Yesterday, my phone rang, and an attorney here in New York City was on the other end inquiring about our Search Engine Optimization services. I field these calls regularly, but this one was different for a couple of reasons.

The call was special both because the guy on the other end of the line was both battle-worn and inquisitive (rather than cynical—a much more common reaction), and because he was local to me. We had a conversation that I genuinely enjoyed, and whether or not we ever do business together, that call made my day.

And it started with that prospective new client saying something about my style of communication: “I’ve talked to gregarious people before, and their work was sub-par“. My internal translation engine interpreted that to mean that he thought I was coming off sales-y, but as the call progressed I realized that he wasn’t judging me so much as tipping that I speak in a way he understands.

Again, let me repeat: this guy was local. I have clients all over the world, and it’s sometimes a struggle to translate my hard-charging New York City style to something they understand. Not in this case; we got each other, and were able to move on to a productive conversation.

Ever notice how difficult is is to make that kind of connection in the global, Internet-ified business environment we have now?

I spend a lot of time working on business process with our clients. I love what I do and our clients are almost always happy with the results of what we do for them, but it can take a long time to get from the technical, precise world of creating new ways to do things to a place where everyone gets that “Ah-ha! This is working!” feeling. And I came across two articles this morning that underscore the issue.

First, a story that made me happy. Last week, Shafeen Charania related his experience doing business outside the USA. It made me think of an experience I had when I worked for Verizon. I took a quick flight to Buffalo to meet with a business owner who’d been having trouble getting someone local to him to provide straight answers to address a problem he’d been having, and came back that afternoon with a $55,000 order for a department in Verizon where the typical sale ran under a thousand dollars. This might sound like the opposite of what Shafeen is talking about, but I hear it the same: people are different away from your home; you need to be friendly and comfortable with them if you’re to get anywhere“. I remember this because even though my local peeps and I “get” each other, it was the need to speak differently to each other than made the guy in Buffalo place that huge order with me at our first meeting. And then, he said “I trust you; I can see you’re trying to help me, so why would I hesitate?”

But then, there’s this story in today’s New York Times. A highly-paid, highly-placed executive at Goldmach Sachs is leaving the brokerage, because his morals have gotten the better of him. I’m sure it won’t change anything at Goldman and for the most part I was plussed by what I’m sure reads to many people like just one more person with the financial wherewithal to suffer from a case of newfound conscience. But inside that story, I heard a subtext: Goldman Sach’s entire business process is to look at their clients as a formula. There’s nothing personal about the “relationships” they develop. Of course, Goldman Sachs isn’t exactly known for being warm and fuzzy.

This was never OK, and that global economy thing I mentioned before has made it way harder to create relationships—and easier to manage by numbers, instead.

But people like relationships. And while it may be most efficient to see certain transactions as nothing more than just that, eventually you must take “people” into your business development and business process plans.

How often do you see businesses get this wrong? United Internet/1and1 “not having your records”? Honda Financial refusing to help customers? Verizon Wireless doing SO MANY things wrong that we re-christened The Answer Guy’s Verizon Wireless Customer Service Wall of Shame in their honor?

Beyoglu NYC being stingy with bread, for goodness sake?

Business Process is important. Managing toward it is better than just letting it develop. Bur forgetting that the core of any and every business process you develop still has to take people into account is … business suicide.

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