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Does Your Business Have Banker's Syndrome...or the Gratitude Effect?

When the phone lines are jammed and the pipeline is full and revenue is skyrocketing and glowing testimonials are pouring in it's only natural to feel really good about your business -- and yourself. At times you might even catch yourself feeling not only satisfied and fulfilled... but maybe even a little smug.

When that happens you have Banker's Syndrome*, a condition that occurs when a business makes us feel like they are doing their customers a favor... almost like we should feel lucky they allow us to buy what they sell.

While an extreme example is this guy, banks do it all the time. Sure, you may need to borrow money, but the bank needs you just as much; in essence a bank sells money and without people who want to buy that money the bank is out of business.

But since as a potential borrower you're in need (and possibly even a little desperate) and the bank has the power to refuse to do business with you, some bankers leave you feeling like they do you a favor when they lend you money.

The more successful you are the easier it is to be infected by a small dose of Banker's Syndrome and lose sight of a few simple business truths:

  • Customers don't need you. You need them. Customers have all the power and are always in control. Why?
  • No matter how good you are, customers can always go elsewhere -- and get better products, better service, better something. There is always someone better. Always.
  • Every advantage is fleeting. Online services like LegalZoom destroyed the boilerplate work that once fueled middling legal practices. Online services and accounting software destroyed the boilerplate tax work that once fueled middling accounting and bookkeeping firms. Dentists who once made a killing from in-office teeth whitening watched that revenue stream slow to a trickle when home whitening kits hit the market. And someday the same thing will happen to your company because...
  • Right now, someone is developing a product or service that will disrupt your business. First she'll steal a customer or two. Then a few more.
And she'll be incredibly grateful they chose to do business with her -- and she'll show it. That's the Gratitude Effect, a place where a company shows each individual customer they appreciate their business -- even if that customer makes up a tiny percentage of the company's revenue.

Want to harness the power of the Gratitude Effect? Here are a few mental approaches you can adopt:

  • See each customer as food. Not in a zombie chasing a human sense but as a person who puts food on your table. No customer, no sale, no food. If you were hungry, you would be incredibly grateful if a person offered you a meal. As a business owner you're constantly starving -- and every customer helps put food on your table.
  • See each customer as a friend. No, you won't roast marshmallows around a campfire, but think about it: Every customer decided to do business with you. Sure, it's business, but it's also personal. Whenever someone chooses you -- to be a friend, a partner, or even a provider of goods or services -- you should be flattered. They chose you. That's always pretty cool -- how could you not be grateful to every person who picks you out of a crowd?
  • Never forget you're lucky. Sure, you're smart and savvy and experienced. And you work hard. You deserve your success... but you're also fortunate. Every day thousands of businesses fail, some of them run by people who are smarter, worked harder, and even started out with more capital. Success only appears inevitable in hindsight. When you realize that luck always plays a role it's easy to stay humble and grateful; otherwise, there but for the grace of the business gods, go I.
Remember, customers always have a choice.

And so do you. You can choose to believe in your own hype, or you can be grateful. It's an easy choice because when you're grateful your customers are too... and so is your business.

* Of course not all bankers act that way. But when I was 25 one in particular did; consider this my reverse homage to that fine individual.

Photo courtesy flickr user Forest Runner, CC 2.0
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