Some might say the biggest issue or bottom line for every business is affordability (of products and services). Others may say quality, demand, or exposure, or all of the above.
I say customer relations, and more specifically, whether the business actually cares about their customers or just their money. Every business cares about money, that is after all the point of running a business, but I think an important question customers ask themselves is:
“Do they actually care about me or my success and are they taking pride in their work as if it were for themselves?”
Unfortunately, I would say that about 90% of businesses couldn’t care less whether you lived or died. I take that back, because if you were dead they wouldn’t get any more money out of you. But, what I mean is on a human level, a business or corporation would be just as happy if you were a box on a shelf that just magically spat out money. You are a demographic and a number. They only see you as human when it benefits them to use emotion for marketing.
One important thing to keep in mind is the distance between the person serving you and the likely long-dead founders of a company. When some kid at McDonald’s makes you a hamburger, they couldn’t care less about the McDonald’s name and the “quality” of the food. They’re doing as little as possible to get by and not lose their job. They might not be spitting on every burger, but I wonder how hygienic they really keep it up. For instance, do you really think that they’re changing their gloves every time between flipping burgers and reaching for the bleach bucket?
I have the unique privilege as a freelance web designer to work one-on-one with clients. And I say privilege because I happen to care about my clients and their success. I can say that without fluff and can back that up, because honestly, my client’s success means more success for me and I have a passion for what I do. Sometimes I get excited about other people’s projects and ideas more than the job requires. Not always, I do build a decent amount of ongoing clients, but sometimes I come to crossroads where I part with them. Not every business relationship can be profoundly enthusiastic forever. There’s a famous Lincoln quote in there somewhere.
I’m not a “keep my mouth shut and take the money” kind of guy. That’s not the service I offer. If a client said here’s a thousand dollars, do this… and I didn’t think it would help them in the way they thought or if it really was just a bad idea, I might say no. Money is only a third of what makes me tick. The other two parts are doing something I enjoy and doing something the right way. My Dad has pretty much always been a construction worker, or jack-of-all-trades really in the “building and fixing whatever” industry and he’s always had this saying:
“I don’t do windows.”
Quite literally, I think he loathes doing anything with windows. He might know how to do it all, but if you’re looking for a guy to wash your windows, he ain’t takin’ your money.
Similarly, I’m an entrepreneur of the web and following those same principals:
“I don’t do Flash.”
I’ve fought to the death with clients about Flash intros before, because it’s not good for them, their site, business, or anyone who visits it. I’ve never been presented with a Flash intro that was appropriate or well-received. People want to get to the content and be presented with a fast-loading site that shows them a menu or search form so that they can quickly find what they’re looking for. If they want to watch a video presentation of something, they should be consciously choosing to press play.
A Flash intro is like a clown standing in front of a newspaper dispenser saying:
“Hey boys and girls, guess what’s in the paper today!”
And going on to summarize all the headlines, when really you just want to get to the sports section or weather, etc. The flashy presentation only serves as a counter-productive annoyance of showmanship, because like someone might walk away from the clown, they might just as easily click back and leave your site.
What point am I ultimately getting to with my rambling? That even if you tell me “money’s no object, do it” I’m probably going to say no, because that isn’t going to help you, and that’s my job, my purpose, to help you. I hope there are many other professionals that share that same mentality.
A difference in method another professional or business might inhabit is a “yes, yes, yes” attitude and try to sell you everything they can think of on top of it. It’s called the “crooked mechanic”. Where that might have worked all the time in the past, people are so much savvier these days. Hopefully many more people can laugh at infomercials and their claims and know when they’re being had. If you care about your customers they just might care back, and that can propel your career forward more than you’d ever suspect.