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Are we really in the people business?

March 27th, 2015

Chicago_aerial_02As I write this, I’m 35,000 feet over Illinois, heading to Chicago, on my way to Detroit. I’m heading there for a kick-off meeting with a new client. I start nearly all engagements this way.

Why? Honestly, it’s not just for the work – much of it could be done remotely. I do it for 3 key reasons:

  • Important, strategic conversations are simply easier to have in person. And like moderators at focus groups, reading body language and facial expressions during these discussions can be important.
  • Access to resources is a little easier. If we need to quickly get hold of marketing samples, revenue reports, etc. – they’re all just a few steps away.
  • But the bottom line is that I simply want to meet and get to know the people I do business with, walk through their office, meet their colleagues and even talk about non-business things. It’s rooted in the old phrase, “All things being equal, people do business with people they like… all things NOT being equal, people STILL do business with people they like.”

I’d still like to believe that even with all the new tools and technologies, we are still in the people business. And nothing helps people connect like looking each other in the eye, shaking hands and spending some time together.

In fact, my first duty when I land is to meet the client team at dinner. Sure, we’ll talk about business and our work together, but we’ll also chat about our families and children, the weather, our hometowns and so on.

Just humans connecting.

Is this necessary? In the purest sense, maybe not. We have great relationships with our overseas clients whom I have never met in person – though we do Skype a great deal. But in your day-to-day work for clients, I think you push a little harder and care just a little bit more when you know the people involved.

Am I a dinosaur? Wouldn’t be the first time I’ve been called that. And maybe when the next generation – or the one after that – is in charge, face-to-face won’t matter. But I’m just stubborn enough to believe that it will always be important… that people would always rather do business with people they like… and that, in fact, we ARE in the people business.

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