By Jeffrey Gitomer
It’s rare in our society where everyone comes out a winner. As Ingram’s celebrates its 40th year, the wins are in alignment:
• As a regularly featured columnist since 2008, I’ve had the honor of branding myself in the Kansas City marketplace. A huge win for me.
• As a regularly featured columnist in Ingram’s, I’ve been able to help business people and the salespeople in the Kansas City metropolitan area. A huge win for them.
• As a regularly featured columnist, I’ve had the honor of making an impact in Ingram’s, and building a friendship with Joe and Michelle Sweeney. A huge win for all of us.
The Sweeneys and I share a passion for excellence. It’s a big part of our bond. But my writing today has a different purpose.
First, to thank the Sweeneys for their loyalty, and my readers for their support. Second is to congratulate the Sweeneys, who celebrate Ingram’s 40th year with this issue.
In that span, Ingram’s has seen and reported a hell of a lot of history, both up and down. Not just in the region, but in the publishing industry specifically. Economic downturn, advertising reluctance, high interest rates, stock market crashes, wars, terrorist attacks, the digital age, and in general, a slow migration from print to online. Through all of it, Ingram’s and its owners have prevailed. By keeping up with times. By sticking to their standards. By making certain that the quality of their publication exceeded the demands of their readership.
So what can you learn from this? How can Ingram’s example benefit you? Here are a few ways to WIN for 40 years:
1. Perseverance. While most people can weather a storm, it takes special people to persevere through four decades of storms. True perseverance is a rare quality, and it separates you both in reputation and image.
2. Consistency. Customers want more of what pleases them. The key to that delivery is a consistent product offering that customers perceive as valuable.
3. Integrity. Doing the right thing all the time. Doing what’s best for their business while respecting the community, reporting and writing about what they believe to be true, and always serving you, the customer.
4. Quality. Their products and publications are a reflection of their business. I have been a subscriber as long as I have been a contributor. Of course, I always read my column first, but as I peruse the rest of the magazine, I realize that Ingram’s is a “pulse” of the market, not just a publication.
5. Responsibility. To tell stories and convey trends so that Ingram’s subscribers and readers can get an accurate picture of business in the region, and make decisions accordingly. Ingram’s is a monthly “must read.”
6. Relationships. The essence of keeping a business thriving is the quality of its relationships. And there are four parts of relationships to consider: Customers (readers and subscribers), vendors (information providers and advertisers), employees (the people who help create the product and the culture), and the community (those people the publication serves). All four elements must be strong.
7. Technology. Keeping up with the times isn’t quite enough for longevity. Seeing the future, the trends, taking advantage of the opportunities presented by changing markets, are integral factors of maintaining a leadership position. It’s not just Ingram’s Magazine any more, it’s also Ingram’s Media and Ingrams.com.
8. Serving and Service. There’s a 5,000 year-old ancient Chinese proverb: “To serve is to rule.” Those that serve best rule their market. To bring that proverb into the 21st century, one might add: “To serve is to thrive.” As you look at Ingram’s, and what they’ve done over the past 40 years, the core key to their business success has been service. And with the advent and growth of business social media, service has become much more transparent. Not just in their business, but also in yours.
9. Just plain nice. Being nice is not a prerequisite for business success, but it is a prerequisite for the success of the business culture. It is a prerequisite for building long-term relationships with customers and vendors alike. In my eight-year relationship with Ingram’s, and my 15-year friendship with the Sweeneys, I have discovered that being nice, and being friendly are two of their core principles. If you want 40 years of success, make them yours.
NOTE WELL: I’m certain that many of you know Joe and Michelle Sweeney personally. They are exceptionally approachable, engaging, friendly, and respectful. They are a classic free-enterprise example of taking advantage of the business opportunity, without taking advantage of the community and the people they serve.
I am hoping to be around to celebrate their 80th anniversary—and I am certain you are too.
Jeffrey Gitomer is author of The Little Red Book of Selling and The Little Red Book of Sales Answers.
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