This phrase sounds like something you’d hear in a movie with farmers in it. But, there’s an enormous business lesson here. A lesson that has turned many people into millionaires.
Picture this: An average-looking guy takes a good-looking girl to a dance. She could easily leave him for the better-looking guys who ask her to dance or want to drive her home. But this girl has integrity and class. She knows you don’t just flit away for a better opportunity because there will always be a better opportunity to move on to. Instead of grabbing a new guy who is better looking than her date, she decides that she is going to stay loyal, avoid the temptation of a better deal, and “dance with the one who brung ya!”
Loyalty in business matters a lot too!! Loyalty matters with your vendors, employees, and customers. For the sake of simplicity, this article will focus on customer loyalty.
Loyalty to your customers
Every consultant worth their salt will tell you to be loyal to your customers, and try to help them succeed. This is obviously smart, because if your customer succeeds and appreciates your loyalty and support, there’s a good chance that you can continue being his vendor in the future.
However, most consultants won’t condone what I’m about to say: I sometimes do things for my customers that are very good for the customer but may not be good for my business in the short term.
Here are two prime examples …
Example #1: Giant vs. loyalty
In the late 1990s, I received a phone call from a high-end consulting firm that was closely aligned with an extremely well-known software “giant” based out of Redmond, Washington. It was a phone call I’ll never forget. Apparently, the giant had hired this consulting firm to develop an online shopping mall that would bring executive recruiters, employers, jobs, and the general public together. This consulting firm was interested in my company, Top Echelon Network, because we were the nation’s largest employment network of recruiters. They knew that my relationships and influence with thousands of executive recruiters would jumpstart their efforts to build their online mall.
I needed to see if this consulting firm was just a bunch of big talkers, or if they were real. So three of us flew to Redmond to meet with the consulting firm. We were shown their headquarters, their software, their hardware systems, their offices, their people, etc. Their setup was impressive … and very real. Their pace, intensity, and apparent financial backing was like nothing I had experienced back in Ohio, that’s for sure!
As we exchanged information, it became clear that the consulting firm wanted what my company had built. They started talking about offering me big bucks to join forces with them. I felt as if I was about to hit the financial lottery and be made rich!!
But there was a problem. The giant’s business model would not be a good long-term scenario for my recruiting customers — nor my employees. From what I could tell, this shopping mall project would cause my recruiting customers to lose their clients, which meant that my employees would have to get jobs elsewhere. So, I politely declined the consulting firm’s offer to partner with them. The consulting firm didn’t like my response, so they essentially threatened me. They said that if I didn’t play ball with them, they and the giant would take deliberate actions to squash my company.
To be honest with you, their threat did bother me (more than a little), but I decided that I would stay loyal to my customers. After all, my customers “brung me to the dance” in the first place. Without them, I had nothing. I couldn’t have bought lunch, let alone that plane ticket to Redmond without them. So, I decided to “dance with the one who brung me!”
Looking back, I realize that my loyalty to my customers was a good long-term decision. My customers, my employees, and I have all been blessed by my decision to stay loyal.
Example #2: Man vs. machine
In the mid-1990s, one of my older, long-term customers in one of my companies was having so many problems with our software that he finally called me to quit our service. I knew the problem wasn’t our software’s fault. I knew his outdated computer was to blame. But, he had exhausted himself trying to fight the problem, so he threw up his arms and told me that he quit. His software problem was about to “beat” all of us.
I knew this man was older and very close to retirement. I knew that I could easily replace him with a younger, more tech-savvy customer. But he had helped me in the early days of my business. In my mind, he brought me to the dance, and I was going to stay loyal and dance with him, even though there were more attractive customers out there.
What did I do? I asked him to give me one final 24-hour period to fix the problem. Being older, tired, and not tech-savvy, he did not want to oblige. But he heard my heart and reluctantly agreed. I sent one of my employees to a retail store, and we bought him a brand new computer. We configured the new computer with our software, tested it, and shipped the computer to him overnight. That customer was paying me about $125/month. The cost of the computer, the configuration, and the shipping was close to $3,000.
Financially speaking, this gesture made no sense whatsoever. But I wasn’t willing to let this customer, loyal to my business for many years, crash and burn in his final months in business. I just couldn’t tolerate that defeat!
The result? He received his new computer and was thrilled that everything worked as I had promised. He continued in business and stayed my customer for approximately 18 months before retiring.
Did I recoup the full $3,000? Nope. But I could look at myself in the mirror, knowing that I had done everything in my power to stay loyal and dance with the one who brung me!
And I’d do it all over again.
I believe that being loyal to the people in your life is the most important thing you can do. When you’re loyal to your spouse, kids, parents, relatives, etc., you’ll have a happy family life.
When you’re loyal to your employees, vendors, and customers, you’ll have a happy business life.
So, just dance with the one who brung ya! In my opinion, life and business are really this simple.