The Advantage Letter by Dave Martin
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Monday, June 01, 2015
Volume 21 | # 481
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Always remember that the soundest way to progress in any organization is to help the person ahead of you get promoted. » L.S. Hamaker

Stone Cutting 20 Years Later

Stone Cutting 20 Years Later

A TV commercial featuring Steph Curry came on recently that had me leaning forward in my chair.  An older man’s voice (Bill Russell’s) was reciting a verse… or maybe it was a sonnet… whatever.  But it brought back memories.

I told my son, “Hey, I’ve used that quote before.”  He seemed to doubt me.  Apparently, I’m too old and not cool enough to have used something from a Steph Curry commercial.

I laughed and told him that I hated to burst his bubble, but that quote was one I used in the very first newsletter I wrote…as it turns out, 20 years ago this week. 

It is by Jacob Riis: “When nothing seems to help, I go and look at a stonecutter hammering away at his rock perhaps a hundred times without as much as a crack showing in it.  Yet at the hundred and first blow, it will split in two, and I know it was not that blow that did it – but all that had gone before.”

That quote is being read in the new Steph Curry commercial as he practices shooting the ball alone, over and over in a darkened gymnasium.  At the end of the commercial, he is making a 3-pointer during a game. 

(Rockets fans know that image well.)

I asked my son, “Do you get what that quote means?”  He said, “Yeah.  You have to practice if you’re ever going to be good at something.”

He wasn’t totally wrong.  But I told him that he might be missing the bigger point.  In sports or businesses or life in general, we don’t always see the immediate results we’d like to see. 

Even when we work hard, there are times in which we see no concrete evidence that we’re making progress. 

It’s easy to become discouraged and stop giving full effort.  But you never know if that next shot or swing or pitch or proposal will be the one that “breaks through” for you. 

Your successful days are more often than not the result of the days in which things didn’t go your way – and you chose to keep giving your full effort anyway.

In sports or business or life in general, those who reach their full potential are those who put in the work each day - even when success is illusive. 

It’s not easy.  But it’s not very complicated either.

Lots of people are eager to learn and copy top producers’ best practices and tricks-of-the-trade.  In the end, however, it’s usually their work ethic and constancy of effort that are successful folks’ true keys to success. 

Make them yours as well.

Where's the Ark?

Where's the Ark?

The field technicians from our electricity provider are heroes in my book.  Yet, recent experiences with their company reminded me of just how important honesty and expectation management are in customers’ satisfaction with a company. 

Southeast Texas was pounded with severe thunderstorms late in the day on Memorial Day.  I hadn’t paid attention to the forecast for that evening. 

When satellite reception began going out early in the Rockets game, I figured it was a typical thunderstorm that blows through in a few minutes.

Then, when a gust of wind blew the backyard basketball goal down, sent chairs airborne, and knocked out the power… I began paying attention.  Now sitting in the dark, I looked at weather radar on my phone.  Whoa. 

Over the next 7 hours, we received 10+ inches of rain and severe lightning. 

The radar images were like few I’d ever seen.  I suggested to my wife that yellow was light rain, green was moderate, red was heavy, purple was severe, and the occasional white blotch at the center must have indicated “biblical rain.”  (It did.)

The automated phone system at the electric company said power to my neighborhood would be restored within two hours.  Their website said the same. 

When that time came and went, it would push the “power back on” time back 90 minutes or so.  Looking at the radar, I knew there was absolutely no way anyone could be out working on transformers and power lines. 

Yet thousands of customers continued to be informed that power should be on by certain times… down to the minute.  It was obviously automated and obviously false.

I was happy to see two technicians in our neighborhood by early afternoon the next day.  While assessing the damage, two neighbors commented about how those techs were much later than the company said they’d be. 

I joked, “Well, it’s a little more complicated than delivering pizzas.”

I’m sure that their “estimating” procedure works fine in normal situations.  In this case, it only set up the company to look incompetent while their field folks were in fact doing very impressive work.

The wise, old customer service advice of under-promising and over-delivering still resonates.  Few traits in financial services matter more than the basic trust that you say what you’ll do and then do it. 

How can you over-deliver for your customers today?


The curious paradox is that when I accept myself just as I am, then I can change. » Carl Rogers

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Dave Martin has become one of the most prolific writers in the banking industry. His columns and newsletters are read in thousands of financial institutions each month. His keynote presentations, seminars, and podcasts have an authenticity and humor that brings teams of all sizes and seniority levels together.

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