What business are you in?

That is a common question that new acquaintances ask us (even if it is grammatically incorrect). We’re all curious what widgets someone is making and selling.

I’ve never heard anyone answer it the right way. But I’ll bet David Baldwin would. He is the owner of the legendary Pancake Pantry in Nashville, the restaurant with the line wrapped around the restaurant every Saturday morning…it’s that popular.

I was recently reading about his restaurant in The Spirit of Nashville: The Art & Soul Of Music City, a collection of posters and stories about famous Nashville landmarks. His quote is highlighted below:

Business leaders must remember that the human connection is much more valuable and impactful than any product. (Click to Tweet)

“Now we’re in the business of building relationships.”

Baldwin knows what business he is in. Waiters know their customers by name. They know their favorites and place the orders for them when they walk in the door.

He and his staff know that the product is important. In their case, it’s pancakes. But they know that the human connection is much more valuable and impactful.

They know that in the restaurant business the taste that the staff leaves in your mouth is just as, if not more, important than the taste of the food.

Salt to the world

I think it’s appropriate that Jesus called His followers to be salt to the world. Granted extra salt would not taste very good on pancakes, but what He was saying is that people are what flavor the world. Relationships, not products, cause powerful memories, emotional connections, and customers to keep coming back.

Side note: I’ve often been at unease with the “salt to the world” statement. I come from a family with a history of hypertension and have long believed that salt, as a dietary component, was dangerous. That is until very recently. In 2011, a study performed by the European Project on Genes in Hypertension (EPOGH) set out to confirm that a reduction in salt intake would reduce the number of cardiovascular events. They followed over 3,500 participants for almost eight years and their research surprised them. The people who ate less salt had the highest risk of dying; those who ate the most salt had the lowest mortality rate.

Just something to ponder if you were like me on salt. I know that it changed the way I look at Jesus’ commandment.

Today’s message: 

No matter what product you make, where you work, or what you do, you are in the relationship business. You individually. Your division. Your company.

No matter what product you make, where you work, or what you do, you are salt to the world. You flavor your division. Your division flavors the company. Your company flavors the world.

Now go act like it.

How can you create better relationships with those who interact with your company today?


Text me anytime at (260) 217-4619.

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22 thoughts on “Every Business is in the Relationship Business | Salt to the World

  1. Let's Grow Leaders says:

    I love salt. And building relationships. Namaste.

    1. Matt McWilliams says:

      Have you ever heard Rabbi Daniel Lapin’s description of salt and what it means to relationships? If not, I’ll see if I can find it and share.

      1. Let's Grow Leaders says:

        no, havent seen that. sounds interesting.

  2. Carol Dublin says:

    In a nonprofit, there are all sorts of relationships, with donors, volunteers, clients. We have adopted the core value of “Be the Jesus that people see” and it really does help us focus on how we interact with people and on making sure we are strengthening those relationships. Great post, as usual.

    1. Matt McWilliams says:

      That is a great core value…it drives everything you do. When THAT is your value, it truly is all about relationships.

  3. Mark Sieverkropp says:

    So true Matt. along these same lines, I got a tweet from Dillanos the other day. I had asked–jokingliy–if I was the first Mormon they had ever followed. Their response floored (and impressed) me! “I don’t think so, there is a give and gain with everyone. We are in the business of making relationships, and some coffee.”
    WOW. There’s another company that understands what you’re describing here!
    Great post Matt, and a great reminder!

    1. Matt McWilliams says:

      That is an awesome Tweet. Especially since you aren’t exactly their target audience 🙂

      1. Mark Sieverkropp says:

        I KNOW! Although, they were kind enough to send me some of their chocolate sauce, and I’ve gotta say, its amazing!

      2. Matt McWilliams says:

        You can have chocolate AND bacon? But can you have chocolate bacon?

      3. Mark Sieverkropp says:

        I know!! Right? Mormon’s live on the edge!!! haha.
        I have never had chocolate bacon…but I can think of worse food combinations!

      4. Lily Kreitinger says:

        Skropp stole my story because I was going to post about his Dillanos story, which technically really is his story. I was amazed at the kindness and respect they showed for him. My hope is that more companies, entrepreneurs and leaders get in the business of building relationships.

      5. Mark Sieverkropp says:

        Ya. It was pretty dang impressive. I told another friend the story this morning!

  4. Jon Stolpe says:

    I think it starts with a positive attitude. I just left a message for a customer in which we haven’t been paid for quite some time. My message addressed the customer professionally, positively, and with the necessary details to get my question answered. I look forward to hearing his response.

    1. Matt McWilliams says:

      It definitely does. Just like Jeffrey Gitomer talks about…every call to a customer should start with “Hey, thanks for the food.”

  5. Alex Barker says:

    Balance being active listening and asking the right questions. I meet with patients with complicated health stories. Usually, I restate their story in my own words. Most patients are shocked that I do this and say something like, “Wow, I feel like you really listened to me. No one here has ever done that!”
    It’s not rocket science. It’s quality listening. A rare commodity these days.

    1. Matt McWilliams says:

      You are right Alex…it’s not rocket science but almost as rare as finding a rocket scientist.

      I love your technique. I am totally stealing it for my own use 🙂

      1. Alex Barker says:

        Definitely not mine! I stole it from others 😉

        In the academic realm, it’s called “Active Listening” (really creative thinking there) if you want to research it.

      2. Matt McWilliams says:

        Thanks Alex. I have heard of it and didn’t realize that I often use it especially when seeking to understand a client’s specific and often unusual request.

        I got it from a counselor and it often starts with “So what I hear you saying is…”

  6. I think this mirrors our Christian walk as well. At times we get so busy in the “doing” of the “business” of God that we miss the whole point – the relationship with God. That is what He desires. God is in the “business” of building personal relationships.

    1. Matt McWilliams says:

      Great point Lulu. Sounds familiar at times.

  7. Matt McWilliams says:

    Well said Charly! Customers always know when you’ve put in effort.

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