Business is personal!

Aaron Blank / January 28, 2016

Ever heard of Otto Berman? He was the mafia accountant in the 1920’s who coined the phrase, “nothing personal, it’s just business.” No doubt many gangsters, both real and fictional have since capitalized on the sentiment — it’s a convenient way to justify all manner of cold-hearted acts in the name of profit. The entire Godfather franchise was basically built on it. Unfortunately, the resulting polarization of the business and the personal has worked its way into our modern culture and many real-life business practices.

Technically, the act of exchanging goods and services for money doesn’t require anything resembling a personal relationship to happen. Eye contact? Sure. Handshake? Why not. But unless we are actually gangsters constantly preparing for the double-cross, removing the personal from the business really doesn’t serve us well.

When business is done by real people, it’s personal. Let’s embrace this. The more I treat my business relationships like personal ones, the better my business becomes. Think about it. the same principles that help cultivate healthy personal relationships are the same ones that work well for enduring business relationships: Honesty. Empathy. Communication. Teamwork. It’s really about a general approach to everything. How do you talk to your barista? Is it just business? Or do you both take something away from the exchange, something personal? Could it be better? Even in the most fleeting, short-term example, everything is personal. Because you’re a person.

It’s easy to confuse the goal of building healthy business relationships with customer service. Customer service is important, but it doesn’t go far enough. Starbucks focuses a great deal of resources on customer service, and it has served them well. But the personal element, the one that makes you choose one store over another or waiting until a certain time of day to get your latte, is something they can’t teach. It’s a personal relationship.

Pointing out the difference between what’s business and what’s personal has its upside, and it’s definitely cool when Al Pacino says it, but in reality offers no benefit. Good business is personal. And it’s up to us to make it that way.

Focus on the personal side of every business relationship!


Comments (2)

    Giving Back and Going Global: I’m going to Ethiopia thanks to Fearey! – The Fearey Group Jan 29, 2016, 6:12 PM

    […] firm and the people within it. As Aaron Blank, our president and CEO, wrote in a recent blog post, “Business is personal!“, we take tremendous joy at building trusting and enduring relationships with our communities, […]

    Michael Yantis avatar

    Michael Yantis Jan 30, 2016, 2:51 AM

    Aaron, this is really excellent. You are spot on. Every interaction we have each day is an opportunity to express that we care. Just being conscious about the interaction and its potential makes our life richer and enriches those that we touch. You've expressed the beautiful simplicity of it - just make it personal.

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Aaron Blank

CEO & President, Partner

Aaron has been engaged in the conversation since the late 1990s, where he discovered his love of media while working at local radio stations. After five years as a radio reporter, anchor, producer and promoter in New York and Connecticut, he and his wife, Lacey, ventured west to begin his career in PR. Soon he caught the attention of industry legend Pat Fearey and the rest is history. Two decades later, as CEO and owner of Fearey, Aaron leads with tireless enthusiasm and contagious drive. In 2014, he became the next generation owner of the firm. He takes his breakfast at 4:30 AM and never eats lunch alone. You can find him working to connect the next business with tomorrow’s leader.

Personal philosophy: do something amazing every day and be fearless!