The Advantage Letter by Dave Martin
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Tuesday, March 15, 2016
Volume 21 | # 500
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If we doubted our fears instead of doubting our dreams, imagine how much in life we'd accomplish. » Joel Brown


It is a sign that you’re getting older when “milestones” sneak up with increasing frequency.  It wasn’t until I programmed the last edition of this letter that it sank in that this one would be the 500th consecutive edition.  

When I wrote that first letter, quite a few folks now in branches reading this one were not born yet.  Man, time marches on.

My wife and I did not have children when I wrote that first letter.  I now have a son who will vote in the next election and another who will drive soon. (Pray for us.)  

The greatest dog ever showed up on our doorstep along the way and spent 15 years watching over us before deciding a couple of years back that his job was done, and it was time to rest.  

In speeches, I often show a slide with a scan of the first letter on it.  I joke that if I had known I would still be writing this thing 20+ years later… I may have been too intimidated to write the first one.  

My wife and I still laugh about when I came home in early 1995 and said I was going to begin writing a newsletter.  She did her best to feign enthusiasm and asked, “Mmm…why?”

After a few failed attempts to explain what I was thinking, I finally hit on it.  I believe that most folks know what their jobs require.  Banks (and most businesses) are pretty good at telling us what needs to be done and even how they’d like us to do it.

Humans, however, are interesting beings.  We like to know why.  We want to know how we fit in and why and how our individual efforts matter.  

People love to think and learn but don’t enjoy being preached to.  If you can make a point while making folks smile…you might actually reach them.

Moreover, our brains are wired to remember stories and analogies.  We are far more likely to internalize a message in the context of a narrative.

Its 500 letters and 1,000 or so columns and stories down the road now… and I’ve almost figured out whether all that makes sense.  Honestly, it makes more sense on some days than others.   

But it’s helped generate a few thousand new contacts and a few hundred new friends (actual, not Facebook) along the way.  In the end, that’s not a bad tradeoff for 20+ years of thinking and typing.

Time marches on.  There are no pause buttons on any of our calendars.  What milestones - professional and personal ones - are you working on right now?  

Whatever else you do, enjoy the trip.


Through-the-Roof Service

While on an early evening bike ride through our neighborhood recently, I saw a yard sign that made me smile.  Our friends had their roof replaced, and the sign in their yard was from the roofing company I recommended to them.

When I later found out about their decision making process, it reinforced one of the mantras I’ve preached to bankers for years.  Your most powerful marketing message each day is the attitude you display and how you treat the people in front of you.  

As our recent outdoor living room addition was near completion, we began noticing leaks around the fireplace when it rained. Our GC thought the roofers he used had not installed the flashing on the flattened portion of the roof properly.  

He brought in another company to attempt to alleviate the leaks.

The owner and supervisor on the crew that came out, David, was an exceptionally polite and engaging young man.  He and his crew spent several hours redoing the roof around the chimney and did find potential problems with the original job.

Yet, the next rain again brought a few leaks.  David came back, double-checked the roof, and developed a theory.  He suspected rain was getting into cracks in the mortar far above the new roof and running down between the bricks.  

The leak was, in fact, not coming from any of the new construction.

However, this wall was previously an exposed wall, and we would never have seen a leak.  David personally came out on the next sunny day and spent several hours sealing the bricks above the new roofline.  And it worked like a charm.

He refused payment for the extra work (even from the GC) though the problem he fixed was truly not in his “job description” or in any way his fault.  

He smiled and said, “You don’t care why it leaks…only that it leaks. I can’t have old mortar ruining my work.”  

Only a few weeks later, my friend texted me to say they were going to be replacing their entire (huge, expensive) roof.  He wanted to know if I recommended anyone, and I told him our story.

I later learned they chose David after getting competitive bids from many companies.  They did so primarily because his previous actions showed he could be trusted to do the right thing for customers.  

His beyond-the-expected effort on our job was the “marketing expense” that got him a much larger one.

How will you earn your next customer today?


Be happy with what you have while working for what you want. » Helen Keller

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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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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