Entrepreneurs don’t care

Emotional intelligence is on the lips of the media these days.  A recent article by the Harvard Business Review caught my eye because it listed the skills entrepreneurs excel at and the ones you don’t excel at like empathy.

Entrepreneurs Don’t Care

The article is kinda dry but the comments were very interesting to me.  Commentators seemed to take offense that lack of empathy was even on the list.  They cry, we put ourselves in our clients’ shoes.  We understand them.   Maybe but how well?

Here’s my take.  The quality of empathy and understanding that goes into the product creation process  for a market is vastly different than actually engaging with your client, one to one.  Apples to oranges, really.

I’m wrestling with this idea, how to express it. Ok, I got it.  Have you seen the Patrick Swayze movie, City of Joy?

Great film that sparked my interest in traveling to India some day.  In the movie, the nurse explains why she’s remained in India and fought with the struggles of the people for so many years.  She explains that somewhere along the line she realized she’s better at loving people in a global way instead of romantic love.  She understands the masses but can’t deal with the emotions of one person.That’s what solopreneurs do- avoid your client’s feelings.

You love the market not the person.

What do I mean?  I’m still noodling.  But from reading the forums and talking with clients, I experience an ‘us vs them’ mentality amongst some small business owners. A skeptical air that says, I know you’re out to get me.

You know I’m giving the site (and myself) a makeover.   I started looking for a makeup artist to work with for my pictures. A bit of yelp research and I discovered  someone who looked great on paper. Let’s call her Lou.

Lou’s website was interesting. People really liked her work.  Yelpers are notoriously picky about service.   Her site had a holistic, friendly vibe and she worked with women of color, which is important. (The last time I had my makeup professionally done I looked like Casper- enuf said)  Done deal, I thought.  Until I called Lou to set the appointment. And called her.  And texted.  We kept missing each other, which was frustrating but not unexpected for two busy women running businesses, I thought.

As it about Turns out Lou was much more upset about effort than I was, which she made of point of telling me when we finally did connect.  She told me  I was lucky because she usually didn’t have such trouble reaching clients.  I was not feeling the love.

Love your client*

Yeah, Lou was disappointed it took so long to connect.  I’ve been there where it’s been so long you think it’s never gonna happen. Understanding that, I brought compassion to our conversation.

Did she stop to think about what I was feeling? That I was disappointed, too.  Worried she might be brushing me off.  Anxious that I’d have to spend more time searching.  I have to guess no (I don’t know what she intended) but the impact on me was like, meh.  That made me mad as a customer and business coach.

Why waste such a great opportunity to bond and gain my trust.  We shared that minor struggle and could’ve grown closer because of it.  But no. No empathy.  Too bad because I would’ve bought out the house. (Some independent makeup artists make their money by selling their own line in addition to consultations and lessons.)

Long story short, I didn’t hire Lou.   (Quel surpriz!)  We talked. I did tell her exactly why and what impact I thought her careless behavior had on me.  Bottom line: she was great at makeup but I didn’t get a sense Lou loved me even a little.  Crazy because makeup is a trust and romance business.

Connect & Grow

See, this is what I’m trying to say.  You gotta love the person, not just the market. The individual standing before you asking for your help.  You gotta feel what it’s like for them and meet it with kindness and care, not like you’d like, but as your client would like.  That’s where connection lives.  That

Opening up to another person’s experience, fears and emotions makes you feel vulnerable. That’s scary and rich with opportunities to grow you.  You realize it’s not just  your business that’s supposed to grow, right?

Best advice: I’ve  walked through life with my hands open and closed.  Open works better.  I’ve gotten slapped and burned but what I’ve held on to- the confidence, joy, humility, community- is well worth it.

Love it or leave it, lemme hear about it in the comments, will ya?

* Just to be clear y’all- this isn’t permission to give away your power or become helpless to client demands.  You are still the boss. You still need to make your own interests as much of a priority as your clients. And, it works better when you open your heart.

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Leave A Reply (8 comments so far)

  1. Dina Eisenberg |Speak Up Powerfully
    4 years ago

    You hit the nail on the head, Crystal. We won’t always get agree but that doesn’t mean we can’t try to understand and give as much as we can. People remember how we make them feel most of all. Thanks so much for coming by!

  2. Cheryl
    4 years ago

    Hi Dina, I do think empathy is necessary in some rare business situations, but I also feel it cannot be taught without coming across as unreal. At the most I think someone can be taught respect, listening, and understanding, where empathy is being able to intellectually and emotionally feel as though they were the other individual. Empathy is also very draining, and even harder when the other person is full of negative emotions. Even watching television can be difficult when it breaks your heart.

    For most of my business dealings I prefer to be respectful, listen and understand where they are coming from. I think if a business can accomplish this, they are well on their way to understanding their customers.

  3. Karen Christian
    4 years ago

    Ah Empathy! Such a beautiful quality yet it is so elusive, especially in the business world. Most companies are still struggling with the meaning of great customer service and are completely missing the point because of the under-utilisation of ‘empathy’. However it’s not really their fault as it has never been taught in Business School, empathy is left to the Social Sciences.

    Within the next 5 year period, the business world is going to have to understand and implement the true meaning of empathy if they want to survive. The companies that do survive are the ones who are very social, transparent and genuinely caring toward their customers. Social Media has made it a necessity and personally, I think it’s a good thing.

    Right now I am finishing up my Small Business Management course and during the 12 weeks that I have been attending, customer care was never taught. Sure, we were taught tactics on how to create perceived care but that’s not going to cut it. You see, what my teacher and other business people don’t quite realise is that customers are fast becoming well educated through personal research via the internet. They know when a company is genuine or not.

    Great article Dina, I think the term empathy is going to come up a lot more over the next few years as businesses try to grapple with the new buying landscape which is the internet.

  4. K-Blao
    4 years ago

    This is an excellent article and I have experienced this on both ends. It takes time to build a relationship with a potential client, but then again…some of them just aren’t worth it.

  5. Crystal
    4 years ago

    I feel is is vital to connect with our customers, cause we need them more than they need us !! In our small town, we have had to cut our prices to reach more customers. So we have to work twice as hard for one sale as we did before the economy took a nose dive. We establish a reputation of a business that goes above and beyond for all of our customers, no mater how much they spend and the word gets around. Now with that said, we wont give them the store, but we will treat each one like family. Most family members get along !! Not all the time though, sometimes I think our place would make a great reality show…never a dull moment.

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