October 2010
Caring & Concern — The Heart of Business

Back in the ’70s, when I was in high school in Western Pennsylvania, A&P was a popular grocery store chain. Their slogan during that time was “A&P Cares.” I still remember their crisp red and white logo.

Nowadays, folks register surprise when we mention business and caring in the same sentence. Isn’t business just out for itself?

Sure, many businesses are. But lots of businesses also care. Real deep down caring is hard to do as a business, and something we are constantly striving for at my company. I’m not talking about the “I’ll take care of you so you’ll sometime down line take care of me” variety of caring. That’s action motivated by self-interest, which is its own shtick.

What I’m aiming at here is a deeper concern, whose derivation favors the notions of “belonging to, related to.” The roots also trace to a notion of “sifting through, perceiving, comprehending.”

Caring for customers grows out a sense of belonging together. We are on the same side. We are not in an oppositional relationship of each trying to extract the most out of the other.

Rather, we are working together to sift through, to understand their need, and to determine if we are the right company to satisfy their needs. If we are the right company for their need, then we do business. Together.

That feels like a riskier way to do business. I think it is. Riskier, and takes more effort. It calls us to work harder and dive deeper into understanding our customers’ needs. That means we really have to know how to listen.