The Advantage Letter by Dave Martin
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Thursday, December 15, 2016
Volume 22 | # 518
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Thank God every morning when you get up that you have something to do which must be done, whether you like it or not. » Charles Kingsley

New Good Old Days

I have recently been grinning as I open one time capsule after another. They weren’t buried in the ground or encased in cement.

They also weren’t meant to be time capsules at the time I filled them.
In preparing to repurpose a walk-in closet in my home office, I’ve been forced into examining many long-unopened boxes. I need to assess how much of all that stuff is still important enough to take up storage space in my office.

I’m guessing that the bills from 2004 and bank statements from 1998 I uncovered can be shredded.

But I have a long-held bad habit of writing thoughts and ideas on random scraps of paper, envelopes, and the occasional napkin.

This ends up turning them from trash into notes for future columns and speeches. The fact that some have been sealed in Rubbermaid containers for over a decade does not mean I will not one day find hidden gems in that trash…uh…notes.

I also had to laugh at some of the things I remembered carefully storing. It appears I saved every hard copy of any national piece I wrote as if it were going to be my last.

Then again, even after 20 years, I still think that each one may be the last.

As I went through boxes unopened for a decade or more, nostalgia for “the good old days” kicked in. Opening an old briefcase with a Nokia cell phone still inside was like the diner scene in Pulp Fiction: “Is that what I think it is?”

As I smiled, remembering things I hadn’t thought about for years, I reflected on something I frequently suggest to groups. Whenever we are faced with stress or hardships, we tend to romanticize the past.

Those times were “simpler.”

I remind folks that…well, they probably weren’t. We think of the past as safer and simpler because we know how it turned out.

We survived.

Most (thankfully) tend to forget some or most of the setbacks, nervous stomachs and sleepless nights experienced during the same periods the fond memories we’ve kept were made.

No, recognizing this may not make our current challenges easier.

However, it is healthy to remind ourselves that while some challenges we face may be new, we are not new to facing challenges. We are simply more keenly aware of the issues facing us today.

Enjoy and appreciate the future “good old days” ahead of you in the new year.

Appreciating Culture

I’m not sure what subject was the second most discussed topic in banking over the past year.

But it’s a safe bet that sales practices was the most discussed.

I suppose that should not surprise anyone when the biggest banking story of the year involved sales misconduct at a megabank.

Is it possible for a story to be really, really, big… and yet still get overblown? I would suggest…well…yes.

Pundits have been pundits and real and imagined experts have come from all quarters to condemn, chastise, and instruct bankers on how they must run their businesses in the future.

Of course, a large percentage of the most vocal critics and “experts” have never run banks… or even bank branches.

Businesses seem much easier to manage when you are not the person actually responsible for managing and growing them.

As the year has winded down, I’ve been asked by a few publications working on year-in-review pieces about the future of branches and the branch experience.

One of the most asked questions has been whether banks and credit unions will be able to have “sales cultures” in the future.

I’ve joked with a few that many bankers would chuckle at the suggestion that they actually have sales cultures within their branches. Many more managers have struggled in fostering sales activities than in reining-in overzealous bankers.

I’ve suggested to these columnists that questioning whether we can “sell” in the future is like asking if we can breathe in the future. Initiating new and deepening existing customer relationships are what bring oxygen into companies – and careers.

You can call it growth, expansion, or gaining market share if it sounds more palatable these days.

However, a point I try to make is that the healthiest sales cultures and sales behaviors in no way resemble the stereotypical used-car salesman or mall-kiosk cellular phone guys.

The most productive sales cultures make customers and visitors feel welcomed, respected, and appreciated.

When we focus on consistently behaving in manners that generate those feelings within customers, we create the environments that lead to more and better conversations.

Better conversations lead to more relationships.

Who will you make feel welcome, respected, and appreciated today?

To fly, we have to have resistance. » Maya Lin

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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