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“Are you looking for a solution, or empathy?” Couples therapists teach their clients to ask this fundamental question whenever stress levels begin spiraling upwards. It’s not a question we often ask in the world of enterprise. Businesses are urged to be solutions-oriented. When a client or prospect has a problem, we immediately offer a solution. For example, we at NOS are in the storage solutions business.

It’s easy to forget that sometimes a client or business associate just needs a friendly colleague to say, “I’m sorry you’re having a bad day. I understand.” As solutions providers, business enterprises should never lose sight of the fact that we are also in the listening business, both inside our organizations and in our external dealings. We’re enthusiastic about our businesses and we love helping people – that’s what makes it so easy to get into the habit of pressing solutions on people rather than really listening to what’s going on with them. Sometimes when we listen, we learn that they aren’t in need of a solution right now; they just need to be heard.

And when we lend an ear, we might just gain some valuable insights about the organization as a whole. Those insights could lead to unanticipated opportunities or early signs of changes that could affect an entire industry. As we look forward to this new year, there will be many moments to offer solutions, or to offer empathy. Polish up those empathetic listening skills and see what new opportunities unexpectedly appear.

Now I’ll stop talking, and listen to what you have to say.


Joe Alvarez, an excellent listener and president of National Office Systems Inc., has over 20 years’ experience helping companies and government agencies to bridge the gap between an organization’s processes and technology when considering storage and asset management systems. Since 1976, National Office Systems (NOS) has been the leading provider of the most affordable and comprehensive storage solutions (high density mobile shelving, automated storage and retrieval, stationary shelving, biometric secure access cabinets) and document management systems. NOS saves money for businesses when they move to a new space, showing them how building smaller spaces and leasing less space provides rapid return on investment for capital equipment projects.