Look me in the eye

I bought some spinach at the farmer’s market yesterday. The fact that the woman who grew it is the same person as the woman who sold it to me made the transaction fundamentally different than buying the same spinach in a bag at the A&P. It’s not really surprising that factory farming keeps serving us poisons and side effects. It’s fundamentally anonymous.

Today, as I was riding my bike along Rt. 9 outside of New York, a teenager in a cream-colored Cadillac Escalade (yes, I got the license plate) threw a bottle at my head. Only a couple inches from serious injury. I’m pretty confident he wouldn’t have done it if he had been required to stand in front of me and look me in the eye when he did.

This is the giant advantage of the small. Small organizations have the privilege of looking their customers in the eye. Small doesn’t necessarily mean small in numbers. It’s an attitude. Does your organization require a form to get something done, or does one human choose to interact with another? Does bad news come in the form of memos that obfuscate the truth, or is it delivered face to face?

Conference Calls Unlimited has gone so far as to practically ban email in communication with clients. They call you after each call to see how it went. When I went to Stanford, the director of admissions called every single person they admitted to share the news. Compare that to the anonymous ALL CAPITAL LETTERS notes you get from your car insurance company.

Here’s a fun project for this week: try to do as much as you can in person. Or by phone. Especially the hard stuff.