Love your people is an essential ingredient of business success. Whatever the industry—whether it be manufacturing, sales, services, construction, technology, media, public administration, or the arts—love is contagious, and spreading a little is so rewarding.
Some years ago, as a newly appointed head of sales I visited customers all over the country to gauge opportunities and evaluate risks. On one of these visits, I met a customer who had recently taken the helm of a family business from his retiring father in a rather remote, I would say exotic, part of the country. He represented an important part of my company’s turnover at the time.
The father was rumoured to have been one of the region’s richest and most successful businessmen, who engaged in a variety of sectors, ranging from agriculture to transportation He became famous for his spending habits; he was a true party animal, who spent lavishly at social events. And he did not miss any occasion to exhibit his skills playing the violin, which is why he was given the nickname “the violin player”. People loved him and invited him everywhere, but his extravagant spending had consequences. His business, which he passed on to his son, was his last remaining asset—the rest had been liquidated.
When I met the son, I thought, “Like father like son”. He had a big, wonderful smile, but he was clueless about the fundamentals of business. He was an amateur actor, and this hobby was clearly his top priority. At first glance, I guessed that he would go bankrupt within a year or two. Then I took a step back and considered his father’s legacy. Perhaps, I realised, the son could hold on in the face of fierce competition because his father was so beloved. All those years of offering joy to the community could be seen as an investment.
Years passed. I called the son from time to time and asked him about the performance of his business, and he always replied by telling me about his latest theatrical play! Thanks to the community’s deeply rooted love for this family, the son’s business remained viable for many years after our first meeting. My hypothesis proved to be correct. When the problems mounted, the father’s friends and colleagues remained loyal to his son. When the credit lines from the banks were exhausted, his friends lent him more money. When his trucks were seized by his creditors, his friends loaned him vehicles. Members of the community even changed their consumption preferences to support the son’s business. Love was an invisible—but exceptionally important—element of his balance sheet.
Love creates trust. People are highly attuned to what is true and authentic. You cannot pretend that you are interested in them in order to simply “tick-the-box”. They understand, you cannot cheat them. Authenticity promotes loyalty, and loyalty is a powerful thing. In extreme cases, people are so loyal that they are willing to die for their beloved leader. When people are loyal, they express genuine support during good times and bad times, wins and losses. Trust produces unconditional support. There are no hidden agendas and no backstabbing. Members of a loyal team are united for a common cause. A united team is more powerful than the sum of its members. Thanks to the multiplier effect, the team becomes unbeatable. Team members share a sense of happiness when they win business battles. Even if they exceptionally lose a battle, they become stronger through analysing their actions in order to avoid making the same mistakes in the future. This positive cycle fosters talent development, which in turn leads to a sustainable, long-term competitive advantage.
Does this talk of love sound too sentimental?
Then, please feel free to replace “love” with “appreciation”, “respect” or “affinity”. Appreciation is a powerful concept in business. At the Young Presidents Organization (YPO) Forum, I was introduced to Diana Chapman (firstname.lastname@example.org), an impactful trainer and coach who taught me a simple appreciation exercise: you dedicate the last few minutes of a meeting to expressing appreciation for all your colleagues—each and every one. You need to think carefully about your colleagues’ positive traits. Everybody has unique and valuable characteristics that deserve to be recognised. The exercise ends when all meeting attendees have expressed their appreciation for one another. Based on personal experience, I can confirm that this exercise works! It creates a more positive, open and friendly environment among team members, preparing the entire team to meet challenges together. It helps to build love, affinity, trust and loyalty – and this can only work magic for your business!
Photo by Kian Shern. Danbo – “Can you help me?”