Discover your free Construction Marketing Ideas Email Newsletter

Sunday, May 03, 2009

Business and life: How will you be remembered?

After concluding my business meetings in Washington Friday afternoon, I stayed on for the weekend to attend a memorial service for the late Irving Sirken, 87, one of my wife's uncles and a World Bank economist of some renown.

Several dozen relatives and friends attended the gathering at the Cosmos Club. Two common themes described his life: Brilliance and a good natured acceptance and connection with everyone.

His wife Muriel in informal observations after the ceremony described some of their more astounding adventures in places like Moscow (when the Communists still ruled) and in Kenya, where their accommodations included bedside machetes and holes in the walls so you could point guns out to dissuade intruders (and I, in my time in Africa both in Kenya and war-torn years of transition between Rhodesia and Zimbabwe, never saw anything that close to danger.)

Sirken could speak five languages fluently, but still enjoyed sports and (like many men) had great challenges in asking for directions when lost.

I recall hearing the remark by someone advocating personal responsibility and development for you to think what your obituary would sound like, and what you need to change to make it sound like what you would like. There is some truth in this advice, even though we often want to put aside thoughts of our inevitable end. Can we define our lives by what we will be remembered by when we die?

This posting may seem to have little to do with construction marketing, but in many ways it touches on one of the most important marketing lessons we can learn. Our lives are interconnected with personal and business elements, private and public, and we are shaped in our decisions by our experiences, our friends and family members, and fate and opportunity.

In marketing our services, we need to see this holistic picture when we connect and communicate with the people with whom we are working -- and as business owners, it is vital we recognize that our employees and contractors/suppliers also have lives outside their work.

This doesn't always lead to easy answers or solutions: You may wish to support and empathize with an employee suffering personal turmoil which is causing problems at work, but if the employee's problems are bringing down the business as a whole (and thus the livelihoods of everyone else in the organization), what should you do. And what if you -- not your employees -- have the "personal problems"?

As for Irving and Muriel, I fondly remember my early visit to Washington, when, with a 9 pm flight home, I could not find Interstate 66 out of downtown towards Dulles Airport, despite concluding my meetings much earlier in the day. Driving around and around, totally lost, I even resorted (after several failed attempts) to get directions from others. Past 8 p.m., I knew I would miss the flight, so called Irving and Muriel-- and received their gracious hosting for my first overnight stay here.

Thankfully, for myself and most men, the GPS has largely solved our direction-finding problems. But I haven't forgotten the simple piece of hospitality that marked a long life of generosity and achievement.

No comments: