The 3 Love Languages of Business

When my daughter’s boyfriend, Doug, asked me for some ‘time to talk’ I knew what was coming. On the night he asked me for my daughter’s hand in marriage, I had already prepared a list of 28 questions (yes, really) and a few reading suggestions.

At the top of that reading list was a book you may have on your bookshelf already–The 5 Love Languages by Gary Chapman. It’s an important book to read if you’re in any relationship, but as a business leader you can glean some pearls of wisdom, too.

It’s not just communicating empathetically and clearly that keeps your relationships blossoming. It’s about getting to the heart of what really matters to your significant other (and customer!!) and delivering it to them consistently.

I recently read The Discipline of Market Leaders by Michael Treacy and Fred Wiersema and it re-ignited some of the ‘love language’ ideas on how to better focus our business activities to focus on our core values to provide what customers actually want from us.

In their book, Treacy and Wiersema break down the way that market leaders prioritize their customer interactions into the ‘3 Love Languages of Business’:

  1. Customer intimacy–excelling at connecting to very specific customer service and experience needs (think Zappos)
  2. Product leadership–masters of creating top of the line products and services in their category (think Apple)
  3. Operational excellence–delivering quality products at a great value in an efficient manner (think Walmart)

This ‘Love Languages of Business’ breakdown highlights the importance of companies avoiding the trap of wanting to ‘do all, be all’ and throw all of your efforts behind branding your customer experience and what they can expect from you that keep you above the competition. Can you offer great products at a low price with the service levels your customers want? Yes! But can you be the absolute best-in-class in all of these areas? Absolutely not, it’s time to focus in on your specific Love Language.

The important thing to note on these ‘Love Languages of Business’ is that each of the languages is completely valid and common. They act as a different lens for how a company defines their foundation for being beyond their core values.

As my company,, continues to work through the early months of our merger with The Home Depot, we are seeing first hand what it’s like being a part of a company that speaks a different Love Language. Neither of our business perspectives is less valid or less beneficial to the customers; we are just different. And different is good.

In our case, one of our greatest opportunities is to learn about and better leverage each others’ strengths to grow a stronger, more united business. While I get that some mergers are about synergy, what we found attractive in each other are the different ways we excel at serving our customers–perhaps you have some personal complementary relationships like that too!

Where The Home Depot builds incredible value through smart supply chain management and economies of scale, spends more time on understanding our customers’ experience needs and growing an employee-empowered culture to serve them.

While we fearlessly experiment with new advertising and marketing methods, we are balanced by The Home Depot’s broader experience and budgeting savvy. While The Home Depot has a deep understanding of in-store sales and inventory, can help their digital efforts with our user friendly technology and special understanding of online buyers.

So while we may indeed speak different languages at times, our shared values and desire to fully communicate effectively internally AND with our shared customer base is only pushing us towards greater success.

And what happened after that encounter with my daughter’s boyfriend? Four hours (and a few bottles of wine) later, I was shaking hands with my future son-in-law and am now a proud ‘Papa Jay’ to their beautiful 1-year-old daughter, Naomi. Clearly he did some reading…

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