Last week I missed a connecting flight back home by just four minutes. It wasn’t the missed connection that upset me — it was the lack of human kindness that bruised my soul: no smile, no pillow (I ended up staying the night in O'Hare), and no food voucher. It was business as usual for the airline and their goal was to get me out of the customer service line as quickly as possible; not to care and certainly not to make my miserable night more tolerable.
My belief, however, is that we as a society are finally coming full circle, with big business practices giving way to localized and personalized business. We are in the “Walmart generation,” and while it has been cool to save a buck or two, we are getting sick of just being a number these days. We no longer want to wait on hold or be transferred eight times only to be given non-answers. (Who else heard that call with Comcast Customer Service?)
Cheap is cool, but human is better.
Here are three reasons why local business will have a resurgence.
The public is too damn picky. We do not all want or desire the same thing and only local businesses can react and create that happy place for each and every customer. I recently met with a client who was building a new home. While interested in all things new and exciting, he was quick to point out that he would not have a cable option in his new residence. Nor was he sure he would even end up with internet service, and he certainly did not want to be dependent on it. These facts threw most of our new exciting systems right out of the window.
So, what did excite him? Keypads on the wall wired back to a headend system that had nothing to do with the internet. What did he want to listen to? The radio. This is not what I am selling day-to-day. I’m wooing clients with smart phone apps, introducing them to Pandora, and adding home network systems for their AV to live upon. However, these new fancy solutions were neither wanted nor needed by this particular client. Only a local business can adapt and react and make sure we are solving the right solution.
Local businesses have the ability to adapt. 429 of the original Fortune 500 companies (compiled in 1955) are no longer in business today. To survive in today’s world you need to adapt and change, or watch your business wilt away. This is even truer in our industry as the rate of change is exponential. There will be many temptations to veer the wrong way; you have to sit up and pay attention and point your ship toward success.
Our business started out as a hi-fi company and went on to rent beta and VHS tape. From there we morphed into a satellite install firm and today we are a custom integrator. This does not mean we always made the right decision; but we were able to make the best business decisions and adapt to this ever-changing environment to survive.
Humanity craves real connection. Amazon doesn’t love you. They are a great place to research products, and they will poach your price-driven clients (this is a good thing), but just try calling Amazon if you have a question about your new TV. Local businesses provide that type of connection to our clients. Companies like Amazon simply filter out the people that you do not want or need as clients. The clients that desire to find the right system for their needs will find you, partner with you, and grow with you. When you add on a new service, let them know, stay in contact, and watch your business flourish.
We will take some hard knocks along the way, but with a close eye on the industry and the economy local businesses can outlast larger companies while cultivating a thriving business. I truly believe society is coming back to the brick and mortars of the world — a place where they can have a conversation, a place where they are treated as a person and not a number, and most of all, a place where a person still answers the phone.
Long live local!