Hyperbole? Shock value headline? Sure. The fact is, though, I mean it. My outlandish headline applies not only to bk, but to numerous other privately-owned U.S. companies ranging from small family restaurants to lawn care services that deliver their goods everyday with PRIDE.
I am sickened by the lack of pride I see on display daily in too many American businesses. You walk into a restaurant and there are dirty tables everywhere and crap all over the floors. Yet the folks that work there are on their phones or just hiding in the kitchen.
Have you walked into a Staples, Target, Best Buy or other major retailer lately? Talk about lack of pride or service. It’s like walking into the place where dreams go to die.
My wife got me thinking about this last Christmas as we returned home from Cabo after a family vacation. It’s our favorite spot to vacation not just because of the beauty, beaches and adventure, but because the people make it near perfect; they take pride in their city and their role in making it a great place. We had a gentleman pick us up at the airport on this last trip. I asked him to take my family (wife, two daughters and son) to the grocery store to provision our rental home while I went to get the rental car. (Getting a rental car takes at least an hour, even with a reservation.) I did worry that this was not the smartest move on my part – putting my family’s lives into the hands of a man I did not know in a country with the violent reputation that Mexico unfortunately wears. My worries could not have been be more unfounded.
He parked the van outside the grocery store and insisted on helping them shop to make sure it went smoothly. He refused to let them push the cart, choose poor products they did not know about and generally took personal care to ensure they found what we needed. He then helped us carry loads of groceries up a steep hill (after he had been tipped!) and went far beyond his job. Why did he do this? Those of you who are cynical will think it was all about the tip. But we were curious as he was climbing into his van, so we asked him why he stayed to help us even after I tipped him. I’m paraphrasing, but this is the gist of his response: “I want you to love Cabo as much as I do. We have great pride that you would come here and I want you to come back.”
Pretty well sums it up. Now, ask yourself if you feel that way after going into chain restaurants and stores in America? Is that how you feel after a trip to your grocery store, Home Depot or CVS? Do you witness genuine smiles punctuated by hard work and personal courtesy? All because they take pride in their work and want you to come back? No! At best you get asked for your phone number so you get what has replaced hard work and pride in this country – LOYALTY REWARD CARDS! Ugh!
How can it be that we now look at this as normalcy? How did we let “rewards points” replace American hard work and pride? The USA is the greatest country in the world and our pride is greater than any other country. Yet we allow our standards that define PRIDE to sink lower and lower – and sooner or later that will catch up to us.
Time to change that fact and at bk, we are taking it seriously.
So I grabbed your attention by stating that bk is leading America. Again, I stand by it. I am not whitewashing the word “PRIDE.” At bk, we are happy because we know this is a great place to work and we want to keep it that way. We don’t metaphorically let dirty dishes sit on tables and not come to work with enthusiasm. We go beyond the basics of our service to ensure our clients stay with us and praise us.
The praise and attention we receive from our clients is the currency that our pride is built upon. Our lives may depend on the dollars we bring in as a company, but we know one is not independent of the other. Not for a small business, at least.
Too often lately we have been invited to bid on projects or campaigns because a previous agency or small developer lacked the pride to deliver on initial promises. Too often we hear the tale that the company was left high and dry because the previous agency was not responsive and did not live up to what they were sold. As a partner in bk, I could not sleep at night if we were selling false goods and results.
A culture in a business of any size comes from the top. Pride and exceeding expectations is not something that just happens. If you work somewhere where the emphasis is placed on greed over substance, ego over people, then you know the word PRIDE is used with falsity, at best. In advertising, just as in a small restaurant, the smallest details are what provides a point of difference. If the tables are clean, then you have more trust that the kitchen is clean, too. Therefore, you are more likely to return.
In advertising, allowing projects to linger unfinished, not returning emails or responding at the speed of a business’ need is the same as leaving dirty dishes out for too long. Landing a new client by making promises about growing their business based on an experienced staff and then pushing them off to junior account execs with two years of experience is not the definition of PRIDE. At bk, pride is all we have. At the end of the day, as a small to mid-sized agency, our pride is what separates us from the big guys out there.
Our focus on pride in our company and the people that make it so great is being recognized. For the last five years we have been growing and expanding because while the big agencies become lazy and greedy, we just work harder to retain the business we have and that leads to a great reputation. I am very proud of that reputation.
At bk, we work to live up to the American ideal. I grew up in a time where U.S. pride was based on a solid foundation of hard work, hand shake deals and being able to look someone in the eye with pride at the end of a job or delivery. Working to be the best at whatever you were doing was not just an expectation, it was just what you did.
Today, bk is living that ideal far better than too many other companies and corporations that don’t focus on one of the tenets that has made America so great – PRIDE in our work and the people we work for!
Eric J. Hirschhorn is a principal at bloomfield knoble. For 17 years he has helped lead the Dallas-based advertising agency from start up to becoming a premier, full-service agency whose clients include some of the most influential companies in America. Eric lives to spend time with his family, to work and to travel the world in search of unique fishing adventures.