We should be customer centric – after all it is only customers who pay us. Peter Drucker said “The purpose of a business is to create a customer. ” And “The aim of marketing is to know and understand the customer so well the product or service fits him and sells itself” – the pinnacle of customer focus.

And we have to be conscious of our team – we want them engaged with the work, aware of customer needs and finding fulfilment, at least in part, at work.

Then (last) there is the business owner. Our needs are met through other people. Our team and our customers – and suppliers. A small ecosystem of interrelated entities who influence each other and us.

A pyramid structure where everyone bows down to the boss does not work well in a small firm. We hire, fire and reward our people of course, but we need to work with and through them, our suppliers and most of all our customers. Collaborative and inclusive. It is how small businesses are and it is how big businesses are beginning to realise they need to be.

Our words betray our past

Yet often our use of words slips us into a nether world between what we imagine business should be and what it is. This confuses our messages to everyone. And produces less than optimal results.

How does this happen? Easily! We come from a background of a command and control, hierarchical model. It is what we grew up with, perpetuated by what we read and what we see in film and television. Gordon Gecko’s “greed is good” mantra is discredited but its ego driven language lives on. Remember Zsa Zsa Gabor’s famous “Macho isn’t mucho?” She was right. It isn’t. But because our language is ingrained, we can use the wrong words. It muddles our meaning to ourselves and everyone else. The self-talk in our head is old talk. Which still spills out of our mouths.

We use the wrong words

We have embraced the concept that customers are people, with the same idiosyncrasies, hopes and dreams as us. But we describe them as “they”. We talk about “My“team as well. That is paying lip service via your language to the ideas you are trying to espouse. And it shows. It still smacks of hierarchy. It creates an unnecessary divide. We all do it from time to time.

Remember your ecosystem

An ecosystem is a series of interdependencies: everyone in it is dependent, to some extent, upon all the others. It works because it is less rigid than a linear top down culture, and so less liable to fracture. A small business ecosystem has the ability to flex, expand and contract when needed, and thus withstand shocks. It has its own life, as a form of organism. And like an organism, it needs nurturing. Leader as gardener, rather than the archetypal command driven general. You engage with suppliers, team and customers etc. because you need one another. Recognise the interdependence in your language and actions.

Words matter in your ecosystem

It comes down to new ways of looking at your world. You allow knowledge to become judgement, your managers to be enablers, and leaders to be servants. All this needs accurate use of words, lest your good intentions be misconstrued.

Be more inclusive. Not they, but us, not my but our. So your customer description of They are people becomes We are people. This aligns with your customers, the team and everyone else in your ecosystem. It shows empathy, more connection and describes the real you better.

We are all people!

There are free Energiser sessions available to explore this more. Just contact us on 01202 520010 or email.