This post is part of a series outlining the 11 principles detailed in David’s book, Heed Your Call, which helps modern-day heroes (entrepreneurs) integrate their business and spiritual lives.

Empathy happens when, during any interaction, we immerse ourselves in another’s life and construct an accurate view of their challenges, desires, and struggles. It happens when we travel through their day and experience their fears and aspirations. It happens when we pause and deeply focus on what it feels like to be them.

Deep empathy is a critical component to success in life, let alone at work. Tweet This Quote

Deep empathy is a critical component to success in life, let alone at work. It’s my perspective that we’re all connected at some level. For example, at the end of any yoga class, we say Namaste, which means, “The divine light in me sees and honors the divine light in you.” It’s more than just a little salutation before you leave the mat. That phrase and ideology exists in every spiritual belief system and religion across cultures. When we start to allow ourselves to have that connection and awareness, it becomes easy to walk in someone else’s shoes.

From that place, we can make decisions about consumers and customers that are well informed. The intent of business is to create and give value to others, to give people what they deeply desire and what satisfies their needs.

As an entrepreneur, drive your business with the consumer as the focus, while staying aware of your customer. Tweet This Quote

To do this, it’s important to make the distinction between consumers and customers. At Meriwether Group, we abide by the phrase, “consumer focused and customer aware.” For example, Nike’s consumer is the athlete, basketball player, or sports-fashion person. Their customer, however, is Foot Locker, Finish Line, or the running specialty store. As an entrepreneur, you always want to drive your business, brand, or product with the consumer as the focus, while staying aware of who your customers are.

Once you recognize this, embracing empathy allows you to really deeply connect with your consumers. It’s critical for any business to do a deep-dive with clients around who are the key consumers for your product or service.

For example, consider Nike again. To get more specific, their consumer groups might range from the elite Olympic athlete to the urban, African-American male between 12-16 years old who wants to wear high tops because they’re cool, to the weekend warrior, to the soccer mom. Each group is vastly different from one other, but you have to name all of them. Find out where they shop, what magazines they read, what cars they drive, what they like to eat, where they like to vacation, what makes them happy, what worries them, and so on. Get into the depths of who they are, and let that inform the decisions you make.

It’s critical to allow empathy to steward the decisions you make as they relate to your consumer. Tweet This Quote

If Nike has a great footwear designer who makes the most kick-ass basketball shoe for urban, inner-city African-American males between 12-16 years old, and she puts that shoe in suburban neighborhood Foot Lockers and assigns her marketing team to promote the shoe in ESPN Magazine, the shoe won’t sell.

Everyone would say, “Wow, that’s bizarre, the shoe was beautiful—why didn’t it sell?” No matter if she nailed the shoe, the designer didn’t use empathy or go out of her way to connect with her consumers. If she had, she would have understood that these 12-16 year olds don’t go to malls in suburbia or read ESPN Magazine, for example. It’s critical to allow empathy to steward the decisions you make as they relate to your consumer.

These mindful and united business interactions have a name in our modern vernacular: compassionate consumerism. I often refer to them as intuitive analytics, the ability to engage using strategy and logic while weaving in deep empathy and universal connectivity. Using this approach moves us closer to mutually beneficial results—the designer would have been happy that her shoe sold, and the 12-16 year old African-American male would have been happy to buy it in an urban shop near where he lives.

Actively listen to your consumers, so you can instinctively feel their desires, challenges, and dreams. Tweet This Quote

Put empathy and intuitive analytics into practice. In your business interactions, go beyond just hearing what another is saying. Actively listen so you can instinctively feel that person’s desires, challenges, and dreams. Ask questions. Spend time with your consumers.

Embracing empathy as a tool serves us well in business because by stepping into our consumer’s shoes, we can tailor our involvement with them while remaining emotionally neutral. We can truly engage with their best interest in mind because we are not operating from a place of, “what’s in it for me?” This is the only way our businesses will reach their fullest potential.

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David Howitt

Author David Howitt

David, author of the integrated business book, Heed Your Call, is the founding CEO of Meriwether Group—a private equity firm offering business advising and accelerator services. He is an accomplished entrepreneur with over twenty years of experience providing business strategy and brand counsel to thriving start-ups, small businesses and Fortune 100 companies.

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