Marty Ozinga, President of Ozinga, shares how positively impacting lives of customers makes business more relational than transactional, as proven through his experiences with Sean Armstead, Owner of Phenomenal Fitness.
Here’s something to ponder: can a business do harm? Can it do harm to people? To families? To communities? If you answered yes, wouldn’t you agree then that the alternative could be true: that a business could have a positive, even redemptive impact on the lives of people, their families and the greater community it interacts with? If so, how? And how great of an impact? What is its potential?
At Ozinga, a 90+ year old family business, these are questions we often ask ourselves. We’ve determined it’s “the why” of what we do every day, the reason the business exists; that is our potential. Being in business for this long, we’ve drawn some conclusions that our long-term success has been and will continue to be correlated to how well we keep this in front of us, how well we positively impact people’s lives.
We accomplish this by building meaningful relationships with our coworkers, our customers and our communities. Our conviction is that as we establish trust with those we serve, we can learn from each other and help each other realize our unique God given gifts, abilities, dreams and ambitions. When we are successful in accomplishing this, there are spillover effects well beyond the workplace.
Let me give you an example in my own life. I’ve been going to a gym called Phenomenal Fitness. Sean, the owner, helps me train. He is always encouraging and the culture in his gym is a reflection of his encouraging leadership. Because of Sean’s business, my life is positively impacted. I am healthier physically, mentally and spiritually. I am a better husband, a better father and a better coworker. Sean’s business is having compounding effects through my life that he will never truly appreciate, in this life anyway. And guess what, I am very happy to be a loyal customer and I am happy to share with others how happy I am to be a loyal customer because my life is positively impacted in many ways.
So how does this work? Why does this work? There is a great risk that business is seen as purely transactional. There is agreement on a price for a good or a service and a voluntary exchange takes place. It could be that the reason this takes place is because of the quality of the product or the best price, but more often than not, there is a lot more to it - trust, emotion, loyalty and a number of other human issues that are difficult to measure or explain.
In my example with Sean, our business relationship is more than transactional. It is relational. I am loyal to Phenomenal Fitness because I am loyal to Sean. Sean has earned my loyalty because he has positively impacted my life with his care about me and my development—but it’s more than that. Sean is always learning. He makes me feel like I am contributing more to him than just the money I pay for his service by allowing me to be a contributor to his own development as a person. This generates a sense of fulfillment for me that enriches the business relationship far beyond the transaction.
It’s my view that for-profit businesses too often aren’t appreciated for all the good they do in people’s lives. There is a growing narrative that the capitalist system is a purely selfish one and that left to its own devices will tend to do more harm than good. There are certainly high profile examples of this that people can point to. But by and large, my experience is that the most successful business leaders are the ones who are passionate about building a great team of people who have altruistic motivations that run much deeper than meets the eye.
I encourage our leaders at Ozinga to think of their work as a high calling, no less important than that of anyone in the not-for-profit sector, for example. People in business have a unique opportunity and privilege to make a positive impact on many lives. I celebrate this opportunity with you if you are one of those people. Thank you for all you do to make this world a better place!
Marty is the president of Ozinga and the oldest of the fourth generation. He holds a master’s degree in communications from Northwestern University and is actively involved with The Bright Promise Fund for Urban Christian Education.