Where’s the loyalty?

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We live in a society where it is compete or be beaten…. literally make one mistake and you’re out, there is no loyalty.

A friend of mine runs an advertising business, a small boutique style agency that caters to those marketing types that like good service and a direct line of communication into the designer or creative person they are dealing with. They have been open for 6 years, 7 months and 9 days and have grown from 2 to 20 in that time. More recently they have had to downsize, here’s why: About a year ago, they were in the throws of some major activation projects for a big client. Big jobs worth hundreds of thousands of dollars and they put everything into it, including several extra staff that were basically dedicated to the account. The client completely relied on them, pushed everything their way, pushed them to the limits with last minute requests, tight budgets and outrageous ideas. And then something went wrong, the result of a simple yet expensive mistake, made by a third party supplier.

What ensued was a battle to the end. The client pointed their finger like a child and said “it’s all your fault”. They wanted no part in taking responsibility and left my friend to fix the problem. Even once it was fixed, they weren’t happy and eventually stopped using the agency as a supplier. What was worse is that they found this out via industry talk, the client didn’t even have the decency to talk to them in person.

Another example a little closer to home – Banks. Need I say anymore? Although this is more in the reverse as the businesses are the clients and the bank is a supplier of credit. An article (written by Ben Potter) recently in the Financial review stated “Small business gets the short straw in bank loans department”. It went on to discuss how difficult it is for small business to get a bank loan. And it is true, even those businesses with money in the bank can’t get a loan, let alone the ones that need it to re-invest, grow or just keep the doors open.

And then there are the personal stories I often hear, people who have been customers of a company, bank or the local hairdresser having one thing go wrong and then vowing never to return….. along with doing a full smear campaign to all their friends, family and anyone who will listen. We are all guilty of this at least once in our lives.

My take on this is that everyone wants a fair go, if we give them a few opportunities and they continually make a meal of things, then I say its definitely time to move on. Would you never speak to your closest friend again because they told someone something you asked them not to? Would you give up on your parents for always being late? Would you give up on your bank manager for not keeping up the service after the initial ‘sign up’ period? Would you leave your hairdresser for cutting your hair slightly short? My thoughts are no, you wouldn’t. But friends and family are one thing, bank managers and hairdressers another.

And what of loyalty programs? I would have at least 20 separate loyalty cards in my wallet (now all stored in a handy app on my iphone, thanks #stocard) how about you? Loyalty programs are just another way to reel you in…. basically you get more back by spending more. When actually you’d probably save more by shopping around.

Loyalty lies where we feel it should, everyone has their own standards, but in business, loyalty seems to go out the window. So what does this mean for the age old saying “It’s not what you know it’s who you know”? I think it means it’s time for a new saying, and it’s high time we got our priorities straight. We are people, we are hard wired to survive no matter what, we look after ourselves and our progeny first and everything else comes second. So ask yourself, what do I value? Do I want to be that person who is nice and always does the right thing, or am I the self-centred type who is only out to get the best possible outcome for me? Can I be the one in the middle, who sometimes puts others needs in front of my own and sometimes takes the selfish route?

Do what comes naturally, there is no reason to agonise over the decision, I say go with your gut and most of the time you will feel good about your decision, loyal or not. Loyalty is a wonderful trait, and really should be saved for those that deserve your loyalty, like your family, friends and your dog, but when it comes to business, keep your wits about you and trust no one!