Customs Fail and Redemption


Maybe it was the long drive.  Maybe it was just the thoughts of the most recent conference call that ended on our cell phones.  Or maybe it was the pressure of seeing the guns they were holding. 

 Regardless, it was failure.

Years and years of living, leading, preaching and teaching about our company’s  Transformation had just fizzled into 7 tepid words.

“….Checks and forms and stuff like that……”

That was our answer given to the Canadian Border guards to the question “So tell me, what does Deluxe do?”  when the three of us attempted to cross into Canada on our way to the Mirimichi, NB site from Groton, Ma.  

Waah.  Wah Waaaaahhhh.

After our passports were inspected, our trunk searched and our vehicle registration scrutinized, we sped away and realized immediately the enormity of our missed opportunity.

Chalk it up to what some call “primacy” where under pressure we revert to what we learned first about something years ago.  Maybe that was it.   Or chalk it up to tiredness or laziness or just plain ol’ choking when you got your chance at the plate. 

Either way it was bad, very bad. 

All week in Mirimichi we skulked from meeting to meeting and pondered the blunder.  Elevator speeches are critical and come in all sizes and in all places.  Even, we sadly learned, at border crossings.  What Deluxe Corp really does today is so much more than checks and forms and stuff like that!   How could we have dropped that ball?  What does that mean about ourselves and our next “test” whenever that is?  Will we ever recover? 

3 days and 5 hours of driving later, we had our chance.

We were crossing back over to the other side. 

Sunlight glinting off the M-16 rifles slung low by the two border patrol agents, we sat patiently at the checkpoint awaiting our turn.  Even from 25 yards away, our eyes narrowed and locked on to the men almost daring them to ask us – no not ask –interrogate us about exactly what Deluxe Corp does! 

Our turn came.  We rolled slowly forward with shoulders back, heads held high and with  military like precision slowly lowered the three car windows to proclaim as one, our company Transformation and nail this chance at personal and corporate redemption.  

“And what does Deluxe do?” asked our chiseled, square jawed inquisitor.

“We provide online and offline marketing services and thousands of other products for all kinds of businesses and financial institutions.” 

The agent nodded his head and smiled.  It made perfect sense to him. 

Was it perfect?  No.  Did it capture everything we do or can do?  Heck no.   But by golly, it was real, it was different and it was tangible.  It couldn’t be some catchy slogan, analogy or metaphor or these guys for sure would have given us a different and more personal kind of search this time.  Bottom line- We did it!   It was a lead story about Deluxe that was so so far away from just “Checks and forms and stuff like that.”

Don’t do what we did on the way up to Canada.  Be ready.  Someday someone (hopefully not with guns drawn),  is going to ask you what your company does and how you answer that can be a very big deal.  

Don’t fumble the pitch or mumble the wrong story.  It can be the difference in how well you break through to the other side.

Till next time,

Grow The Business.


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