Help! My gear stick is stuck in NEUTRAL.

November 27, 2017

As a marketer, how do you shift gears from neutral into drive?

This analogy will not remain valid for too long, so I thought I would use it while it lasts. When you drive an automatic or a manual gear shift vehicle, there are a few times you can leave the gearstick in N and still go forward. Sometimes you could go backwards. In either case, you go in the direction determined by the slope you happen to be on. You are not really in control. In a few years, when we have driverless cars, someone will laugh at this analogy.


I use this analogy today because a lot of family businesses are stuck in N. They go where the wind blows or where everyone is going. Many would say they have values and principles they abide by, but most just say so because it is convenient.


I am convinced it is time for family businesses to take a stand. Stop being Values-Neutral. Take a clear stand on issues. Your customers do so on a regular basis! Your customers look for reasons to get out of bed and click on your app, or website, or pick up the phone and call you. They do this because they have values and think you share those values. The reason why some customers do not stick around is because other businesses who advocate their values entice them from you.


For a long time, Canadian companies have shied away from outwardly expressing the views of their founders in clear terms. If you have a view about social issues, by all means say so. Those who disagree will respect you for your clarity and your fans will adore you even more.


There are some key items to note. Breaking the law with ill-researched and poorly informed utterances isn’t smart, has never been smart and will never be a smart approach.


Consider the following issues: diversity, individual freedom, being humane, being ethical and so on. Many family businesses were founded on very clear principles. This is what helped family business stand apart from big corporations. You have an identity. Shift that gear, and enjoy this ride, or be controlled by outside forces. Your choice!





About the Author

After teaching in Colleges in the United Kingdom for several years, Ben Acquaye joined the Business Department at Lakeland College in 2012. He currently serves as the Chair of Business at Lakeland College, the former President of Toastmasters Lloydminster, and is a proud PechaKucha alumni.


He lists telling stories, travelling, public speaking and a whole lot more, as interests. We discovered he loves writing and are pleased he agreed to write for us. 

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