Leaders, set the standards for your organization
By Dick Olenych, The Virginian-Pilot - 12/7/2008
I RECENTLY ASKED a customer for an idea of what he was paying for his company’s printing. I wanted to gauge how we were doing against the competition.
He freely informed me what a national corporation was charging him. And boy, was I floored. The price seemed really high.
We did our estimate to try to win the business. Our prices were in the cellar compared to the national company. Because this was a big opportunity, I reviewed the proposal with my team, and a couple of the team members pointed out that “we could make a ton of money by being just below the other guy’s numbers.” You know, quick profits and a boatload of green.
I may not be a CPA or a graduate of the Darden School of Business at the University of Virginia, but I think I know right from wrong.
Leaders must set the standard for their organizations – the rules, or rather the moral codes, that the organization will abide by and ultimately be judged by. Set your company standards and make sure everyone understands and follows them. After they’ve been set, they need to be showcased.
Don’t deviate from them even for a quick nickel or two. It’s subversive. Don’t be duped into grabbing more than what’s yours. It just isn’t right.
We were half the price of the other guy, and we stayed at that price. Yet, my printing company made what I thought was a fair profit. Why would we gouge a customer simply because we could?
If taking advantage of a customer is part of the playbook for success, I hope I lose.
This customer offered his benchmark price to see whether we could compete. He liked us and wanted to do business with us. He took the first step to establish trust.
So why would we abuse that trust? I don’t care how bad the economy is or how many bills are piling up. A vendor should never take advantage of a customer or vice versa.
I’m trying to establish partnerships here, not just sales.
My team learned a valuable lesson. Stay the course even if you think you can get away with more than what’s yours. I proved to those around me that customers mean more to us than dollars. Our integrity is at stake every time we work with our clients.
To be honest, we got more work from other locations of this national company because we did the right thing. We gave our standard price even in a situation where there was a lot of wiggle room. I’m happy with my decision to focus on the customer first and profits second.
Times are tough. It’s more crucial than ever to live by your standards.
The author can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.