I was watching a tattoo competition on Spike recently and I couldn’t help but frown at some of the competitor’s comments about how being a true professional was being able to leave your mark by using your quality style. It took effort not to throw something at the television. The very reason these artists were in a competition and not already running a highly successful, high-return tattoo parlor was that they didn’t know what professionalism really is.
Professionalism is the ability to provide the customer with a high quality of return to the specifications and needs of the customer, not the producer. If it were about the producer, you’d just do your own work and pay yourself. But in business, it’s about providing what the customer wants, how he or she wants it.
We sometimes can mix up professionalism when we’re not working in a professional industry. All we might see are the people doing the work, not the customers who commission it, or the behavior and interaction between the two.
Professionalism isn’t entirely giving the customer what they want, nor entirely how well we treat them in the process. We might do the job perfectly but have terrible service, or fail to do the job at all and be nice and nominally accommodating. It’s a fine mixture of both that hallmarks us as professionals, and it’s maintaining that professionalism that can build ourselves a quality name.
What in your industry do you perform well? Can you continue to sharpen and improve and otherwise provide that product to your customers better than anyone else? And remember that a customer is not merely the one who pays you for the product; if you work in human resources, you may never meet a single external customer, but your internal customers such as accounting, operations and the like all remain just that — customers to your services.
Do you provide services quickly and with a positive attitude, with high quality that lasts, or do you come in with a poor attitude, half-ass the job and make excuses if you don’t provide what they truly need?
Intentions are meaningless. I can have good intentions to save the world while I sit on my couch watching the Kardashians. What means something to people out here in the real world is: “Can you produce? Can you treat customers well enough through providing what they ask for and in a respectful manner so they want to come back to your quality level of production?”
Do you want business, or do you want friends? Do you want loyal customers, or do you just want more people to offer you money?
Becoming professional means leaving behind your simple wants while employing your innate passions and abilities to serve both your customer and yourself in the process.
For example, I’m a writer. I should find a way to write for people. It will satisfy my need and skill to write and other people’s lack of skill but equal need for something to be read. I will do this with dedication to their needs and positive attitude. I won’t gripe, complain, or do it my way just so I can say I did it how I wanted to, especially when that’s not what they might ask for.
I can offer ideas, designs, or styles I think will serve them, but no matter what I think is best, I must serve their needs, THEIR WAY, first.
Do you want to be an employee? A business owner? Or a professional?
It’s the difference between being a NASCAR driver and being a weekend racer. Between rocking out karaoke and rocking out a stadium packed with fans. The only difference is, there is no saturation of professionals in a market. There can never be too many, not with the variety of people and styles and work and future professions we haven’t even dreamed of yet because we’re still just here in today. And further, you can't wait until success before you start being a professional, because choosing to be a professional today is what will generate the success you're really looking for.
Be a professional today. Start serving your customer's needs over your own Stop worrying about what YOU want and start focusing on what they want, and do it with a smile. You might be surprised.
You might even like it.