Your customer wants products and services that provide value in numerous ways. These are benefits and outcomes more satisfying to your customer than the money they are willing to spend. Although monetary value is almost always a factor, that old saying usually rings true, “You get what you pay for”.
Business 101: Price does not adequately determine the value of your products and services. Many times, the quickness of delivery, the security or stability a product or service provides, and the very experience of owning that product or receiving that service is actually more important to your customer than the product in and of itself.
For example, here at Virtual Squirrel, you don’t just get a virtual administrative assistant, who is limited in skill, ability and time. You get an entire organized team of highly qualified administrative assistants, graphic designers, bookkeepers, and other types of specialists in business services, plus an office manager to help oversee all the work and ensure top quality and speed standards are maintained. You are not just buying the service of one person. You are buying a highly functioning, successful office team to be there for you on-demand, trained once and then always ready to assist you. In our case, you get multiple values for one reasonable price.
But, as you know already, many customers want more than even excellent value, security, experience, and quickness can provide. They want to know that their purchase is contributing somehow to making the world a better place. It sounds like a tall order. But is it?
How can you enhance the value of your products and services to make the world a better place? Here are two ways to do just that:
Sustainability vs. Environmentally Friendly
After decades of growing awareness about the environmental impact businesses and their products have on climate change (known as a carbon print), ecosystem endangerment, human health and other related issues, care for the environment is a trend that is here to stay.
The Financial Times published an article on March 9th, 2017, “The eco has landed: sustainability gets stylish” which describes how luxury brands are beginning to strive to make more environmentally sound products. With obvious issues in industries such as fashion and construction, perhaps it’s easy to see the need for companies to improve to make their products in a less harmful way.
But how would such considerations relate to, for example, a realtor’s work? The key in understanding this is to know the difference between sustainable business practices and environmentally friendly products.
Sustainability is all about the quest of an ideal, which requires oversight of the business from this perspective to implement ways to minimize environmentally damaging decisions. For a realtor, this may result in the purchase of an electric car and trip planning that minimizes emissions for both herself and her clients.
When something is deemed “environmentally friendly”, it usually refers to the end product, and increasingly, the practices it took to produce that product. Again, using the example of our realtor, sending documents by email, especially fillable PDFs which do not require printing, may be one way to deliver a more environmentally friendly option for conducting her business. Such results are often developed through sustainability practice development. They are two sides of the same coin.
For example, having a virtual administrative assistant is one easy way to help minimize emissions, as the virtual team member works offsite most of or all of the time. Record keeping can often be digital, to reduce the need for printing, couriers and the like. Another side benefit to making these types of changes are that they actually end up saving your business money!
In looking at your own business, are there other ways of changing your practices that can effect a greater level of sustainability and produce more environmentally sound products? How would your customers appreciate these changes?
Inclusivity vs. Diversity
Another hot topic these days is around non-discrimination. More and more, awareness is growing around the distinction between diversity and being inclusive.
Diversity, of course, is the recognition of how people are different, and usually refers to ways that people can be discriminated against – age, ability, gender identity, sexual orientation, religion, ethnicity, country of origin, etc.. In many cases, such diversity is a cause for celebration and an understanding that by having different experiences of being in the world, we can learn from one another. But this does not necessarily lead to inclusion.
Inclusivity is all about finding ways to accommodate everyone and build stronger and more vibrant communities. It can be uncomfortable or even scary when we are not accustomed to working with people who may come from experiences or perspectives we are not familiar with. But these concerns can soon pass when we find what we do have in common with others. An organization called Inclusion Network, based in Toronto, has some excellent articles about inclusion - read Inclusion Network articles here.
Why should your business do more to be inclusive? Well, from a business perspective, it seems like a poor financial decision to leave out entire groups of people who may potentially become your customers. You never know who your customers may be married to, related to, be friends with, etc.. For example, the parent of an autistic child will notice policies that may (even inadvertently) exclude their child or make it difficult for their family to participate or use products and services from businesses that do not consider their needs.
But adding to this notion, when you hire and advertise in an inclusive way, it also helps entire groups of people feel more comfortable. This builds trust in your products and goodwill in your company.
Of course, backlash can and does occur. We’re all familiar with the problems Target faced with its stance on washroom access for transgender people. Did the publicity enhance or destroy Target’s goodwill? That is for the individual to decide. Because of our diversity, we think in different ways and come to widely differing conclusions about such issues. Sadly, there doesn’t seem to be a way to satisfy everyone with regard to safety concerns around this particular issue.
The important question in all of this is, how would your business benefit from becoming more inclusive? If, for some reason, your business received “negative” feedback, would it actually hurt your business in the short term or long term? This is only a question you can answer for yourself, and can only be based on your own values and the values you perceive your customers to have.
At Virtual Squirrel, we wear our values on our sleeves. In fact, you can see it in our names and faces, and in our very lives. We are very proud to have a team built upon inclusivity, and we never discount the contribution someone can make on our team regardless of who they are. So many of the diverse businesses and people we work with appreciate this about our business model, so we can say unequivocally that the decision to be inclusive has been the right one for us.
Any business decision you make as an entrepreneur says something about you and your business. How do you want to be perceived, and what do you want your business to represent?
By carefully thinking through your values and how to best represent them in your business, focusing on issues such as the environment and people and developing policies based on those values, you can contribute to positive changes in the world – one employee and one customer at a time.
For more information about Virtual Squirrel, please check out our website, at www.VirtualSquirrel.com.