Why Are You Here


The next time you go to a restaurant, retail store or to see a CPA, banker or financial advisor, ask yourself this question:

Why am I here?
The longer version of that question is, “Why are you here instead of at another provider (of the same product or service you were seeking)?” In most cities or regional market areas (e.g., Cleveland/Northeast Ohio), there are numerous providers of the same product or service. So again, why did you select this location or provider?

For the first twenty-five years of my career I worked at a large national bank in northeast Ohio. During much of that time I oversaw the operations and business development of eighteen of their east side branches. Since banks at that time were practically on every street corner, there was a lot of competition for basically the same clients. Thus, I was interested in learning why our branches were growing at a faster rate than pretty much any of our other competitors (some managers would be satisfied just knowing that they were outperforming the competition…but, I needed to know more—I needed to know WHY?).

To that end, I spent a significant amount of time visiting my branches and going up to clients standing in line and asking them, “Why are you here today?” I often would hear responses such as, “To make a deposit” or “To cash a check”. So then I would say, “You had to drive by nearly a dozen of my competitors to get to this location, many of which might have been more convenient for you. So why did you choose to do business here?”

The vast majority of those questioned over the years told me basically the same thing—that it was because of the employees. Not the interest rates, not the location, not the style of the building, not the fancy names banks love giving to their products to make them sound different. No, people came to our branches and continued to do business with us because of the staff, the employees who took care of them, who took a genuine interest in the well-being of their families and them.

People do business with people, not companies, not logos.

It’s the old “Golden Rule” that our parents taught us at an early age: People just want to be treated with respect and in the same manner in which they would treat others.

Think about it…a company might be able to get you to walk in their front door and even purchase some product or service using some slick marketing pitch or commercial, but the real challenge is to provide the servicing, support and environment that encourages a one-time customer to become a long-term client.

I brought that same philosophy with me when I came to Szarka Financial some thirteen years ago. I’ve asked hundreds of visitors and clients over the years that same, “Why are you here?” question. I speak with every person who calls the company seeking to meet with a financial advisor and each is asked, “There are a lot of good financial planning organizations out there, why did you call us today?”

From the many hundreds of such conversations that I’ve had, the answers to that question are almost always one or more of the following:

  1. My current advisor never calls me back
  2. I’m tired of being told what to do… it’s my money, not theirs
  3. I feel like a really small fish in a really large pond
  4. The person I’m working with now doesn’t seem to have my best interests in mind
  5. I need a second opinion about my entire financial picture and, after going through your website, it seems like your organization does more than just manage money

As consumers, we all want to do business with people who care, who are empathetic, and who want to go the extra mile for us—whether it’s at a local restaurant, the ball park, the local DIY big box store or the doctor’s office.

Today’s technology provides for virtually instant access to information and allows consumers to check out what others think about a product they are considering for purchase, a venue to visit or provider of services (e.g., how many stars it received on Google, Yelp, Trip Advisor or Amazon). The herd mentality is becoming stronger and more commonplace as a result.

So, the next time you go to purchase a product, go out for dinner, or seek out a provider of professional services, do yourself a favor and ask, “Why am I here?”

If you cannot come up with a good answer, then it might just be a good idea to keep looking.