“As a customer grows, so does the number and types of people with whom we need good relationships”

Just the other day one of our sales people found out that a customer requested a quote from one of our competitors for a similar product that we already provide to them.  The person that made the request was one that we did not have a key relationship with, but they did have more power than those we believed to be our key contacts.   The quote they received was lower than ours, but did not reflect the same level of products and services.   This created a bad comparison and sparked our key contacts to call us.  We realized that this new more powerful person was not educated on what they had or needed, and instead of working with us, he went directly to someone else.  This screamed of a trust issue and the situation frustrated our sales person to no end because he had tried to build a relationship with this person for years.  Why didn’t they give him a chance?  There is no way to be certain of their reason, but it was likely because the person did not like/trust those that we had a relationship with, or because we had not focused on the relationship with them as much as we had with our other contacts in the account.  

In our continuous quest for growth we focus on building relationships.  One of the biggest mistakes we can make is to stop growing our existing relationships.  This happens often and by the time it is realized it may be too late.  It happens when we feel comfortable with our existing relationships and feel that they do not need as much attention as do our efforts to build new ones.   To prevent this, we should be reflecting on our existing customers often and asking questions like… How are things going with them?  What has changed about how they are using our product/services?  Who/what has changed within their organization? Is there the potential for us to serve them in more/other ways?  Do we have relationships with the right people?  This last question is one of the most important because things change and if we are not in tune with what is going on, we may find that a new and powerful person does not believe we are paying them any attention (or they may not even know about us).   When this happens, they seek goods/services elsewhere and it creates a steep hill for us if they feel like we have shown them no attention, or that we are only focused on one area of their business.  It can even create a situation where they are determined to work with someone else.

In the example of our sales person discovering a current client was looking to replace us – his response is what inspired this message.   It was obvious that he did not have a good relationship with the person and that all his efforts thus far to build one had failed.   He knew that a key member of our project management team had a good relationship with a person that worked for the key decision maker.   He decided to team up with them and have them secure a meeting with their main contact and the key decision maker, and that he would just attend the meeting as part of the team.  This strategy worked.  They were able to successfully educate the person on their options, and they listened because it was apparent that the trust door had opened.  It also showed them how important we believe they are because the meeting was called with them, rather than them just being asked to attend a meeting we scheduled with our other key contacts in the account.  We will now be able to continue building and strengthening our relationships within, while helping them make the most of the products and services we offer, for a very long time.  

At critical growth points, cultivation of our existing relationships is even more important than building new ones.   We must be proactive in managing our customer relationships – even when we think we have solid relationships with our customers, we should routinely ask the questions that will help us determine when we need to further cultivate our relationships.

“Fathers have many parenting goals, but the most important is for our children to gain their independence”

Happy Fathers Day to my father Dale.  He has always set a great example of what it means to work hard, always do the right thing, and to be independent so that we have choices.  Much of what follows was influenced by him, and by the other fathers I look to as mentors.

Today is my first Fathers Day and Eloise is only three months old, so my ignorance remains at a high level.   When I lack knowledge/experience, I do my best to recognize it and to solicit the advice of others that I believe have been successful mastering the particular subject.   I have questioned some of the best fathers I know and all have had great advice.  More often than not, the advice was overwhelming because parents who are extremely passionate about their children have so much to share.    My way of learning is to gather as much information as I can, and then put that information into a simple summary and form goals if needed.   After listening to all the feedback from the best dads I know, I now feel that I have a solid goal that should be my guide in leading my children.   I believe my number one goal is to teach them to be independent.   Their independence is the most valuable thing I can teach/give them, and it would be irresponsible to not have it be a focal point in how I parent.

As an example of teaching independence, I am extremely excited about helping Eloise start her first lemonade stand.  In fact, there may already be a marketing plan drafted……  My wife told me yesterday that she is worried that I will be disappointed if/when Eloise does not show any interest.  My response is that if she does not see it as fun, or see the value in it, then we likely have not done our job of influencing her.   If we never teach her the correlation between hard work and success, then of course she could not care less about making some spending money for herself; and we are taking away her chance to be independent.

Of course we all want to give our children all that we can, but I believe giving them too much is harmful, and that we should be here to give them only what they need.  In regards to what they “want”, I believe our responsibility is to show them the way to get it, rather than to give it to them.   For example, if Eloise wants some new fancy shoes that she really does not need, I could see her mother and I making a deal with her where we will cover a certain percentage, and she will have to cover the rest.  If she wants help understanding how to cover the rest of the expense, we will be here for her.  My ignorance is likely apparent to some that are reading this and thinking that “sometimes it is just out of your control”.   While that may be the case, I refuse to believe it.  If the lemonade stand does not work,  then we will keep trying until we find the angle that does work.

On this day, my first fathers day, I am vowing to do everything in my power to teach our children to be independent so that they can have control of their future.  Thanks for doing the same for me dad.  Happy Fathers Day.

“Good habits have a dramatic and positive effect on individuals and organizations”

Bad habits typically do not garner serious attention until there are serious problems.  Every single one of us can reference multiple situations where if certain habits would have been changed proactively, the disastrous result(s) could have been avoided.  We all have personal bad habits and there are usually one or two that if changed, would be the catalyst for creating new habits that positively affect our health, success and happiness.  The same applies to organizations. 

Leaders are tasked with identifying bad habits in themselves and within the organization, and then picking off the main catalyst habits and focusing on replacing them with good habits.   Leaders have to focus on both their personal habits and the habits of the organization, because at their engagement level they become interconnected.  It is quite difficult to lead if not leading yourself, and it is also difficult to motivate others to pull together for change if they do not believe you are capable yourself.

Some people/organizations have no bad habits as defined by society.  They don’t smoke, drink, gamble, etc., in their personal lives, and the organization is not unethical, nor does it over-spend, etc.   However, the real question for those that do not have obvious bad habits, is if the habits they do have are good?  The reality is….. to not have good habits, is to have bad habits.  A person may not have the obvious personal bad habits, however they may form habits that are detrimental to their productivity.   Maybe they are not consistently working out, and instead begin filling time by watching some ridiculous reality show.   This is not a horrible habit, but if they do this instead of working out and taking care of their body, it should be considered a bad habit – especially if that is the only time of day they have time to take care of themselves physically.  In an organization, everything may be running just fine, but there are always habits that need to be changed, especially if growth is an initiative. 

As leaders, we must identify bad habits and replace with good habits that are catalysts for creating even more good habits.  This objective is not a one time event.  Bad habits are perpetually and easily formed, therefore focusing on them must be ingrained in our leadership style at all times.