We are in the silly season of presidential elections and this year the world is watching what the crazy Americans are going to do. As amazing and frustrating as this election has been, there are some real lessons for business owners buried in the weeds. These lessons are mainly common sense but they tell a great story if only the powers that be would listen.
1. The customer is always right. That does not mean that you can’t fool the customer or cheat a customer. What it does mean is that if you continue to do it over and over you will ruin your brand, tarnish your reputation and lose your customers. In this election the voter is the customer and the political parties have been selling one story and delivering a different story for many years. Call it the absence of truth in advertising. The customer is fed up and willing to jump to anything that is not a political party. This is happening with the Republican voters moving to Donald Trump for the simple reason that he is not the typical Republican candidate. That is why Bernie Sanders took so many votes from the traditional candidate Hillary Clinton. By the way it is also the reason that Brexit won and populists are rising in Germany, Austria, France and has dominated in Hungary.
2. Perception is reality. When you decide to circumvent established and prescribed systems along with protocol you create suspicion. People wonder why you are not doing what everyone else does. There must be a motive. That motive must be devious. Now it is up to you to dig yourself out of that hole. Many companies have had various crises and they have handled them in various ways.
Johnson and Johnson was faced with cyanide laced Tylenol, immediately warned customers to avoid the product and pulled if from all shelves immediately. No-one suspected J&J of foul play. Volkswagen circumvented the emission control systems on their cars and paid a huge price for a cover up that is lasting years.
When Hillary was faced with an email issue she tried to cover it up. That led to suspicion and hurt her ever since. No one knows if she is guilty of anything but perception is the problem, not reality. Crisis management is critical for a campaign and a company.
3. Honesty is the best policy. Yes I am talking about politics. You can reach your own conclusions but you are bound to start with the facts. Although it seems that the public does not care about the facts at all this year, the reality is that a majority do. Just because you repeat the same lie over and over does not make it true. At some point it will come back to bite you. Honesty to customers, employees, share holders and media is crucial to LONG TERM success. If you can’t be honest about it, why did you do it that way in the first place. Short term profits may cost you dearly in the long run.
4. And finally my favorite most important lesson is LISTEN. Neither politician listens to the questions asked by moderators or the public; neither listens to what the other candidate is saying and means; neither is listening to what the people are demanding. The election will be over but the Hillary supporters will still be here; the Trumpers will still be here; the Bernie supporters will still be here; as will the millions who were so disgusted that 9they did not support anyone or an alternative candidate.
In order for the country to move forward and the election to mean anything, everyone will need to LISTEN to what others are saying and compromise for the good of the populace.
In business, the road to failure is success. A company has a product or service that dominates the market so the managers stop listening to the customers. As the customers want more and different product, a competitor comes along and gives it to them. Unless you are constantly listening, you are heading to failure.
One could argue that these are business lessons, common sense or political lessons. Certainly experience matters in any job. Experience is how you make mistakes and learn from them so you can make better decisions the next time. I hope that Americans learned something from this election experience and we are never doomed to repeat it!
Golden Impact Consulting
Goldenimpactconsulting AT gmail DOT com