In a world where big businesses have taken over the majority of the market, small and micro brands have to find a way in order to survive and etch their mark in the ever changing whims of the consumer market. The nature of small businesses though allows it to be flexible and can implement changes quicker albeit less efficiently. This trait, coupled with a properly set up team, can create a very vibrant and diversified brand with non-conventional services and products catered to a niche market as well as those who cannot be serviced by big business.
As Black Wing evolved, I realized that we have to become a service oriented brand rather than a product oriented one in order to survive the ever-changing whims of the market and further develop the brand in order to freely pursue it’s advocacy and create a business model that is sustainable and fair to all parties involved. With this, the concept of servant master leadership is one of the more appropriate models to employ in order to achieve the goal of creating a forward looking organization which pays respect to tradition and aims to preserve its heritage.
I guess the guiding principle of becoming men and women for others from my Alma mater really stuck with me. In serving, we learn to step in other people’s shoes and in experiencing first hand the situation of others, we learn how to better serve. Having a service mindset will humble you, especially as a business owner/manager. The goal of the service is to be able to meet the needs of those whom are stakeholders in your business, not just your clients. It is easy to act all humble in front of clients but one must also realize that the business should not only be serving the needs of the clients, but those of the co-workers as well. They are after all, one of the cornerstones supporting the business effort. In serving others, one should become more sensitive to their needs and requirements. Being able to service these various needs is the key to a long lasting and sustainable business.
Having a heart to serve will train you to become a better leader for a leader is but a servant to those that he leads. In wanting to serve stakeholders better, one becomes a better master by improving ones ability to fulfill the responsibility that comes with leading. Leading is a privilege which is coupled with the responsibility of serving the stakeholders. While delegation helps in easing the burden of the responsibility, it should not free you from it. Delegating tasks does not mean you pass on the responsibility to others because in reality, your responsibility is doubled because you are now responsible for the actions of the person whom you entrusted the task to. Do not misconstrue that the delegation of the task is equivalent to the delegation of responsibility. The person to whom you delegated the task to’s responsibility is only towards you while the responsibility towards all stakeholders still remains with the leader. People must become more responsible for cleaning up their own mess rather than pointing fingers and playing the blame game. A leader who serves assumes all responsibilities and owns up to all mistakes, even ones committed by those under him/her.
Serve others to become a master. Become a master in order to serve others better.
While the financial viability of any endeavor is crucial, businesses have a tendency to diminish the value of it’s products/services for stakeholders when profit takes priority. This is because once profit is the priority, it becomes a self serving act which only seeks gains for the business and not the other stakeholders. There is a diminishing return on how profit can benefit all parties. Past a certain point, prioritizing profit can prove to be detrimental to the growth of the business since quality is one of the first things to go.
The key is to have a solid price-cost strategy which will easily scale with revenue performance. Just establish your break even point and develop “quick look” formula to estimate income and get the financial worries out of the way. The financial baggage is the unneeded weight which will hold you back from becoming a proper servant-master and therefore from becoming a good business leader.
Profit should not take priority over service in order to create a sustainable service brand. Work hard to get to the break-even point wherein you can get a decent take home then just focus on growing the service. Even for your co-workers, getting the financial baggage out of the way is a step in enhancing their performance so make sure to compensate properly and create an environment wherein their service is appreciated and rewarded.
Developing a financial strategy with a proper goal is crucial in order to keep service levels high while maintaining value for all stakeholders. The financial aspect of any business is always a good measure for performance, especially if one operates in a “big boss” model wherein the business owner is detached from the day-to-day operations of the business. In micro and small scale businesses, which is what I personally prefer, the “boss” becomes a servant-master/leader who acts like a father and keeps everything in balance in the spirit of fairness. It is your responsibility as the leader to maintain the financial health of the business as well as continuously find ways to increase the value for all stakeholders. While a passion for service is the life force that drives the business, the revenue generated is the life blood that keeps things going. I always believe that one can freely pursue ones passion with “purer” intentions when the concern for money is out of the picture. It is important to make stakeholders feel that while you are running a business, it is a business that seeks to be fair and is not just in it for the money.
Servant, Not Slave
Dignity is very important for any person. One should not be reduced to being forced to act and do things against their will just because they need to “survive”. Sadly, the current commercialism has spoiled majority of the modern consumer. They are now so used to businesses begging for sales that in turn, frontliners are treated poorly as most patrons get irritated with their “eagerness to assist” and sometimes pushy manner of selling. While this marketing tactic works for big businesses because this strategy is developed more towards mass marketing. Micro and small business are different, our best marketing strategy is the proof of our products and services. While traditional marketing helps, one should realize that organic marketing is the best way to go for micro and small businesses. We should not have to beg for sales to give dignity to our craft/endeavor. We need to serve, and serve with pride and dignity.
Let clients know that you are there to serve them and not become their slave. Earn respect by becoming a servant-master and truly assist and service your clients. Becoming a slave to the clients and the business takes away the fun from the endeavor. It becomes a negative emotion which will become detrimental to the effort in the long run, even for those who derive satisfaction from praises no matter the method used to earn those praises. The setup of typical business-client relationship is a purely transactional one, client pays then businesses delivers. In the servant-master model, we strive to make it a relational one since we strive to build a relationship of trust with our clients rather than seem like we’re just after their money (insurance agents often fall into this trap).
We also have to become a servant to our craft. Meaning we do not just follow instructions but strive to become better in order to serve better. In becoming a slave to the business, the heart and intention changes for improving the business for all stakeholders. Improve the business for the stakeholders and not for the business’s sake.
In closing: Have the heart to serve, the passion to master, the will to lead, the conscience to take responsibility, the dignity to stand tall, the want to become better. Become a servant-master for others; for in serving you will lead and in leading you will serve.