Even though it may seem crazy, Thanksgiving is just around the corner. If tradition holds true, we will gather together to eat, drink, be merry, and take some time to reflect on our blessings.
For many, this day (or long weekend) can be a welcome respite from the operational and organizational responsibilities that keep our heads down the other 364 days a year.
Gratitude, however, doesn’t need to be limited to one day a year, and we certainly don’t need a mountain of turkey in front of us to get our minds focused on thankfulness. Gratitude is a fantastic principle to use in every aspect of life, and it’s a powerful tool in the overall success of a business.
Before I go any further, though, I should probably define what gratitude is and what it isn’t, in terms of this conversation.
First, what it isn’t. As a business owner myself, I have often been told that I need to express more gratitude to my employees. I consistently (and firmly, I might add) respond by saying, “I am grateful. They’d know if I was no longer grateful, because they’d stop getting a pay check.” While I am sure this is how most owners feel much of the time, I’m not referring to gratitude as a form of compensation. And I’m also not talking about an owner giving an absent-minded thank you after someone reports that they worked all weekend to get a bus back on the road that was scheduled for an out of town run Monday morning, uttered in passing while walking, quickly, down the hall to the next meeting.
No. I’m talking about taking time to express sincere appreciation for the value that your employees add to your company and its culture. I know that this may sound like a bunch of west coast “mumbo jumbo,” but I assure you that it isn’t. It is North American “mumbo jumbo.” And you know what? It works, all the time.
You see, employees that feel like they are providing meaningful, important contributions are more likely to work harder to accomplish things and better serve the company. A recent study showed that expressions of gratitude actually caused employees to work harder, and they were more effective in their respective roles, too. Contrary to what one might think, the performance and efficiency exhibited by employees had little to do with getting more money, a significant title, or an office with a view. Rather, performance and efficiency were directly related to whether they felt they were genuinely appreciated and their work contributed to the greater good. This is especially important when it comes to building relationships with millennials who, as a generation, have the need to feel connected with the company they work for and emotionally invested in the mission and methods their company is using.
While it is often the last thing on our minds as we roll through another busy week of just getting by, we make a big mistake by skimping on gratitude. And it doesn’t stop with your employer/employee relationships. Truth is, using gratitude in the sales process can be equally as effective in establishing loyal customer relationships and buyers.
In past articles, I have discussed the difference between customers and clients. While the difference between the two may seem subtle, the underlying difference is immense. Clients are loyal and far less price sensitive; customers, on the other hand, often shop around, comparing things like pricing and amenities to see how companies stack up to one another.
If used properly, gratitude can be a key component in the process of converting customers to clients. In the past, I’ve given operators a challenge to identify 15 high-value customers they’d like to be more loyal and connected to their business. Once they’ve identified a list, the challenge is to reach out to each of them with the intent of doing 2 things. First, express appreciation for their business, letting them know how much they mean to the company. (And, as a side note, it’s important to do this in person or over the phone, because an email just doesn’t carry the weight that a personal conversation does.) Then, after expressing gratitude, I’ve asked them to follow up by asking, “What could we do better as your transportation provider?”
Companies who give this a try will be amazed at what they hear. Regardless of whether the feedback received is positive or negative, it sheds light on what can be improved. And while it’s true that if you give it a go, those answers will ultimately be valuable in helping you improve your business, the benefits of expressing genuine gratitude for your professional relationship will often yield positive, far-reaching results.
When was the last time you sat down with a driver, looked them in the eye, and told them how much you appreciate the job they do, day in and day out, being the face of your company? When was the last time you met with your wash crew and told them what an amazing job they do, keeping the image of your company up every day? When was the last time you told a customer how much you appreciate them choosing your company and what that means to you and your employees?
Focusing on the business aspect of this industry has a tendency to get in the way of doing things that we know we should be doing. While expressing gratitude might not seem to fall in the same category as getting a reasonable night’s sleep or being able to take a long weekend, using it can actually lead to both of those things. How? It’s easy. Employees that know they are needed and appreciated work harder for you, and clients who know they aren’t just another number on a P&L are more loyal and less price sensitive. And, the end result? Having both employees and clients who love your company make it stronger and more successful over the long term.
As you gather with friends and family this Thanksgiving, take some time to think about how you can incorporate gratitude into the core of your day-to-day business. It’s a principle that brings good things in its wake, and an incredible tool that will truly help you sell more charters, to more people, for more money!