I am about to break a golden rule I was given as a young salesman: never discuss politics, religion or sex with customers. Before you get too excited, this blog isn’t about sex; it’s about the importance of taking up a clear position and sticking to it.
Even if you hate the mere thought of left-wing Jeremy Corbyn becoming prime minister in the UK or right-wing Donald Trump becoming president of the US, one thing I feel has been refreshing in the last 12 months is that both Corbyn and Trump have provided some clear alternatives to the standard ‘centre ground’ politics.
We have even had a few ‘yes’ and ‘no’ answers to direct questions. Their views have helped – some may say forced – others to outline their position more clearly. We are now starting to see a strong separation in our politics here in the UK, as well as in the US, and if it results in more people engaging and voting in the elections then I think that’s a good thing.
Take Scotland, for example. You could clearly see the impact of separated positions in the wake of the Scottish independence referendum in 2014. The turnout from voters was 84.6% of the Scottish population – the highest recorded percentage for an election or referendum in the UK since the introduction of universal suffrage (another vote with clearly defined opposing views!).
Following the Scottish referendum, over 600,000 more people voted in the 2015 general election than in 2005 – that’s the total population of Glasgow! It will be interesting to see if the upcoming UK in/out vote on EU membership will get also more people engaged in politics for the benefit of the entire country. Hopefully it will be an improvement on the 60% turnout of the last UK general election.
Recently, one of our competitors has been promoting a particular point of view on chain and the machinery directive that I do not agree with. Just as certain personalities and events have prompted people to speak up in the realm of politics, this company’s view has provoked me to clarify our own position at FB Chain and write it down.
We have discussed these opposing views internally and we now have a very clear position that we can share with any customer who’s interested. I think every company and industry could benefit from taking up a strong position so customers can clearly see what they are getting for their money.
Interestingly, we share more good working practices with this competitor than many other leaf chain suppliers. I think the fact that we are willing to share different views and engage in discussions and debate will ultimately bring about improvement and innovations to the benefit of both companies and the entire market.
Similarly, if you were a fly on the wall in our office, you’d hear such a varied array of views and people debating that you’d probably get the impression we don’t get on! But I believe conflict is a sign of employee engagement, and any business that doesn’t encourage its staff to air their opinions won’t stay healthy for long.
So let me urge you now, nail your colours to the mast and fly them high!