March 30, 2011. Larry Freudenberg, Charleston, SC --- "Compassion is one of the great unheralded traits of business leadership. Compassion requires you to subjugate your own need for attention and self-esteem to the needs of others around you. You care and you are sincere in your caring. True compassion in the business world is very rare. How is compassion relevant in the business environment? Every business involves relationships between people. We can choose the quality of each business relationship, from competitive and hostile, to neutral, to compassionate. Most of the time, we are not conscious about choosing the quality of our business relationships. Thus, we treat others from a posture of reactivity rather than presence. No one would dispute that cultivating positive relationships is good for business. Yet we spend almost no time and effort acquiring the habits and skills necessary to create harmonious relationships. I believe that compassion is a powerful business tool and leadership skill. Those that cultivate compassion will have a significant advantage over those that do not." Douglas Noil, Lawyer & Mediator
This really hit a nerve with me. I know the difference in the skills and services of my insurance agency. I could advertise that we offer the best customer service of any insurance agency on the planet. Or I could advertise that we can save you xxx dollars on your auto insurance like you see fifty million times a day in newspaper, television, radio and billboard from GEICO, State Farm, Allstate and Progressive. And I know each one would argue that they offer the best of everything. We've always set ourselves above the others because of our longevity. Being around over 108 years is no small feat for a family business. But I now realize that what has made us different and the reason why we've been in business for all of those years is because we care about our clients. I don't think that can be said for most of my competitors. That agent at the other end of the phone in the company's call center may be very nice and pleasant but they really don't care about the caller. We've always been a part of the community, both secular and religious and reached out to help anyone even if it we didn't make a sale.
I have any easy way to test a businessperson's real compassion. Go to a salesperson and ask them to find you the best of whatever type of thing they sell. The best for you. Not the best for the salesperson. Not the best for the salesperson's boss, business owner or stock holders. A simple test... Call for an insurance quote. Will the agent give you what you want which is the most competitive and best value for your money? Or will they sell you the policy that they've been told to sell. Let’s assume that you have special considerations and he doesn't have the best plan available. And the agent knows that an agent down the street has the best plan for you. Will he tell you that he really wants your business but suggest that you call the agency down the street because they have the best plan for you. I would guess that 99.9% of the time they would not. Compassion means that you have empathy and you care about your client. Compassion is simply the way the agent would treat himself. That's how we've done business and will always do business. It may not make me the richest insurance agent on the planet but to me it is a matter of right and wrong. This is the only way to do business. Family values that go back generations. I cannot say that we're perfect. We make mistakes and sometimes don't show much compassion. We lost a valued client this week because we didn't show him how much we cared. He asked for help and it is our fault that he didn't feel he was given the level of service that he deserved. He caught us in the middle of a million things and I failed. It is a slap in my face as our business' leader and a reminder that we cannot let it happen again. This was a wake-up call for us to get on the ball and show more compassion to our clients.
Compassion... In this crazy world, we need more of it. In 2011 we're rededicating our business to continue this tradition.