THE GREATEST SECRET OF SUCCEEDING
By: J. Marlando
I am and have been a long devoted fan of Woody Allen and have always found tremendous wisdom in his humor but I ran into a quote of his the other day that I simply do not agree with, regardless of his tongue-in-cheek attitude. He said, “Eighty percent of success is just showing up.” In my view this observation captures the attitude of far too many people. Indeed, “just showing up” means putting in one’s time at work and giving around 20% effort. In fact, this lackadaisical approach to work is so common that some corporations anticipate it from at least most of their employees and even many of their executives. When it comes to sales, however, this and similar attitudes are extremely costly to most businesses and most retail stores offer a portrait of exactly what we’re talking about, clerks and managers who have shown up and thereafter exert that remaining 20% to the customer.
The greatest example of this is of course the government employee who will often even act irritated to assist you and that actually helping you is somehow doing you a favor. We’ve all been through this at least at local DMVs. But it isn’t just the secure government worker who creates customer dissatisfaction; salespeople on the floor of most, bigger retail stores are typically so inept that they don’t have the information to help you even if they wanted to.
Okay, we’ve picked on the employee enough so let’s talk about management and owners.
The attitudes of management trickle down onto the floor of all businesses. Owners and managers who treat their employees aloofly are creating an aloof environment for the store or place of business. In those situations where leadership preaches customer concern but shows lack of employee concern will, in the long run, lose sales and gain a great deal of poor public relations.
In regard to the above, every owner and/or manager should ask him or herself the following questions:
- How do the employees treat your/their customers?
- Are your employees themselves treated with care and concern? (If not then they cannot be expected to treat customers accordingly).
- What is your investment to secure customer “customer preservation”? (In the past this was commonly called “customer retention” but for the philosophy offered here that term doesn’t work.
- How aware are you that your company’s value will increase through a focus on “customer preservation”?
- Do you regularly discuss this aspect of your business with ALL your employees? Do you solicit their input and ideas on the subject?
- How often do you remind yourself that word-of-mouth remains the most effective advertising of all.
- How often do you show personal attention to and caring about each of your individual employees?
By and large, your employees will respond to their customers as management responds to them. If management creates a welcoming, fun and caring environment for their employees, those qualities will be passed on to the customer. When those qualities are passed on to the customer there evolves a win/win/win situation—business increases and thus everyone should reap in the rewards. There’s nothing better for the individual “worker” than to know that his or her efforts are noticed and so…rewarded.
It doesn’t matter if you are the top banana of Home Depot Wal-Mart, Mary’s Chocolate Shop or Larry’s donuts, it is essential that you imagine your workplace as a living entity and not just some inanimate hollow of architecture occupied with people and stuff. Now go further with this in mind and think of the facility as having a mind heart and yes, soul.
Now rate your company’s personality:
- Is it nice?
- Is it trustworthy?
- Is it good?
- Is it sincere?
- Is it giving?
- Is it compassionate?
- Is it happy?
- Is it loving?
If your place of business doesn’t possess these kinds of qualities or if you’ve only answered “yes” to two or three of the above questions, ask what kind of mind, heart and soul it does have. Every office, shop, store and plant has a personality of its own which is felt or realized, at one level of consciousness or another by ALL those who enter. To use an old hippie term, people “feel the vibes.”
Okay we’ve placed the responsibility of business success on owners and managers but what about the employee. We’ll tackle him next.
EMPLOYEES ARE IN THE BUSINESS OF SUCCEEDING TOO
No matter what we do we are ALL essentially in sales. Even brick layers and carpenters; doctors dentists and lawyers must accumulate customers by any other name to profitably apply their trades, and accumulating customers takes salesmanship by any other name. In this the “who’s next,” attitude works but…not well. One of the most important goals of the sales person is to create a relationship with his or her customer/client as opposed to a sale. When customers feel a genuine relationship between a clerk and themselves even if they decide not to make a purchase, they will absolutely add to the company’s profit through recommendations—those people at ABC store are just so warm and helpful…
The idea is to create a “garden” which is my metaphor for a love-based business environment. A garden is warm and welcoming; a pleasant place where pleasant people stroll. A garden is alive and growing, rich with enchantment and friendliness. It is not only a place where business is done but where relationships are made and positive conversations prevails. It’s where goodwill is forever blossoming and where you always keep a yearning to return when you’re away. A garden is where you are never alone even if you are by yourself or with a myriad of others.
*Stephen R. Covey suggests a way that easily turns garrisons into gardens or at least gives us a way to grow our gardens in both our private and public (business) lives. He says, “Let your customer have you for an hour” or “let you spouse have you for an evening.” He tells us also to, “Try to be completely present with the other person and transcend your own personal interest, concerns, fears and needs. Be fully present to your manager, client or spouse. Allow them to express their interests and goals, and subordinate your own feelings to theirs.” A single clerk in your store, your sales rep in the field or anyone who becomes capable of communicating with the customer in this way, will grow your business and will create loyalty that will enhance your customer/client preservation. Indeed, one person who answers the phone in this wise and receptive manner will grow your business as well.
If you work for a company your first goal is to be an asset to it—in most instances the greater the asset you are the more you will earn. Unfortunately, there are company owners and managers who are aloof no matter what you do but the good news is that most aren’t. Remember, while good jobs are sometimes difficult to find so are good employees—you know what I am talking about, the kind of worker who believes that showing up is 80% of their responsibilities and obligations are fairly plentiful.
There are other rewards of being service orientated: For example, my friend Mark Peirce was only 19 years old when he came to California looking for work; he was nearly broke and had to sleep in him his van when he first arrived. Then his big break arrived—a service station job not paying much more than minimum wage. He was fully aware that this was not the best of jobs but because he had taken the job, his intent was to be the best that he could be at it. He was to do mechanical work and, back then, giving full service. This “service” included pumping gas, washing windshields and often checking oil for customers.
He did this in the spirit of customer care and love. And one day a man who owned a highly successful air conditioning business noticed Mark’s enthusiasm and apparent drive to be helpful and was impressed. He asked the young man what he was doing working as a “gas-jockey” with all his abilities…friendly energy. Then, to make a long story short the man offered Mark a higher paying job and began training him in air conditioning. Mark would eventually start his own air conditioning business and make a most impressive success out of it—he raised a family of his own, retired young to spend his time puttering around his beautiful yard, going sailing and mostly enjoying his life. What was his secret of success? He says, “Being fair and equitable with both my employees and customers; customer service was my most important goal with every client I had—old and new. As a result, I never bought one ad or did one commercial because word of mouth simply kept building my business.”
There is much to be learned from Mark’s experiences. First, that it doesn’t really matter if the owner or manager that you’re working for gives you recognition for your devoted services or not—there is something of the law of attraction that will sooner or later reward your efforts. The chances are, however that those you work for will respond to your conscientiousness…unless, they, themselves, lack conscientiousness but if they do or don’t something good, positive and yes, rewarding will unfold for you; someone will drive up or walk in and say, hey I have something better for you...I’m going to give you (real) opportunity.
And this brings us to a more esoteric side of what we’ve been talking about so far.
This is not the place to go too far into the mystic and synchronicity which I talk extensively about in other articles but I will go as far as to say that your loving, just as it is with your hating, works in your life likened to a boomerang or, in other words, what you give you receive. When you project goodwill and service into the universe—and that goodwill and service to others is, indeed, sincere, positive synchronicities will begin happening in your life. Goodwill and service is of course not simply a work ethic but a way of life.
Some readers may be asking, “what if you really don’t like your work, then what?”
Very…very few people find the work that they love. Owners, managers and workers alike will always discover things that they detest about their work. Even artists who are able to make a living doing precisely what they want to do, will discover negatives along their way that they simply don’t like doing. This applies to doctors and lawyers just as it does to assembly line workers and carpenters. A great many more people say things such as, I can’t wait to retire and get out of this place, than say things such as, I just can’t wait to get to work in the mornings and I can barely stand leaving the place.
There is a way, however, to add super joy to your work day, every day: while you can’t always do the work that you love, you CAN always love the work that you do!
Virtually everything in your life is the result of your choice making and yes, this includes your spouse. Even “falling IN love” is never an accident but rather a choosing. In fact, no matter where you are at and what you are doing, you are precisely where your choices have led you. It is as someone once said, “There are no victims, only volunteers.” While I do not agree with this absolutely there is nevertheless a great deal of truth in the statement.
The point here, however, is that you can absolutely decide to love what you do today. Let’s say that you are on an assembly line painting Xs on widgets. You paint thousands of Xs a day, day after day after day. The work is neither interesting nor is it exciting, in fact it is boring and repetitive. How could anyone “love” such work…is it even possible? It is! If you have the courage to say silently to yourself, this is so much fun, I love it! Keep repeating this to yourself every time you pick up the widget and paint an X on it. In other words, whatever your job is, verbalize (silently to yourself) while you’re doing it, “I love this. This is really fun,” and see what happens. Your own attitude will take away the pain of drudgery and turn it into pleasure. Deciding to love what you do is a vital step to creating positive synchronicities in your life and so…succeeding. Nevertheless, putting your love into your work can be difficult to do at first, so you have to choose to truly want to do it and then practice it daily.
With all this food for thought bouncing about your brain, we will return to owners and managers.
OWNERS and MANAGERS STIMULATE POSITIVE or NEGATIVE ATTITUDES
It is getting more and more difficult for smaller business to compete with bigger businesses these days. Certainly, there is no corner grocery store that is able to, say, price-struggle with Wal-Mart and no home town hardware store is going to out-stock or out price Home Depot. In fact, most Mom and Pops have been disappearing, most basically, since the 1950s. Nevertheless, small business remains a cornerstone of our national way of life and while it is far more complicated and expensive to open a business these days, entrepreneurship remains well alive across the country. The latest statistic I read comes from 2006 when 649,700 new businesses opened, 564,900 closed and there were over 19,000 bankruptcies. A grim view, at least from the surfaces, but people never seem to lose their entrepreneurial spirit in spite of how many bureaucratic, financial and competitive challenges there are to overcome.
What the surprise might be to most readers is that there is a common problem that both big and small business shares—the loss of customers and so the loss of sales. But why is this so common place, we ask.
Writer and marketing consultant **Frederick Newell gives us a very intriguing statistic to answer the above question. He tells us the reason we lose customers is only 9% competition and that over 60% of customers are lost because they were ignored. He adds, “This suggests that almost 70% of lost customers could have been saved by improved relationships.”
What else have we’ve been talking about throughout this narrative but relationships between owners/mangers, employees and customers which should be thought of as a loop as opposed to a straight line.
A lot of this can be changed and so improved, at least in many instances, by simply changing the “lingo” between owners/managers and employees. Remember stores and other workplaces have personalities—customers and clients sense this upon entering; feel the vibes so to speak. And, greeting people with a feigned smile does not change the mood of the environment. And so, what owners and managers can do—is “change their instructions and so their relationships with their staff and employees.” Below is what I believe to be representative of what those changes need to be:
What did you do to increase sales last week?
What was the most positive thing that happened between you and your customer last week?
Rethink why you lost potential sales last week.
How did you best gain your customer’s enthusiasm last week?
We can all work harder.
We can all find greater joy in our work.
Here’s what I expect out of every one of you…
What would make your work day easier and more productive?
Close the deal…Make the sale!
Open up to your customer’s feelings and concerns. When you find a desire or need that you
can fulfill…fill it.
I remind you that this company has policies and that’s how we operate.
We need to constantly reinvent our company and ourselves.
Simply posting a change of policy will not create the necessary changes that can actually start growing the business. There must be a relationship change between owner/manager and employee as well. Otherwise, while everyone may be excited about making positive changes, those changes might only last around a week and then reverse back into the old ways.
To avoid this, the “new rules,” so to speak need to be gone over in motivation and inspiring daily or, in the least, weekly meetings. Owners and managers are obliged to do their share as well. And, in this case, their part of the process begins by caring and sharing with those conscientious contributors to their enterprises—their employees. This means listening to their ideas and their complaints, to their dreams, problems and ideals.
The old ideas that owners/managers need to stay aloof from their employees began and disappeared with the Industrial Age; a time of overwork, underpay and terrible, often dangerous conditions for labor and other workers. Today employees are no longer seen as “chattel” to be coerced and misused but recognized as integral parts of the entire body of operations be that business an international corporation or a candy store on downtown Main Street, U.S.A. Owners and managers who do not recognize this or create policies in contrast to this will absolutely lose a great deal more than they will always gain.
Remember, owner/management + employees +customers, is metaphorically a loop and not a straight line; these three business components are (or should be) in a web of relationships and not viewed or comprehended as separate entities.
THE GREATEST SECRET OF SUCCEEDING
We too often think of business as necessarily being an exclusive enterprise of practicality and objectivity. In a way, a lot of people view the bottom line of business as being Scrooge-like at least at root level. Indeed, most people see the body of business with an enlarged head but lacking a heart.
Today as well as in our past a great many businesses—big and small—operate from the prospective that the operations of business must be controlled by a cold heart and an iron thumb. This, again, evolved out of the Industrial Age when social-Darwinism was creeping into the capitalistic system and turning away from the old neighborly-love view. Back then vast fortunes were made at the cost of much human suffering and many human lives.
Most of the cold and cruel was eliminated from business practices a great many decades ago but there remains a kind of robotic aloofness between owners/managers, employees and customers that remains. This is especially seen and felt in the big self-service places but also in ordinary stores where customers and clerks communicate and service is supposed to be at the top of the menu of company policy.
All kinds of people walk into stores—some people bring unruly children, others arrive angry from some upset at home; some folks simply don’t feel good when they’re out shopping while others are just in a big rush. In other words the moods and personalities of customer/clients are manifold—people simply bring their good and bad, happy and sad moods with them.
The moods and motivations of clerks and other employees are also manifold—an argument with one’s spouse at home, an upset stomach or unpaid bill can affect the mood of the person there to wait on you. And, in some instances, no matter how hard you try to cover up your own state of mind, you may fail, as said, miserably on the unconscious level. When way below the surface you are not in the mood to wait on someone, that “mood” has a way of revealing itself to the customer no matter how wonderful you believe your “acting” has been or even how truly sincere you’ve been to, as said, give service with a smile.
This is not only true for employees but of owners and managers too. After all, we are emotional creatures no matter how we like to mirror ourselves and especially our professional selves. Certainly bosses can come in to work in a snit just the same as their employees and, for that matter, their customers. There can also be a mixture of moods. That is, owner and manager can arrive all “fired up” and enthusiastic, employees can mope in being depressed about something and the customer can be friendly and playful. In this scenario the customer will soon enough feel the chaos and will probably become disgruntled to say the least.
There is actually a way to avoid these moody-environments and create a constant in the store’s personality and so to create a positive environment!
Make the conscious decision to walk your path in love each day. If you think this is bordering on the absurd or is too akin to the aspect of subjective mysticism, it is only because you are in the habit of walking in your path clad in the armor of aloofness and self-centeredness. How has that been working for you?
Look, as a businessperson, invest your time and effort into testing the following three steps daily for only one month. You have nothing to lose and a heck of a lot to gain.
- First thing in the morning go to your mirror and say to the image looking back at
you—you are loving and lovable. Say this three times and then go about your ordinary
2. While you’re at your ordinary routines decide how you are going to love your world today. Take your time to look out a window of your house or apartment and say to your world, I love you but if you mean it or not, say it anyway.
3. If you are married say silently to yourself I love you to your mate before you say one other word to her or him, and for the rest of the day say (silently to yourself) I love you to everyone you greet…including strangers and…including your employees and…including your customers.
Make this your habit and watch your sales increase, your customer loyalty deepen and your business grow; watch good things begin to happen to you personally as well as in your business life. I can’t tell you how this works, only that it does and that it ireally s the greatest of all secrets of success.
It really doesn’t matter much if you believe the above as truth or as utter nonsense, if you have the courage to try it and to be consistent at it for a mere month, you will begin seeing positive change in your life and in your work no matter if you are a janitor or a top executive!
*Convey, Stephen R.* Principle Centered leadership * Simon & Schuster
**Newell, Frederick*The New Rules of Marketing*McGraw-Hill
Note: Many ideas are found in my book: Succeeding in Business for the Love of It