If an Organization Was a Person, Guest Post

Jeff HendersonBy Jeff Henderson

So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets. — Matthew 7:12

Most social media posts of a business are 99.9 percent about the business. Most advertising is as well. And the same could be said of churches and nonprofits.

“Look at our products.” “New sermon series starting Sunday!” “Buy one, get one free!”

The focus is clearly on the business, by the business, for the business.

This has been the case for so long that it’s sometimes hard to see the danger in this. But the danger’s there, and it’s only growing.

Here’s why: If a business was a person, many businesses would be considered narcissists. And narcissism is bad for business.

The definition of a narcissist is “a person who has an excessive interest in or admiration of themselves.” And to pile on, Google drives home the point further: “Narcissists are those who think the world revolves around them.”

I bet narcissism never came up in business school, did it?

It’s why you may be tempted to dismiss this notion and stop reading. But please understand two important distinctions:

  1. I’m not saying the people in your organization are narcissists.
  2. I’m suggesting we’ve been taught to shine the spotlight on the organization and not the customer.

I’m often called on to consult with religious organizations and nonprofits. Imagine how this goes over when I talk about this with church leaders. “Wait, what? You’re saying my church is narcissistic?”

“No,” I’ll reply, “I’m suggesting it is displaying narcissistic tendencies.”

Before I’m kicked out of the building, we do a quick exercise by visiting the Instagram page of their church. I ask them to count how many of the last ten posts are about the church and how many are about the community or people outside the four walls of the church. Usually, it’s nine to one in favor of the church. Honestly, more often than not, it’s ten to zero.

In other words, the spotlight is clearly on the church and not the community.

The business world is no different.

Thriving businesses and nonprofit organizations of the future will understand the danger of this. And when I say future, I’m not suggesting 15 years from now.

The future is here. The organizations that understand this and shift the focus from the business to the customer will win the heart of the customer. And the heart of the customer is the great battleground. When you do this effectively, customers start talking positively. They notice you are FOR them. In turn, they become FOR you. It’s as if they have a personal, vested interest in supporting the business. They become your sales force . . . for free. This is the fertile ground where positive word-of-mouth advertising begins to grow.

In this new world, online reviews win out over paid advertising. Brands that advertise how great they are lack credibility. As Scott Cook, cofounder of Intuit and a billionaire director of both Procter and Gamble and eBay, correctly points out, “A brand is no longer what it tells consumers it is—it is what consumers tell each other it is.”

For this to happen, you must give them a reason to say yes to the following question.

A Question Your Customer Is Asking about You

One of my business heroes is Horst Schulze. Mr. Schulze is the chairman and chief executive officer at Capella Hotels and Resorts and Solis Hotels and Resorts, and recently wrote the book Excellence Wins.

[Read the Bible Gateway Blog post, Excellence Indeed Wins, But There’s Much More to Life]

He cofounded the Ritz-Carlton. During his time there, the Ritz-Carlton won the prestigious Malcolm Baldridge National Quality Award for exemplary customer service, not once, but twice.

This kind of compelling and exemplary service is built on a question. This single question drives the systems, focus, and, yes, heart of the business.

“The number one question customers are asking about a business is, ‘Do they care about me?’” Mr. Schulze says.

Know What You're FORIt’s so easy to dismiss this question. It seems touchy-feely. It seems hard to measure. And no one would admit out loud that they don’t care about the customer.

If you look closer, though, you’ll find systems that have a natural bent toward spotlighting and protecting the business.

A great example is the banking industry. While online banking has made a significant shift in how banks interact with their customers, there is still the occasional need to actually go inside a branch. Typically, you’ll find a queue line, and then when it’s your turn, the branch employee will say, “Next.”

“How many of you,” Mr. Schulze will ask his audiences, “are named ‘Next’?”

One of the greatest sounds we like to hear is when someone says our name. “Hey, buddy” often sounds like, “You don’t know my name.” “Hey, Jeff” creates a much better feeling and emotion when I hear it. I bet the same is true with you.

It’s why the Ritz-Carlton built a system around getting to know your name and spreading it to the rest of their team during your stay. When they say your name, it shows they care.

Several years in a row, my daughter and I would attend a father-daughter dance. (Honestly, I would still like to do this, but Jesse is in college now, and for some reason she has declined. I still ask every year though.)

One year, I decided we would stay at the Ritz-Carlton in Buckhead, a few minutes north of downtown Atlanta. I was the lead pastor of Buckhead Church. Our church was very close to the Ritz.

Jesse was eight years old at the time. When we arrived, the Ritz-Carlton team helped us get our bags out of the car. The first thing they did, though, was to introduce themselves and ask for our names. (Note: this is a system.)

They asked us to proceed to the registration desk, where they would meet us with our bags. As we were walking in, I glanced back to see the bellman whispering into his shirtsleeve, like he was in the Secret Service. (Note: this is another system.)

Quick question—what was he doing? Why was he whispering into his sleeve?

It all goes back to a question that customers ask: “Does this business really care about me?” And nothing quite communicates care than when a customer hears a business say their name.

As Jesse and I walked into the beautiful Ritz-Carlton Buckhead and approached the registration desk, we were greeted with, “Good evening, Mr. Henderson and Jesse. We are so glad you’re here.”

I wish you could have seen Jesse’s eyes. The memory of that moment brings a smile to my face and tears to my eyes as I write this. When we were walking to our room, Jesse whispered to me, “Dad, how did they know our names?”

I smiled and said, “Honey, your dad is big-time in Buckhead.”

That was 11 years ago. I remember it like it was yesterday. Heck, in some ways, it feels like yesterday. I tell that story often. I never tell the stories of the times I was called “Next.”

This doesn’t happen by accident. It happens with a fundamental decision to create systems that are FOR the customer.

Let’s rewind the tape and reveal what happened. As Jesse and I drove up, the bellman knew his most important job wasn’t just helping us with our bags; his most important job was discovering our names. Once he had our names, he went Secret Service on us by radioing to the front desk. “Mr. Henderson and his daughter, Jesse.”

The person at the desk heard it, confirmed it over the radio with the bellman, and was ready with a smile and our names. And here we are, 11 years later, and I’m still telling that story.

Did Jesse and I think the Ritz-Carlton cared about us? Well, of course. They knew our names. And as Norm from Cheers will tell you, we all want to go “where everybody knows your name.”

What’s most impressive to me about this is that it required planning. It required thinking through a system that could be replicated throughout the entire Ritz-Carlton chain. Somewhere at some time, a team of people sat down and said, “How can we capture the names of our guests and repeat it back to them within 30 seconds of their arrival?”

This is what it means to be FOR your customer. To not only say we care, but to make specific, systematic shifts toward showing it. When this happens, customers respond. They tell others about it, and you begin to reap the pixie dust of advertising called word-of-mouth. But you have to give customers something to say. Taking their bags is expected. Learning and saying their names is a Wow. When this happens, we show customers we care. And this is great for business growth because every customer is asking a question about your organization: “Do they care about me?”

And people respond to organizations that truly care for them.


Know What You're ForAdapted from Know What You’re FOR: A Growth Strategy for Work, An Even Better Strategy for Life by Jeff Henderson. Click here to learn more about this title.

Your organization — business, church, or nonprofit — will experience unprecedented growth when you close the gap between these two game-changing questions: What are we known for? What do we want to be known for?

I enthusiastically recommend you read this book
from cover to cover, mark it up with your thoughts and ideas,
and then put everything you have into living a life FOR others.
My friend, you’ll never regret it
.” — John C. Maxwell

In Know What You’re FOR, entrepreneur and thought leader Jeff Henderson makes it clear that if we want to change the world with our products or our mission, then we must shift the focus of our messaging and marketing. Rather than self-promoting, we must transform our organizations to be people-centric. This sounds like a no-brainer, but looking closer shows just how little this is true and how impactful the change would be if it were. Whether you’re a business leader, a change advocate, or a movement maker, Know What You’re FOR will help you — and your organization — thrive.

It’s what happens when you create an organization focused on who it is FOR. This is the future. Thriving organizations will be more concerned with becoming raving fans of their customers than they are trying to convince customers to become raving fans of the organization. This isn’t theory. Jeff Henderson has experienced it.

Working with companies like Chick-fil-A and the Atlanta Braves, then serving as a pastor for 15 years at one of the country’s largest and most influential churches, North Point, Jeff knows what success looks like for healthy organizations and healthy lives. With fascinating stories from a host of entrepreneurs and Jeff’s remarkable career, Know What You’re FOR equips you with a simple strategy and the tools for extraordinary growth. You’ll discover how to:

  • Work FOR your current and future customers with a new, effective method
  • Be FOR your team and help your people reach full potential
  • Create a ripple impact by being FOR your community
  • Live and work your best by caring FOR yourself

In a hypercritical, cynical world, one that is often known for what it’s against, let’s be a group of people known for who and what we’re FOR. It’s a powerful strategy for business. But more importantly, it is a revolutionary way to live.

Jeff Henderson is an entrepreneur, speaker, pastor, and business leader. For the past 15 years, he has helped lead three of North Point Ministries’ multi-site locations in Atlanta, Georgia—Buckhead Church and two Gwinnett Church locations. He also helped launch North Point Online, which now reaches over 200,000 people.

He is the founder of several organizations including Champion Tribes, a rite-of-passage experience for fathers with middle school sons; Preaching Rocket, an online coaching program with over 20,000 email subscribers; Launch Youniversity, a podcast for entrepreneurs with 300 monthly downloads; and the FOR Company, helping churches and businesses grow using the FOR strategy.

Jeff was recently named by Forbes Magazine as one of 20 speakers you shouldn’t miss. Prior to working as a pastor, Jeff started his career in marketing with the Atlanta Braves, Callaway Gardens, Lake Lanier Islands, and Chick-fil-A, Inc., where he led the company’s regional and beverage marketing strategies.


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