I got my first credit card during college in the late 90s.  Yes, I’m dating myself, yes, they had credit cards back then, and yes, I walked to and from school uphill both ways…in the snow.  I really enjoyed this credit card because it paid you a small cash back percentage on every gasoline purchase you ever made.  Having never driven a Tesla, I tend to use gasoline in my vehicles, and so it worked out quite nicely.  Fast forward to last month, and I canceled the card.  No, there was nothing wrong with it, it’s just my life has changed, and I’d like my cash back in a different way (ok, ok, fine, I’ll tell you…airline miles…don’t judge me).

So, after 25 years of using that credit card, I went online and canceled it.  I’d easily put on hundreds of thousands of dollars on that card over that period.  (Paid in full each month…I am a Financial Advisor need I remind you.)  But, did anyone at the company notice that I canceled after being such a loyal customer for such a long period of time?  Did anyone care?

I still remember losing my first client.  He succumbed to the advertisement du jour of the lure of gold (it collapsed) or meme stocks (they went bankrupt) or doing it themselves (they sold at the low and bought at the high…not the goal of investing).

To be honest, I remember all the clients I’ve ever lost.

It hurts.  I know I’m not supposed to, but I take it personally.  I fear I didn’t educate them enough, I didn’t spend enough time doing this or that, I said the wrong thing, I didn’t explain the value we brought.  You see, small organizations pay attention to and care very much about each and every customer or client.  I’m still waiting for a thank you letter from that credit card company.  In the end, they don’t even know I existed as their customer for 25 years.  Large corporations just can’t care at scale.

My dad owns and operates a small farm in Northwest Ohio.  He knows everything about that farm.  Every hill and gulley, where water collects and where tile is needed.  He knows his soil and what fertilizer goes where and what seed to plant when.  And, as a result, he has significantly higher yields than neighboring farms that are much bigger.  That’s because he cares about every single stalk and stem, and the person with a lot of land just can’t do that, they can only look at the big picture, and hope for the best.  They can’t care at scale.

Granted, as CEO of my small company, I can’t do it all.  I can’t necessarily care at scale either.  We have over 350 clients and have over $370 million in assets under management.  But what I can do is create a culture that cares.  I can hire a team that’s predisposed to caring.  I can teach them to pay attention to our client’s details and relationships and goals and purpose.  I can teach them to care for and measure things that matter instead of chasing the short term.  And, if we lose a client, I can teach them to handle it with grace.  And even though I’m still a work in progress, I can teach them to not take it personally.  Sometimes, it just doesn’t work out, and that’s ok.  And it’s ok if it hurts.  It helps us to do better next time.

Sure, large organizations have significant cash flow and structural advantages.  But small companies have a culture of caring and impact.  I’ve been conscious to appreciate small businesses.  In fact, whenever possible, I prioritize shopping or obtaining services from a small business.  Perhaps it’s a bit more expensive, but I’m more than willing to pay.  Because ultimately, I know I’m not just paying for the product, but for the care that the owner and staff provide.

Caring at scale.  Large corporations just can’t do it.  Small companies can.

We’re all in this together…

May you care for others today.