How Do I Look?

Profiling the personality of the criminal element allows law enforcement personnel to effectively target and apprehend evildoers. In the current political environment, the millionaire capitalist has often been profiled as a borderline criminal stealing resources more properly allocated to others. If you run a profitable business today, it must have a pleasing “personality profile” to avoid offending the public.

Business organizations, such as corporations, are legally defined as individual entities, similar to people. The personality of a business is a compilation of the traits of its employees combined with its culture as a reflection of policy and procedure. Your internal customers (employees), external customers, and the public perceive that persona as your brand identity in the marketplace. To improve profitability, ensure your company displays its best side.

Satisfied customers
Since it costs substantially less to maintain an existing customer than to develop a new one, impeccable customer service is part of that pleasing personality profile. In his book, “The Last Lecture,” Randy Pausch remembers breaking a $10 gift he and his sister bought at Disney World. Despite his admission of responsibility, the store clerk replaced the item. In later years, his father spent more than $100,000 taking groups of young people to Disney World. By allowing the clerk discretion to replace the broken item, the company spent less than $10, but recouped much more in good will and future business. The entire customer-service culture of Disney, as reflected in that one clerk’s decision, attracted customers like the father, and the return on investment was magnified exponentially.

Pausch recounted the event to a Disney executive who acknowledged that current company policies would preclude a clerk from exercising that kind of judgment. The bean counters and micromanagers had reduced the equation to delete the trust factor, effectively eliminating the possibility of repeating that million percent profit over time.

Do your employees have the freedom to make decisions that cost your company a little money but delight your customers? Creating loyalty among staff and your customer base is based on exactly these kinds of judgments that serve the interests of the people who produce the return on investment that keeps the numbers balanced. Looking through the lens of dollar signs removes the incentive to do the right thing for the customer.

Just ask
Speaking of employees, are they focused on cost or profit? Certainly, everyone should have a basic understanding of his or her own cost, to maintain a focus on efficient and productive time management. Each employee should understand the cost of materials, to focus on reducing waste. But, to truly focus on profit, the culture of your company must encourage feedback—both the kind you want to hear and the kind you want to avoid.

I’ll never forget the first time we made a profit-crushing error on a project. As we debriefed, one of our tradespeople volunteered that he had seen the problem coming. When I demanded to know why he hadn’t said anything earlier, he replied simply, “You never asked.” What he meant was that I didn’t ask our field and shop people for input on methodology. I never repeated that mistake. Instead, whenever we estimated a job with a high degree of difficulty, we reduced the risk of error by including shop staff and installers in reviewing the plans, spotting potential problems, and working out solutions.

Not only did this simple idea improve profits, it enabled us to suggest alternative approaches to design professionals and save them later embarrassment, but they repaid us by recommending our company for more negotiated work.

How does your company reward the people who help you succeed? Successful individuals routinely cite the importance of gratitude and generosity as essential components of building the relationships that foster great public relations and attract customers. Remember the people who helped you create a successful career path. When is the last time you sent a thank-you gift or wrote a note to someone who mentored, referred or supported you in reaching your goals?

Equally important, how are you passing along those same kinds of help and support? Business relationships create and expand networks throughout your community and your industry. Don’t be the weak link that breaks the connection and ruins the symmetry of the web.

Your company can pay it forward as an organization by supporting community projects, stepping up during disasters or crises, and providing assistance to your employees and their families when they face difficult times. If your public image as a company includes showing compassion for others, you will attract profits. People do business with people they like.

What about the numbers?
Of course, you can’t forget about the business basics. Planning, budgeting, cost control, accurate estimating and skilled performance are essential in maintaining a smooth operation. You have to spend money to make money, and you have to watch the numbers. However, you also must manage your image. Polishing the “personality profile” of your company will attract more positive attention and help smooth the way for the profits to roll in.

NORBERG-JOHNSON is a former subcontractor and past president of two national construction associations. She may be reached at

About the Author

Denise Norberg-Johnson

Financial Columnist
Denise Norberg-Johnson is a former subcontractor and past president of two national construction associations. She may be reached at .

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