From The Customer’s Viewpoint?

Note the words below; they are a sobering reminder of the importance of what our customers expect of us and how excellent customer service means greater profits.

“I’m the customer. I have lots of money to spend, and I’m going to spend it with someone.  I’m going to spend it on cars and clothes, services and symphonies, food and fun, books and burgers, groceries and gadgets, baubles, bangles, and beads.”

“Treat me right and make me happy and I’ll gladly spend my money with you.  Yes, I’ll see to it that you are well paid, and that your firm prospers.”

“Take me for granted, or treat me rudely, and I’ll take my money elsewhere.  Show me you don’t care and I’ll quietly seek out someone who does care about me and who makes me feel important.  You may never miss me, but I’ll still be history.”

“I’m discovering that I have lots of choices where I can buy my clothes, get my sunglasses, buy my books, eat lunch or dinner, have my teeth examined, get my car serviced, buy new shoes, and have my health-care needs met.”

“Hey, all I want is for the people where I go or call to:

  • Greet me and make me feel comfortable
  • Value me and let me know that they think I’m important
  • Ask how they can help me
  • Help me get what I want or solve my problem
  • Invite me back and let me know that I’m welcome there anytime.”

“This is all I want. That’s it. Just notice me and make me feel important. Try to understand me and conscientiously attempt to solve my problems.”

“That’s all I want!”

“You take care of me and I’ll take care of you.  I’ll spend my hard-earned money with you. I’ll encourage my friends to come to see you.  I’ll willingly come back when I need more of what you sell or offer.”

“I’ll help you enjoy more money, more success, and greater career satisfaction.”

“All you’ve got to do is satisfy me!”

Taken from “Hey, I’m the Customer” by Ron Willingham, 1992

Provided below are some very compelling words from a very famous person – sure the language might be out-dated, but the message is clear.

“A customer is the most important person on our premises.

He is not dependent on us,

We are dependent on him.

He is not an interruption to our work,

He is the purpose of it.

He is not an outsider on our business,

He is part of it.

We are not doing him a favour by serving him,

 He is doing us a favour by giving us an opportunity to do so.”

quote from Mahatma Gandhi

What would happen to our business, our community, our nation, our world if these sentiments were actually acted upon and implemented?  How would our business be different? 

How would it impact on our customers? 

How would our world be different? 

Family Charter

What is a Family Charter?

A Family Charter (sometimes referred to as a family constitution) is a document that is a key element in setting out the relationship between the business and the family.   A Charter therefore sets up the parameters and boundaries so that it’s clear how to operate and move.  Otherwise, it can become personal with the potential for conflict.  A Charter is implemented therefore to head off any potential conflict and to ensure harmonious relations.

In a nutshell, it is the rules and policies of the family or a kind of written contract between family members. It is based initially on the family values and what the family stands for.

As is generally the case though, the whole process behind its development is often more important than the actual document itself and this certainly seems to apply to the Family Charter.

When to use

A Family Charter is often not required until a business reaches the 2nd or 3rd generation. However, experience shows that it can be very important to introduce the concept when transition from 1st to 2nd generation is being contemplated.

General Hint

Developing this charter is a lengthy process that is often initiated at a family retreat and then updated at regular intervals. The family need to set aside time (eg., a full day) and be prepared to do so at regular intervals (eg., quarterly or every six months) until the Charter is finalized. Of course, it is not a static document and needs to be updated as necessary.

Why have a Family Charter?

The Charter provides a process that is important for the family to go through. In other words, the family has to communicate with each other, listen to each other and then finally agree.

It provides clarity and certainty where the family is clear on what the rules and policies are in the same way that the business ought to be clear about its procedures and policies.

It is a powerful tool in managing people’s expectations and because it provides some certainty, it also provides for proper planning.

As hinted at above too, it is a very effective means of resolving disputes and any conflicts.

The cost-benefit ratio is also clear in that the cost involved in meeting and setting up a Family Charter is miniscule in comparison to a legal dispute with the associated emotional turmoil, stress and damage.

What are the Steps in Building a Family Charter?

  1. The Foundation – A family business is a complex structure as the values important to a family (eg., love, caring) are not the same as those that apply in the business world (eg., profit, growth).  This often leads to confusion, tension and disruption when sensitive issues arise.  Are these issues to be dealt with under the family’s value system or those of the business world?
  2. Family Values – Each family has a set of values that are important to it. These will include concepts such as love, support for family members, respect, honesty, integrity.
  1. Business values – Though there will be some overlap, these will also include values such as a commitment to growth, continuous improvement, excellence, customer focus.
  2. Family Business – Values and Vision – These two often conflicting value sets need to be reconciled into a set of values applicable to the family business as an entity in its own right.  These values help the family to identify a uniting common vision for the family business.  It is also useful to distil these into a mission statement for the family in business.
  1. Structures – These are then developed to govern the Business System and the Family System and to control the interaction between them both.  There needs to be an effective functioning Board for the business and a Family Council which manages family issues that impact on the business.  The Charter becomes the governing document for the Family Council.

What is in The Family Charter?

Typically the Family Charter will contain a number of key elements including the following:

  • Statement of family values, mission and objectives
  • History, background, overview of the family business
  • Policies and codes of practice on issues such as –
    • Ownership (Who are the business owners?)
    • Governance (How does the family interact with the business? How is the Family Council run and who chairs it?)
    • Employment (Who works in the business? Is it based on competency or just being a family member? Do the children need to have outside experience first and if so, for how long?  Do the children need a Trade or University qualification?)
    • Compensation
    • Career Opportunities
    • Leadership
    • Succession
    • Communication and Conflict Management
  • Rules for updating and reviewing the Family Charter

How does the Family Charter Continue Over Time?

 Having developed the Charter, there are two protective mechanisms that are required to ensure that it lasts.

  • Integrate – The document itself will have little impact unless its message and the principles that underlie it are imbued into the hearts and minds of all family members.  How will you ensure this happens?  How will children and in-laws be introduced to the family’s values, principles and codes of practice?
  • Review – Invariably, not all issues will be covered in the first draft. More importantly, constant change within the family, the business environment, and society mean that constant regular update is required.  What process will you establish to ensure that the Charter remains current?

With these support structures in place the content contained in the Charter will be secured and it will become a living document that adapts to the needs of the family in business over time.

What are the Barriers to having a Family Charter?

Some families (and individuals) push against the notion of having a Family Charter. What would be some of the reasons for such, given that the Charter makes for sound business sense?

Take for example some of the following reasons:

  • Lack of Knowledge: Not being aware that there is such a thing as a Family Charter. Some business people are certainly aware of the need for clear procedures, operations and policies and clear governance, but it has never occurred to them that such could also be done within the family context.
  • Feeling insecure or inadequate: If the business owner doubts their ability to manage something like a Charter or indeed, if there is a fear of somehow losing control, then this may be a barrier to implementing a Charter.
  • Feeling of Opening Pandora’s box: Again, not being in control of what might be discussed or brought up and that individuals in the family might also talk about their feelings or emotions is enough to put some business owners off trying to undertake a Charter.

Irrespective, the real question to ask oneself is this: What might be the implications of NOT putting together a Family Charter?  What could be the possible consequences of not having a Charter with clear family rules and policies?  In essence, what could you lose by not having one?

Cracking a Joke Not So Funny After All

THE office clown has always played a beneficial role in the workplace but with increasing worker sensitivity, cracking a joke with a colleague could be seen as discriminatory or bully-like behaviour.

Clinical and organisational psychologist Darryl Cross said humour is essential in the workplace, but throwing a joke can cross the line into offensive territory and even be seen as bully behaviour.

“Humour is particularly important for generation X and generation Y to have a bit of fun in the workplace and there’s no doubt people would want to enjoy their day. Having a laugh is one way to do that,” he said.

“But the line gets crossed when a joke is played to someone else’s detriment, in a sense it [the joke] puts someone down.”

Cross calls an offensive joke “sniper behaviour” because the bullying is hidden or camouflaged in humour.

“If the joke is demeaning and puts someone down, then I think it’s offensive,” he said.

“But if people are happy to have a joke on themselves, tell stories about themselves, or perhaps do something like for a birthday fill the cubicles with balloons, then that’s appropriate.

“The demeaning sniping jokes that have the effect of putting someone down are not.”

Robert Westwood, co-author of Humour, Work and Organization, also believes a joke that crosses the line can be seen as bully behaviour, but said humour is essential for the proper functioning of humans.

“It’s unreasonable for people in a workplace to become solitary, but there are limits around destructive humour, sexist humour or racial humour, and I think organisations would be within their rights to try and control that,” he said.

Westwood is aware of disciplinary action taken against employees who have taken a joke too far. He said there are a growing number of organisations that try to curb the amount of humour, but believes managers should not rule humour out altogether.

Cross said there has always been a lack of tolerance for offensive humour in the workplace and an employee could be punished for pushing the boundary of what is socially acceptable.

“If an individual goes on WorkCover from the stress a joke has caused, then it’s certainly the employer’s duty to bring the staff member in and give a warning,” he said.

If all this has put a dampener on your sense of humour, do not worry. Both Cross and Westwood encourage office clowns to laugh and have some fun at work.

“Keep up the good humour, but make sure it’s good humour and not at somebody else’s expense,” Cross said.