“Family” – A Popular Word at HMI HMI REP Apr 30, 2015 0000 By: Paul DelFino “Welcome to the Family” are the words I have used for many years to wrap up every HMI “Discovery and Training Seminar”! The word family is continuously populated in the HMI website since it is in reality a family business that markets to families as well as major corporate entities and government. Last week, as I was queued up waiting to deliver the seminar wrap up, following Jeff’ presentation in Las Vegas, I starting thinking about the word – family – in a business context. What expectations and perceptions were created as we say “welcome to the family” or position ourselves as a family business? FAMILY BUSINESS – GOOD or BAD IMAGE? Generally family, in a business context, evokes multiple images/perceptions in people’s minds: The Good A warm environment sensitive to the needs of customers with devotion to personal relationships. The Not So Good A small entity with limitations. Like most generalities there are countless examples contra to the conventional wisdom or perception. Without being negative or focusing on anyone I am sure we all can relate to an experience of the past week where we received poor service from a family business. Enterprise Rent-A-Car was applauded for launching a national ad campaign focused on its positioning as a sensitive family business in 2013. They are hardly a minor industry player with limitations. THE FIRST TEST OF POSITIONING – BELIEVABILITY! A close friend of mine was the former director of marketing at the old Chase Manhattan Bank in New York City. Over lunch he once told me a story of the worst day of his career when he had to tell Mr. Rockefeller that they had wasted millions of dollars on a national promotional campaign. Research was telling them no one believed the message! Recalling this experience I found myself thinking, when I say “welcome to the family,” do HMI customers believe me and have confidence they can expect the attention and personalization of services the phrase infers? “TOP TO BOTTOM – INSIDE OUT!” I once shared the stage at a symposium with Michael Mescon. Mescon, who retired from Georgia State University in 1991, is dean emeritus of its College of Business Administration, now the J. Mack Robinson College of Business. He was famous for the phrase “top to bottom – inside out.” The message being; in small business the service culture emanates from the owners and flows thru the organization to the customers. In my 40 years in business I have generally found this to be true. In the case of HMI, starting 40 years ago with Ernie and now with Jeff and Brian as HMI has grown to be an international industry leader, the mantra of customer satisfaction and sensitivity have been consistent. Over recent years a notable investment has been made to offer free service and support to its customers as the ultimate example of that commitment! On a personal basis I continually watch the family management team adapt policy and methods to meet continually growing needs of their customers. IN THE END IT IS REALLY THE CUSTOMERS PERSONAL EXPERIENCE The only way to know the reality of a “family positioning” is to test it. As a current or potential customer of HMI only you can validate the consistency of: a warm environment sensitive to the needs of customers with devotion to personal relationships.” AND The capacity to deliver on whatever you need anywhere in the world. With a new spring upon us and a new season starting there is no better time to test the ability of HMI to contribute to the growth of your business. Imbedded in that test should be something as important as just the transactional nature of an equipment or material purchase; it should be an experience of support likened to family. THE TAKE-AWAY After considerable introspection and validation through observation, I plan to continue to say “WELCOME TO THE FAMILY” at the conclusion of each HMI seminar in the future. Paul DelFino is a principal of the consulting firm Opportunity Inc. For nearly two decades he has assisted entrepreneurs in growing their businesses, responding to economic downturns and merger and acquisition activity. He has consulted with HMI and RaiseRite for over a decade. His publications include “Avoiding Skewed Entrepreneurial Strategies” available from all on line booksellers.