Showing your clients that you really care about them and their business by going above and beyond for them doesn’t cost you that much and the positive impact will be huge. Word gets around pretty fast!
In our studio, the best way to nurture our client relationships through kindness and caring is by going above and beyond and exceeding their expectations. Another way we have grown our business is by giving, through pro-bono work which we have been able to leverage of or that has resulted in a word of mouth lead based on a job well done. Referring work that’s not quite the right fit for Fresco to smaller agencies has also paid dividends as has referring a potential customer who we were unable to help at that time onto another more suitable design agency (even if they have been one of our competitors). Reciprocity works and makes you feel good in the process.
The power of kindness affects more than just client and supplier relationships when it comes to business, it spreads through the entire organisation’s culture. This spirit of collaboration and cooperation, as opposed to competition, has positive knock-on effects ranging from higher staff retention and attraction to higher productivity. Appreciating that extra mile a staff member goes, recognizing a job well done, and demonstrating that they are seen and heard within your organisation goes a long, long way. This culture of caring will most likely be transferred through to clients and relationships strengthened which makes for a much smoother working relationship. In our studio clients tend to be far more forgiving and understanding if a deadline extension is requested or if a rare human error occurs if they have a good relationship with the designer they are working with.
When looking at these benefits I’ve left the best to last as the biggest impact from introducing kindness to your business practice is the personal benefits you will reap. One of the biggest shifts I’ve noticed in business resulting from the recent challenges of COVID-19 is the integration of home/personal life with work/business life. More than ever the line between the two is blurred. The true superpower of kindness in business is that it’s contagious and will bleed into your personal life. You will feel good. Your stress levels will lower. Your relationships will improve. It will even help you live longer. The world will be a better place. Who doesn’t want this in our current times?
It sounds dramatic but it’s true. So give a little and you will get a lot. Humankind – A Hopeful History is a great read, it reset my perception on the true nature of people and reset my concept of how best to do business (even though it’s not a business-related publication) and I would recommend it to anyone needing a positive, hopeful, fresh perspective.