The Advantage Letter by Dave Martin
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Friday, June 15, 2012
Volume 18 | # 410
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Courage is what it takes to stand up and speak; courage is also what it takes to sit down and listen. » Winston Churchill

Sign Him Up

I shared a little career and life advice with my sons last week in an unexpected place. We were on vacation and doing the cheesiest of tourist things.

We were on a Hollywood Stars’ Homes Tour.  In all honestly, they should call it a Stars’ driveway-gates and 10-foot-tall hedges tour.

That said, William H. Macy accidentally walked out while our roofless 15 passenger mini-bus rolled by. As he ducked his head to sneak on by, I simply said, “Hi Bill.” He smiled, told me “Good morning,” and high-fived me.

I thought that was pretty cool until my mom texted me, “I have no idea who that is.”

The teaching opportunity came about after a comment made by our driver. When she had volunteered that she was “working on” a master’s degree before we had even left the parking lot, I got a hint of what the next two hours would be like.

We also quickly learned (without asking) what her favorite music is, that she’s been driving that route for 5 years and has “seniority” with the company, and has a (self-identified) incredible imagination.

As we made our way down one busy street, we couldn’t help but notice one of those sign-holding guys on a corner. I’m not talking panhandlers. This was one of those guys who are paid by local businesses to wave sales signs. And this young man was putting on a show that would make a drum major proud.

His sign was blade shaped and his choreography reminded me of a “Kill Bill” fight scene.

The 40-something-year-old perpetual student driving our bus snarked, “Kids, this is why you want to stay in school. You don’t want to end up doing that for a living, do you?”

My wife pinched me as “Whoa…Whoa…Whoa” sprang from my lips. She gave me the death stare and said, “Let it go.” So, I fought back the urge to address our driver.

Instead, I leaned over to my sons and told them that I respected that young man. In fact, he was a role model. He was getting paid to do a job… and he was giving them their money’s worth.

It may not be what he wants to do forever. But buddy, he was doing the job he has today better than anyone I’d seen doing that particular job before.

My 11-year-old grinned and said, “That’s pretty cool.” I told him, “Yes it is, son. Yes it is.”

Each of us has a job to do today. They may be jobs we’ll have long term...or not.

But would how you do yours motivate anyone watching you today?

Strike a Chord with Customers

While my son was taking guitar lessons recently, I found a corner of the store to open my laptop and work on a presentation. One of the teachers walked by and asked what I was working on.

This led to my trying to explain what I do for a living. I was entertained by how surprised he was that banks have marketing and sales challenges similar to most retailers.

I took the opportunity to quiz him a bit about his banking habits in order to make a point.

He and his wife moved to our area 7 years ago. He picked his bank because of the abundance of ATM’s that he could make deposits into.

But he couldn’t remember the last time he made an ATM deposit. And he’s been to a bank branch once in the past 6 months.

I asked him if he actually knew any of his bank’s employees by name. He didn’t. I followed with, “If you needed something like a loan right now, would you go straight to your bank or shop around?” He said he’d likely shop around.

He then chuckled and said, “I guess you guys do have a ways to go, huh?”

I replied, “Well, we’re working on it.”

We then chatted about the challenges his business faces. Increasingly, customers are pricing musical instruments online. He became animated explaining that many folks come into their shop and try out pianos and guitars… and then buy them online.

He said, “It’s frustrating when someone comes in, plays our instruments, asks our advice, and then either buys online or expects us to match a price from a company that isn’t paying for a showroom or employees to help them.”

He then shared that their music lessons business was actually expanding. And he found that when folks took lessons with them, they tend to buy their instruments from them… even when they know they can probably find them cheaper elsewhere.

I suggested that was because personal relationships tend to matter more to folks than a few dollars. You can’t be out of line in pricing, but if you are in the ballpark, relationships trump price.

I suggested, “Maybe you should offer a free lesson or two if folks buy with you. That would make your deal more attractive and also give you a chance to create new relationships.”

He paused and said, “I think I’m gonna suggest that.” And then, “Man, I can’t believe that bankers actually think like retailers now.”

I smiled and replied, “Well, we’re working on it.”

Be yourself; everyone else is already taken. » Oscar Wilde

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in these columns are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of any affiliated entities or sponsors.
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