I recently attended our Business at Dusk Event held by ALE on North Street, Toowoomba and was reminded of the different paths business owners take when looking to grow or establish themselves.

I’m talking about business ethics, culture, and even attitude.  These range from extremely aggressive by attempting to take out their competition, undercutting pricing to buy market share or proactively poaching staff.  The other alternative is focused on more kindness, mutually beneficial outcomes, and the concept of abundance (that is, there are enough clients to feed everyone, especially if we create new ones).  One extreme is not necessarily better or worse, but I challenge you to be aware of HOW you operate and your attitude and actions in business because it will form part of your culture and influence the behaviour of your staff.

Kindness can be commercial Chris Black Toowoomba Chamber Co Vice Presiden

Culture will also attract like-minded customers, suppliers, stakeholders, and employees to work with and for you.  Let me share a couple of examples to show this in action, and why I personally lean toward the kindness approach.

Kindness Can be Commercial

So back to ALE. Campbell Lane shared his story of starting ALE as a 19-year-old upstart with a focus on making some money. He worked hard, made mistakes, took risks, learned lessons, and ultimately now runs a successful business.  But I’d argue he differs from most. Why?  He openly welcomes, engages, and even refers his own clients to his competitors.  A CRAZY thought, but he has the belief that if they can offer a better outcome for that client or prospect, they should go there… do the right thing by the client, but also be kind to his competitors.  His conviction is that the client will be better off, and his competition will make some money, but in the long run, those clients will remember his honesty, integrity, and kindness and be back in the future. I can’t argue with this philosophy as he is proof it works.

Another example is a bit different but stay with me. For anyone who drives down Hume Street past Concordia during school drop-off hours will know Jan Ogg. Not by name, but more by her simple and consistent acts of kindness. She is the lollipop lady, a petite woman, dressed in high vis, with a big hat and a smile as wide as a Simpson desert sunset.  Jan was concerned with the amount of speeding through the school zone. She began giving speeding motorists a ‘slow down wave’ through frustration in her face and arms. This seemed to be working in isolation, but largely nothing changed.  The next day some drivers even became angered at her rather minor actions with good intent.  So, she flipped her approach. She led with kindness. She opened that smile, showed warmth through an open-handed broad wave, and engaged with the kids in each car as they went past. And something changed. The kids waved back, and soon the drivers waved back, then the kids smiled back, and the drivers even smiled back AND slowed down. They repeated this routine each morning and afternoon and it became a habit, as did the reduction in repeat speeders. My kids talk about her regularly and they’ve learned a valuable lesson on kindness, so thanks Jan.

Kindness Can be Commercial and FREE

So, as a business owner, it’s your choice which path you follow but be assured it will attract similar people and companies to deal with you. Finally, if you’re not sold on the approach of kindness, here’s the final plug why you should lead with it – it’s completely and utterly FREE.

Chris Black, Vice President

Toowoomba Chamber

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