There’s an old saying “You can’t really know a man until you walk a mile in his shoes”, but I can’t seem to find exactly where it came from or who said it. Perhaps it’s paraphrased from the words of Harper Lee’s character Atticus in ‘To Kill a Mocking Bird’: “You never really know a man until you stand in his shoes and walk around in them”.
Whoever first said it, it is one of the most important lessons we can learn in life and in business.
To judge, criticize, presume or advise without really understanding a person is not only insulting, but it can be dangerous.
I’ve worked for several firms in my career and I’ve seen time and time again where business people don’t serve a client properly because they presume to know them. They don’t really have a clue what it’s like to be in their shoes.
I think that’s why I’m so proud to be part of the team at BMO. I know it sounds really corny and all ‘PR-PR’ but I can honestly say that many of the team members here have a good idea what it’s iike to walk in our clients’ shoes.
Most of the partners and the team have experienced the real world. We’ve grown up on farms and even still work on them, we’ve helping in our families’ businesses, or run our own small businesses while working here. We’ve invested and we’ve borrowed. We’ve been young and carefree, we’ve studied, and we’ve travelled. We’ve had health crises. We’ve lost loved ones. We’ve had families. We get what it’s like to try and put a child through school while praying for the rains to come. And we’ve had good times too, like winning a big contract or hitting a hole in one on the golf course.
Importantly though, even though we’ve had similar experiences to our clients, we know that we will can never assume what it’s like to be them. To do that, we have to walk alongside them and listen. It’s part of our team values at BMO – our value of “understanding” is about respect and good manners, being open and honest, and committed to listening.
Really it goes right back to ancient Greece. Plato once said: “Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.”
And so we’ve launched a new campaign this week called “We’re with you every step of the way”.
It means more than just walking beside our clients and advising them, it’s about being “with them”. Our service to clients is not dictatorial – it’s more like a partnership.
We understand that our clients all need different advice, services and support at different stages of life’s journey. A school leaver might drop in for a simple tax return, but we’ll also be there to give them foundations for budgeting, saving and investing and protecting their financial position so that good habits are embedded early. On the flip side, a business person with investment strategies and entity structures might need a more complex strategy. Business owners, retirees, income earners… no matter what stage you are at, we will walk beside you to listen, understand and guide however we can.
Our team members know that everyone’s wearing a different pair of shoes… Sometimes the road is smooth and sometimes it’s bumpy. Some are skipping through while others are dragging their feet. But no matter where you are at in life, or in business, we’re with you every step of the way.