Is Your Business A Cathedral?

What business lessons can be learned from the story "The Three Stone Cutters?" Will customers feel that you're going through the motions, arrogant or welcoming?

Have you ever heard the story of “The Three Stone Cutters?”

One day a traveler, walking along a lane, came across 3, stone cutters working in a quarry. Each was busy cutting a block of stone.

Interested to find out what they were working on, he asked the first stone cutter what he was doing. “I am cutting a stone!”

Still no wiser the traveler turned to the second stone cutter and asked him what he was doing. “I am cutting this block of stone to make sure that it’s square, and its dimensions are uniform, so that it will fit exactly in its place in a wall.”

A bit closer to finding out what the stone cutters were working on but still unclear, the traveler turned to the third stone cutter. He seemed to be the happiest of the three and when asked what he was doing replied: “I am building a cathedral.”

Although I have no idea as to the origin of this story or to the many variations, I like the lesson that can be learned in the few words it takes to tell the tale. If you noticed, each of the stone cutters was doing the same thing. How they perceived what they were doing, however, was totally different.

The first stone cutter was simply doing a job for a day’s pay. He really has no other aspirations than to show up to work, do what he’s getting paid to do and then go home.

The second stone cutter was doing his best to be the best at his craft. But, he placed his emphasis on perfecting the size and shape of the stone alone rather than seeing the big picture and considering how his care in craftsmanship benefits others. He doesn’t consider that without the need to build, the stone cutter profession cannot survive.

The third stone cutter, however, understood the bigger picture. He saw that he was doing far more than just cutting stone. He was a part of a much larger purpose and a project that would have lasting implications, not just for himself but for thousands, if not millions, of people that would attend the cathedral for many years to come.

Are you building a cathedral?

There are entrepreneurs who, like the first stone cutter, forget the joy that came with business ownership and now look at every task as a mundane routine. The core value of the business, the purpose of the work, the focus of the work no longer matter. Their nine-to-five world closes in on them every time they flip over the “open” sign. The business struggles to survive because consumers find the environment to be cold, unemotional, apathetic and disconnected.

A business owner with the traits of the second stone cutter, however, will spend their days focused intently on how they can perfectly cut all things to exact proportions within their business to build a solid, profit generating structure. Success is graded on the number of transactions. Hospitality and versatility are replaced with meticulous and overly-burdensome policies and procedures.

Business suffers because the entrepreneur is unable to recognize that real profits are only celebrated when customers are consistently made to feel welcome, appreciated and treated as something more than simply a number in a ledger. In essence those business owners fail to acknowledge an obvious fact. Without customers, even the most meticulously run business cannot survive.

Then there is the third business owner. Much like the stone cutter who appeared to be the happiest, this entrepreneur would respond to the question of “What are you doing?” with an enthusiastic, “I am making an impact, a difference, an improvement in the lives of others.”

They are able to visualize the much larger picture of how what they do impacts not just one customer, but everyone who surrounds them. They see their business, not solely as a means to make a profit, but as a valued contributor to a purpose that is far bigger than themselves and as a source for bringing people together. They’re welcoming, caring, trustworthy and generous—-giving back to the community that supports them.

They see the end product of what they do in whole, instead of in parts. These entrepreneurs will be rewarded with countless patrons who will not only find beauty in the stones that have been meticulously cut to build the business “cathedral,” but in the individuals who never forgot who they were building it for.

Because it often took 50 years or more to build a cathedral, the stone cutters of old rarely saw their projects completed. They never got to experience the awe inspiring happiness of anyone who ever marveled at their craftsmanship.

As business owners, you have the same capacity to bring about awe inspiring happiness to your customers and clients—and you don’t have to wait 50 years to enjoy the end result.

Which stone cutter are you? Are you building a cathedral? How does your business make an impact, a difference, an improvement in the lives of others?  The comment section is open for your remarks!

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