We ALL Do It
Every morning we look in the mirror. If we are honest, we ask ourselves, “Does what I see in the mirror match what my colleagues, family, and friends see in me?”
Before you think I am going on some sort of Freudian rant, I am not. But, as business professionals, we face this question every day. Take Nordstrom for example. Nordstrom has always viewed itself as a leader in Customer Service. And as I write this, I would say that the public mostly agrees. But there was a point when the Nordstrom Family stepped away from the business, and, after a small period of time, they realized that their self-perception no longer matched their public perception. Once they owned it, they got back on track to being a company known for outstanding Customer Service.
In business, this can be extraordinarily challenging. We are here to grow our businesses — both top line sales and bottom line revenue. In order to do so, we need to market and evangelize our businesses. And admittedly, sometimes we find ourselves relying on smoke and mirrors. It’s human nature to want to be all things to all people. But it’s a slippery slope.
The Naked Truth
A few years ago, we made a very conscious decision at Classic Exhibits to do the unthinkable, the most uncomfortable thing in the world in many ways. Namely, pull back the veil in a very aggressive fashion. Become transparent and expose who we really are. Now I don’t pretend this was earth shattering, but I will say from the perspective of someone who has been at Classic longer than anyone else (20 years in July), it was a bit nerve racking in the beginning but cathartic and gratifying in the end.
Classic Exhibits Main Entrance
Five years ago, Mel and I were the company Road Warriors, traveling 3-4 months of the year (not including industry shows) to spread the Classic word. And it was effective. And to this day, many of you can attest that Reid and Jen are equally, if not more successful. But for me and Mel, we took a step back from traveling and decided to encourage more customers to visit us in Portland. The approach included Shared Knowledge University twice a year as well as scheduling distributor visits every couple of weeks for individual training, client previews, or tours.
Again, nothing earth shattering on the surface, but by doing so, we knew all perceptions (good and bad) would be thrown out of the door the second someone walked into our facility. And a whole new perception would be created. What would that be? Would it line up with who we had been telling people we were in the past? What would people think when they saw the entrance really is just a small red door on the SW corner of the building that opens into the Production?
Well I am writing this because of one comment that I have heard from attendees at every SKU, ranging from customers who have been distributors for 17 years to only a few months. What do they say? “You are exactly who you said you were.” I even had one person say, “You were not kidding all these years that you are a manufacturer … and that’s it. I was sure that I was going to walk into the showroom you always claimed you didn’t have.” My answer, “Well, we do have a showroom. It’s the biggest showroom in the industry. It’s our 75,000 sq. ft. manufacturing space.”
By far, the highest compliment we receive is about the “Classic Family.” For years, I have bragged about “The Team.” Bragged about how close we all are, how long we have all been together, and how much we care about the business and meeting our customer’s needs. But nothing compares to hearing customers and vendors comment on the “Shared Atmosphere” at Classic Exhibits. It’s who we are.
As I approach my official 20 year anniversary at Classic, few reflections are quite as sweet as our decision to “Bare It All.” Naked is good.
I hope you all have a great weekend with your families.