Dave Ramsey's Entreleadership: Busting the Myths of Leadership

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

By Dave Ramsey

The great statesman Benjamin Franklin once said, “When you are finished changing, you’re finished.” And even though it’s been 200-plus years since he uttered those famous words, they still hold true — especially in today’s business world.

Long standing ideas about how to lead a team are no longer viable. Workers won’t stick around for a bad boss these days, no matter how much they’re paid. They want to be motivated and inspired. So, how can you ensure that you’re functioning as an awesome leader? Start by avoiding these common, but mistaken, leadership beliefs.

The Myth: They’re inspired by their paycheck. As the owner of your company, you have the power to change lives. After all, you’re the person signing the paychecks. Everyone should be happy, and even grateful, to do their jobs with no questions asked.

The Truth: Great leaders know that power comes from persuasion, not position. Simply offering a paycheck, or intimidating workers by holding their jobs over their heads will not make them more productive or creative. Leaders who take the time to communicate, support and encourage earn loyalty and respect from their teams.

The Myth: No news is good news. Your team doesn’t need to know when something bad happens. If sales are down, they’re going to become scared and maybe even leave. As a matter of fact, they can’t be trusted with any sensitive news — good or bad.

The Truth: Winning organizations have a culture of communication. Your team wants to know what’s happening and why. Sure, there’s some information you can’t share. But when you have the right team members on board, you can trust them with almost anything. Make a habit of over-communicating. Your team will respect you for it even more.

The Myth: You can’t find good workers anymore. Today’s generation doesn’t listen. They lack initiative, and they never show up on time. They want the world handed to them.

The Truth: You’re probably not good at finding and recognizing talented, responsible workers. Think there are no young people who are willing to do an awesome job? Look at Chick-fil-A. The company has thousands of them. Part of being a good leader is knowing how to hire. You have to be willing to wait for the perfect person — one who shares your values and work ethic. At Dave Ramsey’s company, team members are interviewed four to six times, and the process can take three or four months.

Becoming a great leader is not easy. It’s a skill that needs to be developed, and it’s one that takes time, patience and a willingness to learn and improve one’s self. But if you’re willing to put in the hard work, you’ll find yourself with a team full of talented, passionate people — a team willing and able to slay dragons right alongside you, and do whatever it takes to win.

It’s definitely worth the wait!

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Is Your Company Customer Friendly?

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

by Tom Grandy

Over the past 29+ years of working within the trades industry I have noticed some profound changes within individual companies in an effort to become more "customer friendly". As the new year moves forward I would like to highlight a few things that different companies are doing in order to become more customer friendly.

You will notice one item that is glaringly absent from the list. I have not listed the need, or desire, for top quality work. The reason is simple. Today's customer expects top quality work all the time. That no longer impresses the customer. From the customers perspective - quality work is a given.

So let's look at a few things customers really like about the companies they work with:

• Relationship with the Person that Answers the Phone
First impressions are lasting impressions. When it comes to Five Star Hotels the position at the registration desk is NOT an entry level job. In some cases the position must be earned over a period of years. That is how important the first impression is. Customers within the trades industry desire a long term relationship with the person that answers the phone. That means placing individuals in that position that are friendly, knowledgeable, and truly care about the customers they serve. This is why smaller companies often have a member of the owner’s family in that position. They know there will be very little turnover therefore allowing relationships to be built. Having software that calls up the complete customer history, including notes about the last call, can be invaluable. How would you feel if you called your local trades company and the first words out of the Customer Service Reps mouth were "Hello Mrs. Smith, how is Johnny doing in his first year of college?" After a brief but friendly conversation the CSR then says "I noticed Bill was at your home a couple months ago when he worked on your XYZ. Is that still working ok, and if so, how can I help you today." That is being customer friendly.
• Being Contacted When the Technician is on the Way
It's a busy world out there and plans change. Sometimes the customer was supposed to be home but an emergency occurred that forced them to leave the house, unexpectedly. The technicians day changes as well. The service call was scheduled between 10:00 and 11:00 AM but the calls earlier in the day took longer than expected. Customer friendly companies tell the customer they will be called (or texted, or emailed - customers preference) when the technician is on the way. That call allows schedules to change if something comes up and also allows Mr. or Mrs. Jones time to drive home if they are out doing an errand. Customers seem to really like that kind of communication.

• Security
Security is a huge issue in today's world. Customer-friendly companies have technicians arrive at the home with pictured name tags, easily seem, and with a calling card in hand. Many companies also text or email the name of the technician, and a photo as well, before the technician arrives so the customer knows who will be coming. All this makes the customer feel more secure.

• Respect the Customers Property
Respecting a customer’s property should be a given but in today's world it's not. The truck should be parked on the street so the homeowner can get out of the driveway if needed. If you need to park in the driveway confirm that it's ok with the customer, don't assume. Don't walk on the grass and always put on booties before entering the customer's home. If the customer says you don't need to do that it instantly becomes a moment to create a customer cheerleader. Tell the customer "Mrs. Jones, it’s company policy. We don't want to risk bringing dirt into your home!" Also, don't smoke. If you do, the odor follows the technician right on into the home. Use clean, yes clean, drop cloths as well. Again, it's all about respecting the customer’s property.

• Customer Friendly Hours 
Today, most husbands and wives work outside of the home. However, that doesn't mean the customer doesn't want to be there when the work is done. That calls for change on the company’s part. Many companies now have staggered hours allowing calls to be made into the evening without paying overtime. Many companies work on Saturday, and some even on Sunday as well. This is a teaching moment! It's about what the customer wants...not what's convenient for you.

• Ability to Schedule a Service Call Online
What do Generation X, Y, and Millennials all have in common? Nearly all communication takes place on an electronic device. Progressive, customer friendly, organizations are now providing the customer the option of scheduling their own service calls right online. Few baby boomers will do that but the younger the customer, the more likely it is to happen. One principle of life doesn’t change. Older people will get older and there will be a mass of young people right behind them. Again, it's not about your convenience, it’s about meeting current and future customer needs.

• Easily Understood Billing 
I can't tell you how many contractors I have talked to in the past that were still on time and material. As we discussed billing, it wasn't unusual for a contractor to tell me how much they charge per hour. In addition to their hourly rate they charged a show up fee, disposal fee, gas surcharge, etc. My reply is always the same. That is like handing the customer a gun with six bullets and asking them which one they want to shoot me with! That is too much information and is confusing to the customer. Sure, all those costs are real but roll all the costs into one simple hourly rate that covers it. Too much information invites unwanted questions. Go to flat rate pricing so the customer knows the cost up front and explain that payment for service is required before they leave the home. Make it simple and easy to understand.

• Clean Up the Area When Work is Completed
I saved this one for last for a reason. This is one thing, from the customer’s perspective, has NOT changed over the years. Most customers, especially women, see a direct correlation between how well the technician cleaned up and the quality of the work that was performed. Is that right or fair? No, but it really doesn't matter because from the customers’ perspective it's true. Customer oriented companies recognize that fact and require all service technicians to take a small vacuum into the home to clean up the work area before they leave. Yes, it will take an extra 5-10 minutes per call. Simply add the time, and therefore the dollars, to your flat rate pricing guide and the cost is not only covered but you will then have a happy customer that is likely to mention how well the technician cleaned up to her friends and neighbors.

Repeat customers that recommend your company to others are the foundation stone for profitable growth. Creating programs that are centered on the customer’s wants and needs will become more and more important as time goes on.

Here's a parting thought. Think about creating a "customer" board of directors. Meet quarterly and ask for suggestions on how your company can become more customer oriented. It might change the way you do business and will increase your bottom line profitability!

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Dave Ramsey's Entreleadership: Enhance Communication

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

by Dave Ramsey

“What we’ve got here is a failure to communicate.”

You might remember this quote from the movie Cool Hand Luke. While it’s one of the most popular and often-quoted lines in movie history — and it might even make you smile — there’s nothing funny about a lack of communication within your organization. As a leader, it is your responsibility to intentionally and deliberately create a team culture where there is consistent communication at all times.

Communication is the grease that keeps the gears of your company moving, and without it team members feel detached and insecure. When they feel like they’re being left out, they can start to feel like they aren’t involved in a worthwhile venture. Just as bad, they begin to question their value to the company.

With that in mind, here are five practical steps you can take to create a culture of good communication within your business:

• Avoid “mushroom communication” – People want to know what is going on and why things are happening, even when situations are going badly. Still, many leaders use what I call mushroom communication. This means they leave their team in the dark, and feed them manure. Bad idea!

• Overcommunicate – When it doubt, share more!

• Establish predetermined goals – Make sure your team understands goals and expectations laid out by leadership. Accountability is a great motivator, so put things in writing and require regular reports of their progress. Remember, a culture of uncertainty creates fear. And fear develops quickly when good communication is missing.

• Foster unity – A team isn’t a team unless it has shared goals and visions. Create a mission statement, and have everyone memorize it. Personal mission statements help ensure what you’re doing is consistent with your life and career goals.

• Practice thoughtfulness – Avoid knee-jerk reactions, and never try to communicate with your team when you’re angry or upset. Also, communicate in ways that will ensure people are educated and enlightened, not harmed or embarrassed. Remember the Golden Rule? Handle issues the way you’d want your own issues addressed. Otherwise, people will lose respect for you and question your integrity.

The greatest problem in communication is the illusion that it has been accomplished. Communication should be attempted early, often and should be an everyday requirement on all levels in the workplace!

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Moving From Technician to Management

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

by Tom Grandy

This article could apply to any person in any position but this month we are going to specifically focus on the technician that wants to move into management. Do all techs desire to move into a salaried position with additional responsibilities. Of course not but some do, so what is the process?

The process is a lot simpler than you might expect. To move you up, your work ethic and your attitude need to catch the attention of the company owner and/or your manager. Did you notice “skills to do the job” were not on the list? It’s kind of like being a college graduate. That piece of paper you earned will get you through the door. However once you are in the door, in most cases, someone within the company will teach you the specifics of the job you are filling. It’s the same for the individual in the technician role that wants to advance. You have to get in the door.

We have all been to fast food restaurants. If you are like me, every once in a while the employee behind the counter catches my attention for one of several reasons. It might be their smile, positive attitude and/or the way they made the extra effort to please you; which could happen in a variety of ways. The point is this. You instantly noticed they were different than most others in the same position. If my wife is with me and we notice an individual like that we usually have this little conversation at our table. It goes something like this. “You know what? That person that just waited on us will not be here long. With that kind of an attitude sooner or later a customer like us will contact them about working for their company.” And guess what? When we return weeks or months later the person is gone!

Did you catch the above phrase “You instantly noticed they were different than most others in the same position.”? No one told you they were different. They didn’t have a sign stuck on their forehead that said “I am different”. No one at the door said “Notice John or Suzie behind the counter, he or she does an exceptional job”. You just knew they were different without anyone having to point it out.
That is the beginning point for technicians that wish to move up within the ranks of the company. The owner and/or manager needs to notice without anyone saying anything that you are different. Let’s look are a few practical ways you can stand out from the crowd and be noticed:

• Show Up On Time Every Day – This might sound trite but it’s not. Owners and managers notice when employees consistently show up on time day after day, week after week, month after month and yes, year after year. Showing up a bit early each day (so you are ready to start work when the clock hits 7:30 AM) is simply icing on the cake. Look around at your fellow techs. How many of them show up on time every day? Those that do, stand out.

• Attitude – Remember the person behind the counter at the fast food restaurant? Their attitude instantly said they were different without a word having been spoken. A consistently good attitude will draw attention to an individual like bees to honey. Why? Individuals with consistently positive attitudes are rare and everyone wants a person like that on their team.

• Appearance – This is important. If you are a technician the first impression a customer has about you as an individual (which transfers to the customer’s perception of your abilities and the quality of work the company offers) is based on appearance. Is that fair? No. Is it real? Yes. Practice being a manager by dressing like one. Clean uniforms, combed hair and no visible body art all make a good impression. Your current look may be ok if you are a tech in the field. However, we are trying to catch management’s eye so start by being clean and neat in your general appearance. Believe me, management will notice.

• Team Player – Being a team player means putting other people’s interest and the companies’ above your own. The “all about me” individual will never be a team player so bloom where you’re planted. As a tech, help the other techs. Give them a hand when you see a need. Take care to return tools and/or unused parts to their proper shelf. If John needs help loading a truck and you want to get on to your job, well it’s time to die to YOUR needs. That’s what being a team player is all about.

• Paperwork – It is highly unlikely you will instantly do an outstanding job on paperwork if you were promoted. The time to “show” management you can handle that portion of the job is by doing it properly in your current position. Practice makes perfect and it also forms a habit. Few techs do a good job when it comes to paperwork. If you do a great job, guess what happens? Right, people notice!

• Pointing Out Ways To Improve – Owners and managers want things to run as smoothly as possible. That also means they are open to new ideas. As a technician you see how inventory is set up in the truck and probably have suggestions for improvement. You are constantly filling out forms and paperwork that could be redesigned to be more efficient. If you are assigned a specific truck, take ownership of it. Keep it washed, be sure regular maintenance is performed, drive it as if it were your personal vehicle and be sure it is properly inventoried so you can be as efficient as possible on the job. If repairs are needed, be sure management is notified. Share your thoughts and ideas with your supervisor. It will make you stand out.

• Taking Classes – Trust me. Any owner and/or manager worth their salt will notice when you start taking the initiative to improve you education and skill level and therefore your value to the company. If they see you are making the individual effort to improve your skill set that WILL impress them.

In summary, if you want to move up within the company, the best way to be noticed is to become an outstanding performer within the position you currently occupy. If you will take the initiative to excel in the above areas I promise you management will take notice and you will be seriously considered when an opening needs to be filled.

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Great Individual Techs Don't Automatically Create A Team

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

By Tom Grandy

I live in Kentucky and I am an avid University of Kentucky basketball fan!  However, I used to live in Durham, NC home of the Duke Blue Devils.  Back in the mid-seventies Duke had five high school All-Americans on the team which during those years was quite unusual.  Each was an outstanding individual performer at the high school level but they never made the transition to becoming an outstanding university basketball team. 

Fast forward about 40 years.  The University of Kentucky under John Calipari routinely has multiple McDonalds All-Americans on the team.  As of this writing the Wildcats have five freshman McDonald's All-Americans on the floor this year.  They have already signed six All-Americans (number one recruiting class for 2017-2018) on the roster for next year. 

Lots of teams have great players but great teams have found a way to teach highly skilled individual players how to become unselfish in order to create a "winning team".  John Calipari seems to have mastered that art. 

When it comes to creating a great team within the trades industry the same principles apply.  Individual talent is great and needed but if all the players are not willing to sacrifice individual glory for the sake of the team ... there will not be a winning team. 

Year after year I have watched very talented players on U of K's team die to being the star they were in high school for the sake of the team.  Even though they may not have been the star they hoped to be in college many of those unselfish players have been drafted into the pros where they have had outstanding careers. 

There is something about being a team player that benefits all the members.  Are you a team player or do you simply want to be the star performer?  The real star performers are those that take time to help and encourage their teammates.  The Three Musketeers had it right, "one for all and all for one". 

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Lessons Learned from the Sight and Sound Theater - Part 5 of 5: Summarizing What We have Learned

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

by Tom Grandy

Let's recap what we have learned from the Sight and Sound Theater. 

Mission Statement
It's important to know where you are going but even more important to know why you are going there. The overall purpose of a mission statement is to set the direction of the company.  Once the mission statement is created the challenge is to be sure the entire staff, office, and techs, not only know what the mission of the company is but are able to convey that mission to the customer.  That is the challenge of company owners today.

Hiring and Training Employees
You will remember how the Sight and Sound organization only hired employees who had a personal vision that matched the company mission.  Actors were required to learn multiple scripts as they were not assigned their part until one hour before show time. Translated, ALL employees were cross trained for multiple positions.

The final food for thought was this:  There was no job security!  We talked about the TV ads for stocks.  The byline said, "Past performance is no guarantee of future performance".  At the conclusion of each season ALL actors had to re-apply to be chosen to be part of the next production.  If they have performed well over the past year they would be considered as part of the new cast but there was no guarantee of future employment simply because they may have done a good job in the past.  I want to challenge you to see how you might apply this principle to your company and its workforce.

Long Range Planning
New presentations don't just appear each year.  Each show goes through a detailed, planned, development process that takes nearly three years from conception to show time.  Every aspect of the customer experience is planned in detail. The same is true for your business.  Providing outstanding customer experiences day after day, month after month, and year after year will not happen without a great deal of planning and training.  The result for the Sight and Sound Theater is gross sales exceeding $75,000,000 per year with a healthy net profit. However, it is important to note that it's their mission that drives the company to provide a consistent customer experience.  Profit just happens to be the fruit of having accomplished those two goals. 

Marketing is essential for any business including the Sight and Sound Theater.  An outstanding overall marketing program is essential for any new business but the overall goal is to create happy repeat customers that will recommend your products and services to others.  To be sure that is happening the company needs to measure and evaluate its success on a regular basis.  If the mission is being accomplished and an outstanding customer experience is being provided, the measure of success will be an increasing percentage of repeat and referral customers.  To "know" that is happening means the numbers need to be tracked.

Training for the Unexpected
We talked about how the animals used during the performance were not just well trained but were trained for the unexpected.  Most quality employees will be able to perform time and again under normal circumstances.  However, the really valuable employees are those that adapt well when things don't go as planned.  That will not just happen.  That will require forethought and training well in advance of the actual circumstance coming about.

You will remember that the Sight and Sound Theater did not expand to its second location in Branson, Missouri until every aspect of their production and marketing process had become a well-oiled “system”.  Most company owners are thinking, at least in the back of their mind, that one day they will expand.  That might mean expanded coverage from their current location or it might mean adding a location.  In either case it will require long range planning.  This is talked out as the company hires employees that will one day become managers.  It involves purchasing equipment of high quality that will last a long time and be able handle many types of work.  Eventual expansion also means developing an outstanding marketing program that can be duplicated in other locations.  As the everyday process is being accomplished expansion is always in the back of the owner’s mind and it indirectly drives their everyday decision making.

Yes, there is much to be learned from successful companies like the Sight and Sound Theater.  Becoming successful in the long run will require detailed planning centered on a very solid mission statement that all employees embrace and walk out with each and every day.

By the way, if you are ever in Lancaster, Pennsylvania or Branson, Missouri be sure to take in a Sight and Sound show.  You will be glad you did.

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Dave Ramsey's Entreleadership: Being a Leader Within Your Community

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Leadership means doing a lot more than making hiring decisions, signing paychecks, and taking care of your team and your company. True leaders motivate others to take action.

When you think of leaders in your community, who comes to mind? Public officials? Civic group presidents? Pastors? These are fine choices, but many entrepreneurs don’t realize how their business acumen and leadership skills in the corporate world can be used to enhance the communities in which they live.

If you don’t already consider yourself a leader with the community, then think about this: You have the potential to be one. If you’ve ever wanted to be more civic minded, and become a leader in the private sector as well, take some time to think about these ideas.

Find a cause you’re passionate about
Believe it or not, you have the power to influence other decision-makers in your community. When an issue that’s important to you arises, write letters to politicians respectfully expressing your thoughts and ideas. Attend town hall meetings, and tell your city council why you care. Get to know these people, and make your voice heard in a kind and thoughtful manner.

Make it a family service outing
True servant leaders put others first. Is there a ministry or a nonprofit whose mission you identify with? Find one you really believe in, and give it your all. Invest your time, energy and resources into it, and you’ll have the power to make a real difference.

On top of that, make it a family affair. Giving back to the community while sharing the experience with your family can be a bonding and learning experience your kids will remember the rest of their lives.

Make things personal
There’s something special about a handwritten note in today’s culture of email and text messages — especially one that’s unexpected. If you know someone who has a tough job or just needs a reminder that they’re awesome, let them know! You’re guaranteed to become a source of inspiration in their lives. People who do things like this gain influence and respect.

Surprise people whose job it is to serve others
People who work stressful jobs serving others often don’t receive the appreciation they deserve. Let them know their work matters! Bring treats to the nurses’ station at your local hospital or to the teachers’ lounge at your neighborhood school. Drop off some pizza or sandwiches at the police department or fire station. Then, watch their faces light up when you remind them they’re respected!

So are you ready now to make a difference in your community? Leadership opportunities don’t happen just at work; they’re are all around you. All you have to do is choose one and start making a difference!

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Dave Ramsey's Entreleadership: Leadership Lessons from the Greats

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

By Dave Ramsey

Football lovers are in a frenzy this time of year. The NFL and NCAA playoffs are in full swing, and the Big Game is just weeks away. While most fans focus on the players and their exploits on the field, a lot can be learned from the men on the sidelines who devise strategy and call the plays.

Successful coaches are some of the greatest leaders you’ll ever meet. Not only do they know how to break down the competition and identify weaknesses, they can motivate and inspire their teams to work together toward greatness.

Whether you’re a fan of the game or not, as an entrepreneur you can learn a lot about leadership from some of the greatest football coaches in history.

Create a positive culture
Whether you’re leading a football team or a business organization, creating a positive team culture is vital. The San Francisco 49ers went 2-14 the year before Bill Walsh was named head coach. Once Walsh took over and began to address the mental issues he believed were problematic, the 49ers underwent a dramatic transformation and won three championships in the 1980s.

Later, Coach Walsh said part of the credit for those victories and the team’s success went to the cultural changes he and his coaching staff made. He called it a leadership philosophy that had as much to do with core values, ideals, and principles as it did with blocking, tackling, and passing. It was a change in attitude.

Leading is teaching
Vince Lombardi was one of the finest leaders and winners in NFL history. As the coach of the tough 1960s Green Bay Packers, Lombardi also valued the cerebral parts of the game. “They call it coaching, but it is teaching,” he said. “You don’t just tell them [. . .], you show them the reasons.” 
Compare that approach with the stereotypical loud-mouthed boss who treats his team members like four-year-olds in a daycare. Executing your assignments is necessary. But teaching the reasons behind a philosophy educates and empowers — both on and off the field.

Tom Landry made the Dallas Cowboys into “America’s Team” during the 1970s. Landry was one of the first professional football coaches to hire a strength and conditioning coach. He was also the first to hire a quality-control coach to study game film and look for tendencies in opponents. 
Now all NFL teams have specialty coaches. Landry famously said, “The will to prepare is more important than the will to succeed.”

Following a few mediocre years at Alabama, some people wondered if Bear Bryant was cut out to be a coach. Then, in the early 1970s, Bryant shook things up by throwing the “wishbone” offense at the competition. The rest is history; he led the Crimson Tide to eight SEC Championships and three national titles in a decade. Would most of us even know Bear Bryant’s name if he didn’t have the guts to make that change?

If something works really well, stick with it. But never be afraid to shoot the sacred cows within your organization. Doing something for no better reason than it’s always been done that way is the death knell for any organization. Sometimes a new direction, or an infusion of new ideas, is exactly what’s needed.

Patience is a virtue
It took Bobby Bowden nearly 30 years to win his first college football national championship in 1993. Between 1987 and 2000, his Florida State teams were dominant, never losing more than two games in a season. But what would’ve happened if Bowden had let 1976’s five-win season or a six-win campaign in 1981 get him down?

Don’t expect success overnight. Most people at the top of their professions spent 20 years working their tails off — being patient, focused and dedicated — before anyone labeled them an overnight success. In other words, there’s no such thing as an “overnight success.”

These football coaches were the best of the best. Whether they coached amateur players in college or professionals in the NFL, they learned how to get the best from their teams. If you follow their advice, you can get the best out of your team, too!

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What Does the Customer Remember About You Two Years Later?

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

By Tom Grandy

Two years ago our van was broken into while we were at Myrtle Beach. The thief entered the van by smashing the back passenger window. Obviously we needed to have the window replaced as soon as possible. I called our insurance company and they put me in touch with the local Safelite Auto Glass replacement company. They were amazing. They were so amazing that I wrote a full length lead article on their service a couple years ago.

However, today I want to focus on my memory of the service experience nearly two years ago. I was thinking about the experience last night and tried to recall what “really stuck” with me after all this time. Three things came to mind:

• Quality of the Work – We all want quality work but at this point in America we have come to expect outstanding quality work. We may not always get it but we do expect it. In terms of my experience with Safelite, my expectations were not just met they were exceeded. However, that is not what really stuck with me two years later.

• Communication – What comes to mind about my experience is communication. Once the insurance company put me in contact with the glass company the communication was amazing! They called to see when “I” wanted to schedule the window replacement. We set a day and time and he told me they would call before arriving.

The day of the planned service they called to confirm what time the technician would be arriving. To my amazement I got a second call later in the morning, from the tech himself telling me he was about 5 minutes from our condo. The repair necessitated a follow up visit a few days later. Same communication, I received a call first thing in the morning to confirm the time and another call from the tech when he was about 5 minutes from the condo.

Two calls, two different days, with the tech arriving at the scheduled time. I was impressed! As you can tell this kind of communication is what I remembered two years later.

• The Tech Was Friendly –When a tech comes to perform work at my home, or in this case on my van, I like to watch the tech. He worked on the van for nearly an hour during which he answered all my questions … patiently. He shared about his family, having run his own business at one time, and how he coached his son’s baseball team. After two visits from the same tech I felt like we were friends even though the probability of ever seeing him again was remote at best.

So what did I remember about the visit roughly two years later? I remembered the outstanding communication and how friendly the tech was. Could that be some of what impresses other customers? Who knows but it begs the question “What kind of impression do you or your team leave with the customer?"

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Lessons Learned from the Sight and Sound Theater - Part 4 of 5: Marketing and Training for the Unexpected and Expansion

Friday, February 10, 2017

by Tom Grandy

This has been a fun journey. We have been taking a close look at the business practices of the highly successful Sight and Sound Theater in Lancaster, PA. We have looked at their mission statement, hiring and training practices and long range planning. Now let’s turn our attention to marketing, training for the unexpected and expansion.

Like any business, marketing is a key element. It's really hard to sell something that the potential customer does not know exists. The theater markets everywhere possible from billboards to toll booths. Their website is amazing ... check it out. However, after many years of providing top quality performances guess what happened? You got it. Referrals (word of mouth from satisfied customers) have taken over. How else can you explain the need to purchase tickets months in advance before the performance is sold out! Now I don't have the facts to back it up but I would suspect a high percentage of the theater seats sold are sold to past satisfied customers wanting to see the next show. Hey, my wife and I are two of those people. We live in Kentucky and my sister lives in Baltimore, a couple hours from Lancaster, PA where the Sight and Sound Theater is located. We made plans in June to fly up for a visit in August which includes driving to Lancaster to attend the latest production titled Samson. Yes, we bought our August tickets in June.

Everyone reading this post is familiar with marketing at least to some extent. Most successful trades company spends a lot of money on marketing at least during the initial years in business. However, the true indicator of the quality of the products and services you offer can be easily measured by the percentage of repeat customers you have. If you are not already doing this, begin tracking your calls to determine what percentage is created by referrals through your current customer base and/or what percentage are repeat customers. If that is a significant percentage and it's growing, that is really good fruit. If that is not the case I would strongly suggest you take a really close look at the "show" you are presenting.

Training for the Unexpected
If you are at all familiar with the Biblical story of Noah you are aware there were a lot of animals involved. Two of all animals were on the ark and seven of the animals were used for sacrifice. Guess what? The show Noah had a lot of animals as well, over 60 to be exact. Training that number of animals to "do their part" was no small task. The animals had to have housing, food, and trainers were hired. They had a full time vet because animals are like people in the sense that they occasionally get sick. Training was unique for each animal. The birds were trained to follow a light source. The pigs followed a food chain on the floor (surprise) while others responded to sounds and/or motion. Learning the parts is one thing but performing under pressure with a live audience is another. To help de-sensitize them, the soundtrack for the play was played continuously to get them used to the music and singing.

Do you remember a professional golfer named Tiger Woods? His dad would purposely drop him golf bag during his backswing and/or make distracting sounds while he was swinging. Why? It was to train him to perform under pressure when unexpected distractions occurred. The animals were trained in a similar way. During rehearsals they were intentionally distracted until they were so used to the process that an unexpected distraction did not hinder their performance. As a side note, all customers were told NOT to turn on their cell phones. That sounded like a reasonable request but not for the reason you might expect. Remember, the birds were trained to respond to a light source. Our guide told us that during one of the performances a theater attendee turned on their cell phone which produced light. You guessed it; one of the hawks was soon in mid-flight and landed on the customers head!

We talked about training earlier but this section goes beyond basic training. This section speaks to training your staff and technicians how to react under unusual and unexpected circumstances. All professional golfers can hit any club in their bag with a yard or so of where they want it to land. However, the eventual winner of the tournament is often the golfer that made a mistake but recovered well. That is what your staff needs to be trained for. How do they act or react when things don't go as expected. This requires unique training.

Most successful companies grow. Some simply expand coverage from the current location while others open up new locations many miles away. By that point in a company’s history training has become standard and they know how to market to get the business. The Sight and Sound Theater is no exception. They had everything down to a system prior to even entertaining the idea of expanding to a second location. The second location ended up being in Branson, Missouri. When the season is over in Lancaster, PA the entire show is moved to Branson for the following season. Wow, what a task. That meant the all props; costumes and scenes had to be moved by truck to Branson. That also meant the all scenery had to be designed to be disassembled in order to fit into transfer trucks. The last show required 42 trucks to move everything!

So what is the lesson for our businesses? It is pretty obvious. Make sure all systems, policies, training, marketing and procedures are in place BEFORE you even think about expansion. Each new location will have its own unique challenges. If the basics are not in place it will be a disaster when the new unique problems arise.

Next month we will wrap up our journey by recapping what we have learned.

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