For me clarity in any situation can only come with full insight, and full insight can only come from viewing things from every feasible angle. In my experience in the workplace, this varied perspective can only be achieved via people from different backgrounds, cultures and viewpoints. There’s no shortcut or substitute if you want to grow your business.
After nearly two and a half decades in the corporate world, it still staggers me that businesses are able to be anything more than mediocre at best without a diverse management team. And why they would even try is beyond me. If you sit back and look around the boardroom and you see nothing but the same then please believe me, you are doing something wrong.
I’m going to try and analogise my thinking on this so bear with me.
It would be inconceivable to attempt to build a house with bricklayers alone. Right? When we set about creating a property from scratch, it’s generally accepted that you are going to need many different kinds of people and all manner of skills and trades, from the original landowner to the property developer who conceives the house to the highly skilled architect who draws up the plans and then on to the carpenters, bricklayers, electricians, plumbers and the many other trades who bring that vision to life.
It’s also not entirely beyond reason to expect that merry house creating crew to be made up of a hugely diverse group of people in terms of backgrounds, skill sets, experience and ultimately the perspective with which they approach the project allowing you, the lucky recipient of said house, to hopefully have a home that is both pleasing to the eye and fully functional.
Yet so very often in the business world we see only one type of individual – that’s certainly the prevailing case in the financial services sector – my particular field of expertise. More often than not, we see the same gender, nationality, and, with frightening frequency – the same educational history. And I simply cannot comprehend how we should expect to build a beautiful and exciting new house from this very small, stale pool. If we’re lucky, we may just be able to maintain the old one with a team of handymen who are all pretty much mediocre at the same thing. Heaven help you if you want to install solar panels.
Our clients today are more demanding and discerning than ever before. They don’t just want the best value, those simple, heady (for some) days are long gone. They want the best, full stop. My clients want, no expect, the businesses that they interact with to really understand them, their individual needs, their fears, their desires. Ultimately, they want any business that they engage with to know what they want and how they want it before they even know the answers themselves. They want their emotional needs to be met, along with their insurance needs. Just selling a policy is no longer enough, it’s barely even the start, they want life support, or at the very least, lifestyle support. And if you don’t give it to them, someone else will. So, if you want to succeed in a client lead, customer centric business, you must adapt.
We all carry our own unique perspective and take on the world and this is often shaped by our demographic. Take me for example: I’m female, gay and Northern – these characteristics or attributes will have most definitely shaped my view of the world and probably continue to do so. I have to work hard to see the world through the eyes of a straight, Southern male, but I absolutely must if he’s my target audience. If I can’t fully see through his lens, then how on earth can I truly expect to deliver him a product and consumer journey that he fully engages with? An experience that begins by turning him into a client and then in time, an advocate for my business.
Of course, there’s always the lazy road, you can just commission market research to harvest feedback and help define target audience messaging (it’s huge business) but doing this alone will never be enough. There’s a time and a place for market research but in my view, it’s an add-on, not a strategy and nothing replaces true human perspective from people inside your organisation.
For me, it’s very simple, if you want to truly engage with your audience and win more business, your target audience must be represented in your team. There’s no better way to understand your market then to have them happily tucked up under your roof.