In late February of 2015, the Internet lost its collective mind over “The Dress.”
No, it wasn’t a skimpy, daring number worn by an A-list celebrity. It wasn’t due to a wardrobe malfunction on the red carpet or even a new fashion trend.
This dress…was magic.
Posted by Tumblr user Swiked, the dress has been called black/blue or white/gold (or even black/white or blue/brown). Photos and memes popped up overnight. All of your Facebook friends are talking about it. And no one can agree on what color it is.
But it turns out that this entire debate isn’t just a lesson in science or the viral nature of the internet.
It also has a lot to teach you about running your business.
People See Things Differently
This country was built on the foundation of diverse thinking, and we all know that everyone has—and is entitled to—their own opinions (on religion, politics, or fashion sense). But taking a “live and let live” attitude won’t solve anything if you’re having a difference of opinion with your business partner, client, or employee. Not only do you have to work with these people, you have to do so agreeably.
Clarity itself is run by two men who sometimes have very different views on how something should be done. Our clients often have different ideas than we do on how their website should look or function. Maybe you have employees that have a different definition than you do about what constitutes a “finished” job.
So, you look at the grime in the corners of your restaurant bathroom and see the room as “dirty.” Your employee looks at the gleaming faucet and sees the room as “clean.”
Your customer is comparing the new stone in her ring to how it used to look and is calling it “crooked.” You’re comparing it to the setting itself and are calling it “perfectly straight.”
Someone sees the dress as white and gold, you see it as blue and black.
So, what can you do?
Getting On the Same Page
First of all, two people will never agree on something if they have different interpretations of what “something” is. So, start off by getting everyone on the same page and come to an agreement on the definitions of the terms you’re using.
For your customers, you may need to add more description to menu items or product/service descriptions. For employees, you may need to write a clear manual, spelling out exactly what your expectations are for a job well done. For a business partner, coworker, or other peer, you need to agree on where you need to be before you can discuss the best methods for getting there.
For something like “the dress,” where there is only one right answer, you have to go to the source. Photos and lighting can play tricks on us (good thing, too, or movies would be a lot more expensive to make), but when you take the information straight from the horse’s mouth, you’ll know everyone is on a level playing field.
Just to boil things down for you, here are the steps for achieving clarity within your business:
1. Create Clear Expectations
When trying to reach any goal—a happy customer, a certain level of wealth, or even a clean bathroom—you need to start out by creating clear, concrete expectations for what success looks like.
As the boss (the ultimate “original source”), you get to decide what these expectations are, but you do need to be specific about it. Is a “happy customer” someone who comes back to you time and time again? Or someone who brings in a referral? Does having a “successful” business mean you have $4,000 in the bank or $50,000? Does a “clean” bathroom involve filling the air freshener or is that an optional step?
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2. Communicate Effectively
Once you’ve established what your vision is, you need to communicate that vision to the team. Employees need clear direction; your business partner needs to know what the heck you’re talking about; your customers and clients need to know exactly what they’re paying for.
Employee manuals, product descriptions, and contracts are all great ways to get your point across (and get everything down in writing), as long as the wording leaves nothing to the imagination. Remember, everyone sees things differently.
3. Designate a “Source”
Of course, there’s no way to prepare for every eventuality, and conflicts are still bound to arise that aren’t addressed in your employee handbook. So make sure you are equally clear about who executes your guidelines. Have someone trustworthy set up in a supervisory role to act as judge when disputes occur. Having one person in charge who is familiar with your goals and expectations (hey, maybe that person is you) is much easier than having a flock of assistant managers all bickering about how to fix the situation.
This includes finding “original sources” for you. After all, you’re not an authority on everything, and having an expert in things like accounting or internet marketing is necessary if you’re trying to reach a goal, but have no clue how to get there.
The Internet is nothing if not fickle, so it’s only a matter of time before the world collectively forgets that the dress ever existed. But when the dust settles and your friends have stopped throwing punches, your business will still be standing.
Taking the time to put all of your partners, associates, and employees on the same page now will prevent actual catastrophes from arising in the future.
Clarity Creative Group is a web design & internet marketing company located in beautiful Orlando, Florida. For the record, people who saw the dress in person have confirmed that it is blue and black.