No Wins, Not Quite

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football

No Wins, Not Quite

This High School football team didn’t win a single game this year.  Not one. 

But you’d never know it looking at the faces of the kids and everyone else I saw at the season-ending banquet on Saturday.  

I didn’t get to see many Varsity games this year with the kickoff times being mostly held at 4pm on Friday nights.   But I know that what had to be tough games to watch, would likely carry over into a somewhat depressed pall cast over the season ending banquet. How could there not be, having gone this year without a single win and having just one win last year.

But what I saw was a room full of cheering parents, proud young men and a half a dozen coaches who spoke of their players as if they were their very own kids.

I saw a Head Coach who talked glowingly and positively about every player from Freshman to Senior as they were introduced.  It wasn’t what you think; time flew.  He found something unique and great to say about each.   He found affirmative things to say about their work ethic, their progress, their spirit, their unselfish willingness to help each other and refreshingly for many, their outstanding grades. 

My son didn’t play a down this year having suffered a pre –season injury requiring surgery but he had his name called and was acknowledged for his commitment to supporting the team throughout the year.  He wore not only a tie (that was as required for all players) but a broad smile shaking the hands of coaches and teammates as he walked onto the floor.

There was continued talk of overcoming more injuries and obstacles, of learning new positions and new offenses, of learning a new culture and of responsibility and accountability.  There was talk about the honorable values and the unique contributions of team captions, assistant coaches and supporters all around. 

There was talk of shunning the individual accomplishment and focusing on bonding as a team, in a concerted effort with a common focus.   There was talk about reaching out to each other and encouraging each other to work together not just during football season but all year round.  And finally, there was talk that in the end of all this important stuff, one of many great results, (but not nearly the only one), will be some games to be won.

It’s trite of course, but these games are not the lead story – at least for the gatherings of these young men who yearn to push a ball across a goal line just a bit more than their competitor.  My guess is that if there were two seasons of winning records already under his belt, this Head Coach would have talked about the same things.  

I sat there thinking how wonderful these presentations and speeches were and asked myself how different are they than what the gatherings of families, groups or even companies in good times or in bad should be hearing?   These messages are the ones that we and not just our sons benefit from.   These messages are at the root of what is valuable, at the root of what drives achievement across a wide swath of life.  

Thanks for the pep talk Coach.   Thanks for the shot in the arm of prioritization and principles.  Better luck next year in that win / loss thing but regardless, there’s no doubt you’ll truly win. 

Till next time,

Grow The Business.

Mark

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The Perfect I’m Sorry

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The Perfect “I’m Sorry”

I was in awe and actually stunned last week.  Like the cool, slow motion, jaw dropping kind of stunned.   Really I was.

I had realized right then,  while sitting there next to Eric and listening to both he and the upset customer, that I had never ever heard it like that before.  And I have heard thousands and thousands of customer service calls over these last 25 years.  

Until last Wednesday I don’t think I’ve ever heard those two words said just like that and in that way. 

“I’m sorry”. 

But alas, here is how he said it!   He said “I’m sorry” and then said                nothing.  Nothing!  You know, the dead air kind of nothing, the “you can hear a  pin drop”  kind of nothingness.  

The two words “I’m sorry” weren’t rendered meaningless by adding moronic drivel like “…..that happened” or “…we did that” or ”…this happened to you” or  “…we made a mistake”  or “ …we won’t do it again” .   None of those polluted words were suffixed to the most perfect “I’m sorry” I’ve ever heard.

That’s it.  Two words.   “I’m sorry”.    And then, no more sounds.  No clickety clack keyboard sounds of moving on.   No blathering, babbling or god forbid – cross selling.   Not even a cough.  Nothing – just nothing.

Wait was important.   Wait for it to sink in is what I realized he was doing.   Wait for it to really mean something to the customer. 

And then, on the other end of the line, the soft voice of the customer finally, agonizingly and mercifully said “OK”. 

Perfect.  That’s all Eric needed to hear. 

Think about his choice of using those particular words.  There is so much personal lasting ownership in the two words “I’m sorry” when they are left the heck alone.   There is vulnerability and sincerity in just those two words and in exactly those two words. 

I suspect he already knew what I also had just realized sitting next to him.   That using an “I apologize” or any variation of that is just not the same when you compare.  I’ve heard it a million times and truth be told, it antiseptically washes over people.  “I apologize” rings emptily of what you did while “I’m sorry” rings importantly of how you feel. 

You (and I) have two words to practice now with the 3rd part being the perfect silence that follows.  I never expected to get taught such a wonderful service lesson on a late Wednesday afternoon from a guy I never met before named Eric who has been on the phones for only 4 precious months.    And over the years and maybe even in this blog, I’ve written inaccurately now it seems,  about how to apologize and make amends with customers in need.  For that I simply say

 

I’m sorry. 

 

Till next time,

Grow The Business.

Mark

 

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An Inspired 28 Minutes

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An Inspired 28 Minutes

You don’t need to know who Curtis Martin is.  You don’t even need to know football.

All you need is 28 minutes to watch his induction speech into the Football Hall of Fame this month.

It’s got nothing to do with football or winning or awards or records.

It has everything to do with a higher and nobler purpose in whatever it is you do.

And I promise you, it is one of the most inspiring, moving and worthwhile 28 minutes you’ll ever spend.

It may even change you.

Till next time,

Grow The Business.

Mark

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The Laminator

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The Laminator

This is the actual machine pictured in Kansas City.   

It has its own cubicle The Laminator does, right outside the Site Leader Dale’s office.    Really it does.  It is the only thing on this desk right near the front door.    And it deservedly has this space all to itself because of all the good work it does.   

The Laminator’s work was plastered everywhere in the KC facility I visited.  Laminated Certificates were hanging from the shelves, the monitors and the walls.  For some folks, they even hung from the ceiling. 

I sat with some employees for a bit that day.   A few had evidently received many certificates from The Laminator and I was kind of surprised by the care in which these were displayed and hung in their cubicle spaces.

I commented to one person I was talking with who had a dozen or so in his cube and said “Wow look at all of those…” and with what I admit was more pride than I expected,  he grinned and said “ Yeah, pretty cool eh?”

The other folks I sat with seemed similarly proud of them.   Dale’s center had a pretty good vibe and I couldn’t help but think this emphasis on recognition had something to do with it.

Flying back home that night it got me thinking about that darn laminator and how we need more of those around these parts.  But of course what I really walked away with is how important it is to recognize and be recognized. 

Sure some of us,  we tend brush the need off with comments mostly to ourselves like “Who cares” or “It’s no big deal” or “People know they are valuable”   but if we are honest – recognition is a big deal.     If we are honest, we do look twice at that email from the boss that says “good job” or “great point”.  If we are honest, we do look at the comment from the blog reader or the person that liked your status update.  If we are honest, we do smile a little inside when we get a little public recognition be it your name called out in a meeting or yes, on a certificate for all to see. 

The Laminator knows this.  The Laminator is as honest as they come.  A little heat, a little plastic and Voila! – it’s a shot in the arm for someone.   There are dozens of other ways to recognize people and I’m sure Dale and his team is using more than just The Laminator. 

But here’s a thought – if you have an empty desk and a need for a bit more acknowledgement of good people and good work, fill that space with a laminator.  It does a darn good job. 

Till next time,

Grow The Business.

Mark

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Show Rooming Is Our Fault

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Show Rooming Is Our Fault

Target got all a tither last week firing off letters to their suppliers demanding they either reduce their costs or focus on giving Target more unique and exclusive products to sell in their stores.

Problem is that folks go to Target, look at a product, touch it, hold it, feel it, ask questions about it and then turn around and go online and buy the same thing cheaper from some online company that doesn’t have the costs to bear for the brick and mortar, the labor and all the rest.

They call it Show Rooming and brick and mortar retailers like Target are getting sick of it. 

But Target is mad at the wrong people.  It’s not the supplier that’s the problem – it’s us. 

Maybe it was the way I was brought up or where I’ve worked but there’s something wrong about using one company to learn and see everything about a product and then going out and buying it online ( or anywhere else for that matter.)   And it happens a lot.

There’s something wrong with walking into the local hardware store, getting that advice on which paint to use to cover paneling, spending some time at the color wheel and then saying “Thanks man!” while jumping in the car to speed off to the superstore to get the exact same paint a little cheaper.

There’s something wrong when the Veterinarian examines your dog, hands you the product she needs to stay healthy and you put it down sheepishly saying “gee I can’t get that right now” only to go on line, look for the same product and order it there for 3 bucks cheaper.

There’s something wrong with going to a car dealer, working the sales rep for 2 days, getting all the answers, taking that test drive and getting all of it down on paper  to then neatly fold it, slip it into your back pocket and then shopping around with all this new knowledge to get better price from some other dealer who sells the same model car.

And it happens to you too.

It’s not real different in sales either when you spend 3 weeks educating a prospect about a solution, prepare a proposal and that prospect takes your proposal and their new education, then turns it over to a competitor and says “Beat that”.  That happens, that’s life but that’s Show Rooming a Sales Rep and that ain’t right.

It’s a lot like stealing I think.  For too many people it’s not a problem to take insight, or time, or commitment, or ideas only to use them against the very people and places that were so skilled or gracious in giving them to you in the first place by going somewhere else to buy.

That’s called Show Rooming and nope, even though its rampant and even a source of pride for some, I don’t like it one bit. 

Till next time,

Grow The Business.

Mark

Your Cheatin’ Start

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I was young when I learned that if you combine working hard and cheating you often get something that actually pays off.    

I sat at the piano when I was 8.   The M*A*S*H song was the first real tune I played plunking out each note quite shocked that it actually sounded remotely like the theme song. 

I haven’t stopped playing since.   But my story doesn’t blossom into me learning to really play the piano and how I got to play a couple of gigs for Journey or for Springsteen when they came to town.  I’m not a good piano player by any stretch. 

I need that music in front of me.  I taught myself the guitar chords symbols to play on the piano and know enough sight reading to plunk out the melody in the right hand.  I cheat.

But I work hard at cheating so that most people can’t tell I’m staring at the guitar chord symbols as I accompany anyone who cares to sing.  I even play in church on occasion in front of sometimes hundreds of people.

They don’t realize how much hard work this is for me and that I am in fact, cheating.  But they seem to like it.   That can’t be all bad.

In fact, it’s not bad at all, it’s OK – Happens all the time.

  • Your boss or your colleague is sooooo good at coaching people.  It comes so naturally to them.   You on the other hand, sit at your desk and bang out “How to deal with conflict in the workplace…” like 4 times a week on Google looking for a darn answer.  You find it.  You print it off.  You sweat it.  It works.   Tis’ that combo of hard work and cheating payin’ off. 

 

  • Your buddy’s closing deals like Vin Diesel in the movie Boiler Room and yet he looks like he just rolled out of bed most of the time.   You listen over the wall and start stealing his lines left and right with what he’s saying to customers.  You try em’.  You memorize em’.   You steal em’ for a week and soon you start landing deals.  Tis’ that combo of hard work and cheating paying off.  

 

  • The team needs an answer.  It’s brainstorming time.  Have to find a way to drive some more sales.  You are clueless, tired and it’s been a long week.  You trip over a book that fell off some table you walked by, pick it up, pour over it and find the answer.  You go to meeting.  You share the idea.  You don’t (gulp) share that you accidentally found the answer in a book you tripped over.   Tis’ that combo of hard work and cheating paying off. 

Here’s the deal.   Hard work mixed with cheating has its place.   Sometimes it’s for a specific need at a specific time.  Sometimes like my piano playing, it’s forever. 

When it comes easy to you it comes easy to you.   When it doesn’t, that combination of hard work and bit of cheatin’ can get you some darn good results and no worries, nobody needs to know.  

And for those of you aghast that I could condone cheating well, let’s just call it like it should be called in this case – stealing shamelessly. 

Gotta run, have to “practice” some Billy Joel.

 

Till next time,

 Grow The Business.

 Mark

Odd Duck

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What would you be if you believed that the real selling began after you closed a sale?

 What would you be if you believed that the real service began after the phone call ends?

 What would you be if you believed that real customer value began with what you believe and not what you have?

 What would you be if you believed that your real job began with what you think and not with what you do?

 Heck, what would you be if you believed that the real meaning of life begins with what you leave ahead and not what you leave behind?  

 Answer: You would be the most beautiful and wonderfully odd duck of a person, performer or company.

 Ever. 

 ****

 P.S.  Everywhere you see the word “be” in a question,  swap in the word “do”, go grab a pencil and answer it.   At length.

 Then do it.

 Odd Duck you will be.  How wonderful. 

Till next time,

 Grow The Business.

 Mark