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Is your business "personal"?

Someone once asked if I saw "the forest or the trees?" I told them that I saw "countless renewable resources and unlimited opportunities."

I'm not big on "awards," but for everyone there are little elements of recognition that mean a lot. While in college, I studied journalism and after graduation I took a series of articles and columns I'd written and published them in a book called "Ole Miss: the Concept." Back in the day they called it "vanity publishing," now I think we call it "blogging."

One of the pieces focused on how Wal-Mart used a very organic approach to established their brand as an essential element within communities they served. They had become hometown America's new town square under one roof. I refer to it as the "watering-hole" approach. Get the audience to come to you. Hey, it worked!

My dad took it upon himself to send a copy of the book to Sam Walton, THE Sam Walton of Wal-Mart. When he told me what he'd done, I was mortified! Then my dad got this very nice note in reply. A classy gesture from Mr. Walton. He (or someone on his staff) took a few minutes to reply to some guy in small-town Mississippi.

Sam Walton had made it personal. A simple thank you note.

My father, a business owner himself, was beyond thrilled! He had the letter framed and it remained on the wall of his office for all to see. Knowing I had made my dad proud meant much more than acknowledgement from a stranger, albeit a high profile one.

Mr. Walton had validated my point. He knew his audience. The organization (at least at that time) reflected the attitude and actions of its leadership. Wal-Mart had become the new American town square. He grew a forest by remembering that it was made up of individual trees.

I look at this now and think: how many of our businesses get letters or calls (or emails) from our target audience saying that they understand (and appreciate) our business model...and then, how many times do we take a moment to reply and continue to build a report with our customers?

I view all business as personal. Regardless of the size of your forest, by remembering that it is made up of different types and size of individual trees helps keep you focused on "their needs." This "reality check" helps to keep you focused and accountable to yourself, your team and your core mission objectives. In the rush to sell or market, we tend to forget that business is a privilege. No one owes you their support. You're not doing them a favor. You have to earn their business and then not forget that you've got to do it again, and again, and again...or someone else will.

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