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What industry are you in?

What industry are you in?

“You may be a business man or some high degree thief

They may call you doctor or they may call you chief

But you’re gonna have to serve some body, yes indeed

You’re gonna have to serve somebody”

Bob Dylan, “You gotta serve somebody.” From Slow Train Coming, 1979.

Taken from the 1979 release, Slow Train Coming, “You gotta serve somebody” marked the spiritual awakening of Bob Dylan and his transition from folk singer to preacher.

A powerful song that challenges the listener to consider who or what we are serving in our own lives and to question if those choices align with our core values and beliefs.

At least in my humble opinion.

Written over 40 years ago, the song has lost little of its message and shows the durability of good song writing.

Businesses often want to present themselves – as being the “superlative of that thing that they do.”

“The market leading engineering company.”

“The biggest accountancy practice in the North.”

“The largest independent food retailer in Ireland.”

That said, scale, stature and prestige undoubtedly count for something when it comes to brand differentiation.

Businesses quite rightly promote their growth achievements with great pride to their customers, their peers and to anyone else that wants to listen.

In sales training seminars, we ask the following question: “What industry are you in?”

The majority of responses are predictable and literal.

“I work in the automotive sector/car industry,” says the car sales executive.

“I work in construction,” says the building materials sales person.

Predictable, literal but not wholly inaccurate.

The car sales person is employed by a business that operates within the automotive sector and by default can say they work in the automotive sector.

So too can the designer at Porsche and the car valet at your local dealer.

Believing that you work in a particular sector isn’t the problem.

It’s ignoring the fact that you work in a service industry and that your primary function is to ‘serve somebody.’

Is it the positioning of that particular industry itself?

The culture of the company?

The notion that ‘serving somebody’ is somehow beneath an individual or belittling of the job title?

“You may be rich or poor, you may be blind or lame

You may be living in another country under another name

But you’re gonna have to serve some body, yes indeed

You’re gonna have to serve somebody”

We can all recount experiences with those people who happen to see themselves as being ‘of the industry’over those that are ‘there to serve.’

This might be an unpopular choice but usually when I call the Doctor’s surgery, I’m pretty sure which one I get.

Mitigating circumstances but I hope you get my point.

From my experience, those businesses that are set up to serve are usually successful.

Every human touch point your business has with the outside world that behaves empathetically towards customers adds value to your brand’s credibility and value.

Consider your own personal experience of those businesses that thrive on service?

Hotels, restaurants, pubs.

Is there one that you find yourself returning to again and again?


It was hardly because you were “well sold to?”

We all understand the importance of training staff for knowledge and skills development.

We all understand the corporate quest for success and the desire to be No 1 in the marketplace. (Check out the case study on AVIS)

What if you focused on offering the best service in town?

With the proliferation of choice across all sectors and industry types, how well we serve people is fast becoming the only superlative worth listening to.

Thanks for reading.


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