Do you sometimes find it difficult to explain just what it is you do for a living? This had been a dilemma for me the past nine years until I traveled with my wife to Dallas earlier this year. At last, I think I have the answer, but first, let me fill you in on the earth shattering experience that revealed it to me.
My wife and I were joined by friends for dinner at a new restaurant in Dallas. They explained they had been told this new establishment had received rave reviews from everyone who had eaten there; they knew nothing else about it. The name of the restaurant? ""ENIGMA.""
Now, I pride myself on having a fairly extensive vocabulary, but the meaning of this word escaped me. I checked it out in a dictionary. The best explanation I could find: ""Something that is difficult or hard to explain.""
What an odd name for a restaurant.
Before we were even seated, I knew Enigma was going to be an eating experience we weren't soon to forget. With only about 10 tables, I understood why our friends had to make reservations more than a month before. My first observation was the outrageous decorations, including 10 tables completely different in design-and with no chairs that matched each other.
Our table was set with different dishes and silverware. I don't mean each setting was different but that even at one place setting, none of the plates, none of the silver patterns, none of the glasses matched.
We ordered 'adult beverages,' and when they were delivered, we were amused that, although two of us had asked for the same drink, one glass was a regular eight ounce water glass and the second was no smaller than a birdbath. Our server explained it was simply 'luck of the draw' as to which glass you received.
Next, our waitress handed each of us three different, very creative menus. Yes, each of us had three different menus. We had to trade menus amongst the four of us to get an overall concept of the fare.
Besides the odd selections, our waitress explained that even if two of us ordered the same selection, she couldn't guarantee they would come prepared the same way. She couldn't even inform us of the side dishes that came with each selection.
""This is why we are an enigma,"" she explained. ""You have to give our chefs total creative freedom to prepare your meal.""
She was absolutely correct. My wife's mahi-mahi came soaked in a wonderful green tamale sauce while my friend's mahi-mahi came wrapped in a beautiful tureen with a white vegetable sauce. The rest of the meal was, well, nothing short of an enigma.
Always in search of a great analogy to share with my readers, by desert I had had a mild epiphany. I realized the exact mindset everyone in business should have about what we do for a living: ""My small business is an enigma.""
When it comes to the creativity you offer, the services you can customize and the business challenges you can solve, it should be hard to explain. That's the lure. The creative and customized benefits that small businesses can offer are what make you a winning David as opposed to the big business Goliath.
This enigma mindset may just be the thing that will attract customers, making you so popular that your bank account will flourish. Every time they call you to ease a business pain, they should have no idea what you are going to serve. They should, however, sit back, enjoy the experience and trust that you will be creative each and every time they experience your expertise.
It occurred to me that your job is not just to solve a client's challenge but, like my dining adventure in Dallas, you must give your clients a business experience every single time. Never give them the same menu when they ask you to wait on them. Never serve their solutions on the same plate or in the same glass.
Why fight it? Small business is an enigma and we should all be proud to demonstrate the mystery every time our client calls.
By the way, we paid more for our meal at Enigma than I have ever spent on dinner in my life. Did I care? Absolutely not. It was worth the experience. Are your clients willing to pay for the 'experience' they have with you? Think about it.
Jeff Tobe, primary colorer at Monroeville-based Coloring Outside the Lines, teaches diverse businesses how to be creative in their sales and marketing strategies. Subscribe to his free creativity newsletter at www.jefftobe.com or contact him at (412) 373-6592. Free by fax: ""The 10 commandments of effective leadership in small business today."" Fax your letterhead with your name and the words ""10 Commandments"" to (412) 373-8773."