On a visit to Mexico City last month, I saw first-hand a stunning example of the danger of focusing on style over substance. It illustrated to me an important lesson for business owners: your ability to attract the clients and customers you want is directly tied whether you connect them emotionally with your company’s vision and mission. No amount of money can overcome your failure to make this connection.
The Mexican billionaire Carlos Slim is often cited as the wealthiest man in the world. Known as the Warren Buffet of Mexico, his business holdings include telecommunications, banks, hotels, airlines, and even a significant stake in the New York Times. He has also amassed a personal art collection estimated to be worth $700 million, and recently commissioned Latin America’s largest museum in memory of his wife to showcase those works.
With its aluminum-clad exterior, the museum looks like an alien spaceship come to rest amidst the tony retailers of Neuvo Polanco, Mexico City’s Rodeo Drive. So it was with high expectations that I entered the gleaming edifice. Unfortunately, those expectations were dashed.
Rather than a celebration of art and color, the interior of the Museo Soumaya is stark and sterile. In truth, I couldn’t leave fast enough, definitely not the reaction I’d hope for or anticipated. Those who know me know of my deep passion for art, yet Slim’s creation left me feeling cold and surprisingly uninspired.
Earlier that same day, I’d visited the infinitely more modest quarters of the Museo de Arte Popular. Located in a building so unobtrusive I nearly missed it, the museum is home to the most comprehensive collection of folk art is all of Mexico.
To say I was dazzled is an understatement. Inside the humble exterior is a riot of color and fantasy that left me grinning from ear to ear. Simply stated, this place has soul, soul, and more soul. Indeed, it personifies the glorious, beating heart that is Mexico. Make no mistake: I will be back, again and again.
So what does any of this have to do with business? In a word: everything.
The reaction I had to these two different cultural experiences represents the spectrum of reaction people are having to you and your company. Ask yourself at which end of that spectrum do you reside?
Is your company all flash and dazzle on the outside, but lacking warmth and soul inside? Do your customers come away feeling uninspired, or are they thrilled at the opportunity do business with you again and again? Stated another way, do they connect to you emotionally, or does your lack of passion leave them cold?
As a business lawyer, I look counsel my clients to articulate a vision that speaks with heart and feeling. Nothing excites me more than working with businesses who excite their customers so much that they can’t wait to share their experiences. That excitement starts with an owner who has found her or his true reason for being – the “why” – and can’t wait to let the world know it. Many entrepreneurs resist making that type of emotional appeal, and yet it can – and often does – make the difference.
Ask yourself: would you rather be mediocre or extraordinary? Money has nothing to do with it.