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A Valentine mission for business: Show the love

(MoneyWatch) It's a week for romance, so why not spice up your business love life with some random acts of goodness and appreciation? Come on, people, let's get all mushy.

Face it, much of what we do in our day-in, day-out business can get fairly routine and predictable: We churn out projects and other work, go to meetings, buy stuff, sell stuff, deal with personnel and operational issues, help customers, negotiate with suppliers, put out fires, and try to keep our heads above the email waters. Hopefully you do all those things exceptionally well throughout the year, but Valentine's Day on Thursday is as good an excuse as any to speed up your pulse a little.

Corny as it may sound, I'm suggesting finding opportunities to dispense a little extra sweetness to the people who make your business work. Even if you already show them plenty of love, there's no such thing as too much. Seek out small but meaningful chances to show your appreciation.

- If you don't normally send personal "thank you" notes to customers, set aside some time to write a few emails.

- Similarly, if personal follow-ups aren't a standard part of your sales process, make some calls just to see how your customers are doing. Yes, I said calls-- you know, like with your voice.

- Haven't bought lunch for the team lately? Spring for some good chow. And let them leave an hour early on a Friday or two. Or three.

- Drop an important supplier a note out of the blue, just to say you appreciate the great service they've been providing. Do you know how many of those notes they probably get? Not many. Do you think it matters? You bet.

- Be extra-generous with well-deserved, public "attaboys" and "attagirls." Don't be patronizing, slobbering or saccharine; just let no good work go unnoticed.

- Hang out in the shipping room for a few hours, pick orders, tape boxes, listen to music. It's good for morale, and you'll probably learn a thing or two.

- Challenge yourself to turn off or ignore your phone if you're sitting with someone. Make it clear that the live conversation or meeting you're having is your focus and priority. People increasingly notice and appreciate this uncommon courtesy.

- Lighten up.

If these are all things you do every day, good for you -- you're a veritable cherub. But surely you can find other thoughtful stuff that's not routine. Be creative.

You might think this is incredibly silly or simplistic, or that you don't have time for such trivial touchy-feely stuff. If so, you need a love dart in the butt. It's precisely small gestures like these that can mean a world of difference to customers, employees and suppliers. Any number of studies on job satisfaction and customer loyalty will tell you what really tugs at people's heartstrings.

A natural reaction to this idea might be to say, "If you have to do these things to show your appreciation this week, you're probably not doing it all that well the rest of the year." Understandable thought, but it misses the point. I'm pitching Valentine's Day as a time for reflection.

Of course, in a perfect world we should be 100 percent on top of our game, 24/7/365. But we're human, and even the best of us aren't perfect. So the purpose for this lovefest exercise is to refocus on all the people in your business life, and on all the easy ways you can make them happy. It's a great way to recharge your empathicbatteries, and perhaps up your game a little until next year's defibrillation.