You’re in business to make friends.
Now this is certainly an interesting perspective! Most folks might say that businesses exist to make money or to increase shareholder value. Peter Drucker—the father of modern management—suggested that the business of business was creating customers. But no one figured that business was about making friends—no one except Wally Amos that is.
The indefatigable Wally Amos burst on the scene in 1975 when he opened his first Famous Amos Chocolate Chip Cookie Store on Sunset Boulevard. Amos was one of those people who seemed always in motion. Prior to the launch of his store, he’d pulled a tour in the Air Force and enjoyed frenetic success as a talent agent. Disillusioned with the race to make money, he launched his gourmet cookie career in an effort to do something just for the satisfaction of doing it. His plan was to promote chocolate chip cookies in the same way he promoted Hollywood talent—with lots of flare and an abundance of personality. The marketing formula worked as well as the cookie recipe and within ten years Amos was operating a chain of stores and distributing Famous Amos cookies through high-end retailers nationwide. In the process, Amos was becoming as famous as his cookies and almost as irresistible. There was just something about his entrepreneurial spirit, upbeat attitude and flamboyance that appealed to people and led them to buy his cookies. (In fact, his signature Panama hat and Hawaiian shirt became so iconic that they now reside in the Smithsonian Museum.) Amos is no longer associated with the cookie that bears his name but he isn’t any less entrepreneurial. Today he’s a muffin magnate. His latest venture, Uncle Wally’s Muffin Co., produces 250,000 muffins a year and can be found in over 5,000 stores. He plans to bake a billion a year by 2010. That’s in addition to his motivational speaking, writing (eight books and counting) and tireless efforts on behalf of Literacy Volunteers of America. In the midst of it all, he’s still making friends.
The hard-boiled crowd probably thinks that going to work to make friends is a little too New Age for their comfort zone. Nightmarish visions of group hugs, trust falls and endless choruses of Kum Bah Ya crowd out any thought that it might be a good idea. But it’s something we should consider. We don’t all have to become bosom buddies. Friendship can be as simple as showing positive regard for the other fellow and avoiding any kind of hostility. This doesn’t mean that we don’t confront difficult issues. It does mean that when tough issues surface, we treat them with candor and make a good faith effort to produce a positive result. Of course most of the time we don’t face difficulties in our dealings with others and that can lead to indifference. Friends don’t, however, treat one another indifferently. They stay engaged and keep the relationship fresh. They take the time to acknowledge that their friend is valued and that the things they share in common have some meaning.
Friends have credibility. They honor their commitments to each other. They share a mutual trust. Aren’t these precisely the attributes that we’d like to see in our co-workers and customers? Wouldn’t our days be substantially brighter if we worked among friends? It’s certainly worth trying. Today make it your business to treat everyone like a friend. That includes family, co-workers and absolute strangers. The result might be as good as one of Uncle Wally’s muffins! —Ebert