Several months ago in this column, I encouraged you to make a decision to become a lover, to become generous. Generosity not only makes us feel like we have made a difference, buy it can pay as well.
Winston Churchill once said, “We make a living by what we get. We make a life by what we give.” Those words have never rung more true. There’s a wonderful compelling duality in make a living/make a life.
In this economy, getting the most for your money as a consumer is more important than ever. Consumers are looking to do business with brands that will give more value for the money they pay. Ironically, they do not necessarily want that value for themselves. They may want that value given to the communities in which they live and for the causes they support. Consumers are looking for businesses, for brands that are good corporate citizens.
“Brands have evolved past the baseline of trust and awareness; now they must learn how to give,” says John King, director of brand innovation for Fallon, a Minnesota ad agency. “We believe the future belongs to generous brands. By ‘generous’ we mean brands that are prepared to make gestures that are not just commercially motivated but empathize with consumers. These brands show their heartbeat. They show their humanity through their understanding of consumers.”
Investing in your community is a great way to give back and add value to those who have helped support your business. Generous brands do things for people.
These days Tide employees don’t just sell laundry detergent -- they even do laundry. As part of the company’s innovative Loads of Hope program, workers bring mobile laundromats to areas devastated by natural disasters and clean residents’ clothes at no charge.
TOMS Shoes promises customers that for every pair of shoes they buy, another pair would go to children in need. Buyers feel good about their purchase and want to tell their friends.
CCA Global Partners, through their Carpet One Floor & Home stores, supports breast cancer research by donating 25% of the purchase price of their exclusive pink ribbon welcome mats. They have also supported the Save the Tiger Fund.
I could go on. I know how hard it is to give back. Those of you who run flooring businesses know how much of a commitment it is just to make your business succeed. You may say that the brands and corporations I have listed are big, and how are you to compete with them? It’s easy…you just have to get involved.
Here are a few stories of people in this industry who have inspired me and are making a difference. There are many others of you. I wish I knew your stories and could share them as well.
To create a generous brand, you may start by building upon personal practices you already have in place. If you regularly donate gently used clothing to a particular organization, perhaps you can expand your efforts by organizing a clothing drive for the organization. If you give blood regularly, perhaps you can organize a blood drive in your neighborhood.
Shawn Bayat, president of Quality Carpet One of Woodbridge, Va., with all his employees gathered bags of gently used winter coats to be distributed to the poor and homeless in the Washington, D.C., area.
Sometimes in order to give back, all you have to do is what you’re passionate about, like Matt Ketterman, owner of Got You Floored. To celebrate his 20 years of running, he organized an event to Fight Against Hunger. One hundred and twenty runners showed up and he was able to donate 25,000-plus cans of food to the local food bank via Got You Floored.
Just being there in a difficult time is a way for you to give back. When tornados devastated Tuscaloosa, Ala., Mark Wheat of Wheat’s Carpet One got in his truck, loaded it full of bottled water and supplies, then delivered and served those who had lost their homes. Mark describes what it was like: “For three weeks things were crazy. Every hotel in town was full. I had three families living in my home. We did use company vehicles some of the time, but we tried to de-emphasize the company. For the most part that was not important. In many places, there was nothing left to salvage. I have close friends that lost everything.”
Mark continues, “We don’t give back enough. Since times are tough we don’t have the funds to help the way we really want. However, so many people were so generous. Mike Blanton, owner of Dalton Carpet One Floor and Home, with the help of other coop members sent a 24’ truck loaded with diapers, medical supplies and water. I had others who helped us as well.”
Living in the small community of Corning, Iowa, the owners of the Carpet Store, Denise and Matt Riley, give back by being involved in the community. Matt is a volunteer fireman and Denise has served as president of the Corning Chamber of Commerce. With their love of dogs, they are also involved in Vizsla Rescue; finding homes for abused and abandoned dogs. They are involved so much more than words permit, I wonder how they are able to be successful in their business.
Finally, let me tell you about Julie Kerkochian of United Carpet One of Fresno, Calif. United Carpet One was started in 1959 by Julie’s father and grandfather. She began managing it in 1997 after completing her MBA at Fresno State. She comments, “We try really hard to give back and especially to stay local. We donate to Fresno State and to the local high schools. We work also with the Boy Scouts and the Girl Scouts. We have a big lot that they use to do much of their fund raising.”
What got my attention was when Julie said she was adopted by her parents through the Infant of Prague Adoption Service of Fresno. Obviously, Julie has a passionate connection to the service. She serves on its board of directors. During a recent Infant of Prague “Toast to the Children,” event, she and many of her United Carpet One employees, during work hours, set up and took down chairs and tables for the affair at the Fresno Museum.
In these tough economic times, there’s more than enough problems staring us in the face – but that’s ample opportunity for you and for other companies to find causes to which they can align their brands.
Every brand has a choice: Be stingy or be generous. A stingy brand chooses to focus entirely on product information, asking the consumer to walk up and knock on its door. A generous brand chooses to take a bigger role in the consumer’s life, opening the doors and windows and providing help to causes they care about. Generous brands are built by individuals like you, doing what they can in the communities they serve. Which one are you?