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The Airport Shuttle Ride that was an Amazing Experience

If you fly into Cleveland and need to rent a car…. 

OK, that’s an unlikely scenario, but for the sake of today’s story, imagine that it’s possible. 

If you fly into Cleveland and need to rent a car, I hope you get to ride the shuttle with Felicia.  

It’s not that Felicia is a particularly adept shuttle bus driver. She clipped a curb or two in the ten-minute ride from the airport to the rental car center.  

That’s the “what you do” bit of this story. Our takeaway today is all about the “how.” 

Felicia’s got a pretty good “how.” 

Cleveland Hopkins International is a fine airport. It’s not huge but it has a quirk of geography that requires a shuttle from the terminal to the spot where all the rental car agencies are located. There’s no option. You have to get on the shuttle.   

Felicia probably makes that drive about 40 times a day. Maybe more.  

This is a repetitive task. Same route. Same bleary-eyed set of travelers, only with different T-shirts.  

It would be easy to stare off into the distance watching jets drop on the landing strip and wonder what to make for dinner. 

Or, you could personalize the journey like Felicia and make it memorable, at least for the kids and parents on board. 

Felicia talked about her kids, grandkids and her first great grandkid. She asked questions of the kiddos. And then she did her song. 

“The wheels on the bus go round and round…” 

You know the tune. But then it became more theatrical.  

“The wipers on the bus go slap, slap, slap,” with an accompanying squirt of washer fluid.  

“The horn on the bus goes, beep, beep, beep.” Three toots of the horn. 

“The seat on the bus goes up, up, up.” And this is where it got a little concerning as she bumped up three notches, but still, it was good.  

The kids loved it. The parents were happy for the diversion.  

And you couldn’t help but jump in with, “all around the town” at the end of each verse.  

It was a memorable little moment in a long day of travel. 

It’s also a great example of “How You Do What You Do,” one of the central themes of OnStage, the customer experience training we teach at FiveFour.  

There are opportunities at every step of the customer journey where, with intention and creativity, the routine or mundane tasks can be turned into memorable experiences.  

Book a time with me and we’ll discuss where to find those moments in your business.  

Talk soon.

Three lessons for your business from Steve Jobs

It’s been 10 years since Steve Jobs passed away, but the lessons to be learned from his life and the business he built will be around for a long time. 

Possibly the best insight into what made Jobs what he was comes from the biography “Becoming Steve Jobs” by Brent Schlender and Rick Tetzeli. 

The book was published in 2015 but I read it earlier this year and the takeaways have been rumbling around in my head ever since.  

In my work with clients at FiveFour, I see some of those lessons play out in real life. Not so much in the specifics of building Apple into the most valuable company in the world. Rather in the development of people from entry-level entrepreneur to fully developed business leader.  

You get that message right away from the book’s subtitle: “The Evolution of a Reckless Upstart into a Visionary Leader.” 

What you learn is that Jobs was the right person at the right time to found Apple. He was driven and uncompromising in the goal of revolutionizing the personal computer.  

And he did just that – he took on the biggest computer companies in the world – and won.  

But then he stalled. Not as a company, but as a person. He didn’t develop.  

Jobs was forced out by the Apple board of directors in 1985. The company nearly died before the surge of innovation that revolutionized communication with iPhone, iPad, iEverything. 

When he returned to running the company full-time in 1997, he was a different person. He’d grown and was ready to turn Apple into the most successful company in the world.  

Reading that I was reminded of something we say frequently at FiveFour: Businesses don’t grow, people grow.  

There are three points I take from “Becoming Steve Jobs” that illustrate that phrase. 

First, he learned how to make the products that consumers wanted and the ones that he wanted. That meant he needed to compromise on some things he wanted in order to get a product to market.  

He realized another one of our favorite sayings at FiveFour. That 80 percent done and shipped is always better than 100 percent done and stuck in your head. 

Second, he realized the pitfalls of his own ego. I don’t think the first adjective that comes to mind when you mention Steve Jobs is “humble.” But when he came back to Apple, he was more willing to listen to others, innovators such as the brilliant designer Jony Ive, and Ed Catmull, co-founder of Pixar. 

He learned he didn’t have all the answers. Cue another of our favorite sayings: Don’t be the smartest person in the room. If you are, switch rooms. 

Takeaway three is the relentless focus Jobs brought back to the company. He whittled the product line down to a few things and then made them the very best in the world.  

It’s that commitment to vision, mission and values that separates one company from another, from the highly successful and those that don’t stand the test of time. 

Jobs’ vision was “to make a dent in the universe.” 

He died on Oct. 5, 2011. 

We are still talking about him and the companies he built. It’s a testament that, while he could be an incredibly difficult person, he made that dent. 

If you want to make a dent with your business, book a call and we’ll talk. 

In the meantime, I’m waiting patiently for my iPhone 13.

H3 = Sales Success

Last week, I spent two days with one of my clients onboarding new business development representatives they hired to handle the growth opportunity that is in front of them.

This client was not hiring salespeople. They were hiring peers of their target prospect and enlisting me to help turn them into new business developers.

It was a fun two days and we covered a lot of ground, much of it specific to their industry and prospect.

But the one universal we spent a lot of time on was what I thought it took to be a good business developer. I gave them the following acronym:

H3

  • Heart
  • Humility
  • Hustle

Heart: The most important sale a salesperson will ever make is to themselves. If they aren’t fully bought in to their offering, they will struggle getting anyone else to buy it. They can’t let inescapable rejection dissuade them from that belief.

How? Motivation is like showering. What you did yesterday was helpful, but you must do it again today. Review customer testimonials, share wins as a team and continually remind yourself why you do what you do.

Heart also means that you must genuinely care about your prospect and their business. If you don’t, find something else to do because your prospects will feel that.

Humility: A good sales person is coachable. They don’t think they have all the answers. They know there’s always more to learn. More to learn about their offering, their customers, their tactics and tools.

Good salespeople are infinitely curious and care more about their prospects than their products. They would rather ask questions than give pitches. They can know what their prospect needs, but lead them to that truth rather than beat them over the head with it.

Hustle: Great salespeople daily do the things that average salespeople are unwilling to do. They aren’t afraid to pick up the phone and make the tenth call when the previous nine didn’t go well. They find a way to spend the majority of their time on the high value activities that lead to success rather than creatively avoid those things.

I recently read that the average business developer spends 36% of their time selling. Only a third! The great salespeople hustle and spend much more of their time on high value activities by scheduling it in their calendar and building the habits that make them successful.

Heart. Humility. Hustle. If you have those three things, you’ll succeed at sales. (BTW, if you do have those, call me. I have several clients who would love to hire you).

What would you add to H3?

The Persistence of the Founder

Persistence > talent, genius, education.

I watch very little TV, so I might be the last person to watch the Founder on Netflix. I enjoyed that the movie portrayed Ray Kroc in a way that felt unbiased, highlighting both positive and negative behaviors.

But there was one aspect of the movie that really stood out to me. That is how Kroc credited his success to his persistence:

He needed a lot of it. Even as it was exploding, his business faced bankruptcy as a real possibility. I read a lot of business biographies and that is a recurring theme.

When we see today’s successful companies, we tend to see their success as a foregone conclusion.

But many of today’s great companies had near-death experiences that their founders have written about: Tesla, Nike and lululemon are some recent examples that come to mind.

This is important for current business owners to know. When you encounter tough times, that’s not weird. Business is difficult.

I once worked with a founder who thought business was all about the idea. He believed that if your concept was good enough, the business should practically run itself.

When he encountered difficulties he started tinkering with the concept. If he could just get the concept right, everything would be okay.

But there was nothing wrong with the concept. Could it be better? Sure. But was it good enough? Yes. It just required a lot of hard work to make it work. All businesses do.

He eventually lost his business because he was trying to perfect the idea.

He didn’t have the persistence of Ray Kroc.

Do you?

The “And”

Most of the companies I work with have been built on the passion and drive of a charismatic founder. The sales “process” was simply to free up as much of the founder’s time to spend with prospects and watch them magically convert.

But they quickly realize that if all sales has to go through them it puts a lid on company growth. So, they start building a sales team, but I have seen many make this mistake: they hire people for sales and…

There are many versions of the “And”

  • Sales and marketing
  • Sales and social media
  • Sales and design
  • Sales and fulfillment
  • Sales and

They’re still hiring as if they’re the small, scrappy startup, asking their people to play multiple roles.

There’s just one problem: building a sales team for the first time is hard work. If you don’t do it the right way – by documenting a clear sales process, identifying your ideal customer, laying out the expected daily activity, painting a clear picture of success, managing and coaching – the first sales people you hire will struggle.

And if they struggle at sales, they’ll be more likely to spend time on the “And.” People naturally want to spend their time on things that are succeeding. So, they’ll subconsciously find a need to post something on Facebook rather than make the next uncertain sales call.

One of my clients who made it through the adolescent phase and is now more than $200 million in annual revenue said that the biggest growth in the company came when they started hiring to plan and not to need.

They had plateaued at around $10 million for more than a decade and had always been hiring for their current need, waiting until everyone was overwhelmed. It was only when they began to hire people that they wouldn’t need for 3-6 months that growth took off.

Resist the temptation to hire sales and…

Hire them for a sales role they can grow into over a few months. Do the hard work of setting them up for success and coach them so they can help you succeed.

This is the fourth step in our 4D Transformation Method: Drive Results. I talk about it here:

If you want to drive better results by setting up a sales team for success, reach out to see if I can help. Just fill out this short assessment and book a strategy session with me.

You can’t know everything

In a meeting with one of my clients, a member of the leadership team mentioned that she was surprised when a member of the team she manages asked about a new development in another area of the business and this leader didn’t know about it.

The implication was that there was a communication breakdown at the leadership level and to her team it appeared that she was out of the loop.

I pushed back. Was it something she needed to know?

Growing businesses like the ones I work with require different things from their leaders. Some changes are obvious. Others are less so.

In the early days, everyone is a doer. But as you grow, leaders must become supervisors, managers or, well, leaders. Having to do everything will limit the growth potential of the company.

That part of leadership development is pretty straightforward.

But adaptation is also required when those leaders come together as a leadership team. They must play a new role there as well.

Just as they have to trust their team to perform their responsibilities, they must also trust other members of the leadership team to lead their part of the business.

That means that they can’t know everything going on because that would place another limit on the growth of the business. It would also make leadership team meetings a long series of informational updates. Anyone ever been in one of those?

As a business grows, you must become comfortable focusing your attention on fewer and more important aspects of the business. That goes for each leader individually and as a leadership team.

She asked how you know what you should share as a leadership team and what you shouldn’t. There’s only one way: constant communication.

If she felt like she really needed to know the information that surprised her, she should simply say to the leader of that part of the business, “My team surprised me with that and it would have been nice to know in advance.”

But I challenged her first to think hard about whether or not she really needed to know about it. If not, she could have simply replied to her team member by saying, “As the business continues growing I’m getting used no longer knowing everything that’s going on. But I have full confidence that the leader of that part of the business is leading well and will keep me in the loop whenever necessary.”

The only business where you can know everything is a small one. If you want it to grow, sooner or later you’re going to have to accept that you can’t know everything.

TNU – They’re Not You

I was recently visiting with the HR director at a five-year old company that has experienced significant growth. They have a good product in an expanding market.

In the early days, it was the CEO who was doing most of the selling, and – like the CEO of every company who has early success – he was good at it.

But as the company grew, so did the list of CEO responsibilities. And he increasingly found himself torn between selling and fulfilling. It’s the sales-fulfillment teeter-totter that I’ve written about here before.

So they started hiring salespeople. Some did well and others have yet to achieve their quota in any time period that they’ve measured.

Sound familiar? It’s very common in the companies I work with. Give me a call and we can chat about your situation.

Taking over the sales role from a founder isn’t easy. You can never replace that perfect blend of passion, product knowledge and motivation.

I am constantly reminding the owner-operators I work with: TNU – They’re not you.

So, what can you do? How can you set up your first sales hire for success?

There are four things:

  1. Get the hiring process right. Seems obvious, but this is missed far too often. A young, growing company is not right for everyone. Make sure they match the culture you’re building and have the mindset of someone who can succeed in selling your service. Be honest if they’re walking into an undefined role that will be difficult for them.
  2. Don’t assume that just because they have sold something else, those skills will perfectly translate to what you’re selling. Make sure the sales process is documented and ready to execute.
  3. Be clear on expectations and then inspect what you expect. Having a job scorecard is critical. If they have to make 50 calls per week to be successful, put that on their KPI dashboard and look at it weekly.
  4. Don’t expect perfection. Again. TNU. They’ll never sell at your level. Shoot for 80% as good, then coach and develop them so they can continue to improve.

That’s some of what we do in the fourth step of our 4D Transformation Method. Watch this video to learn more:

Can I help you be successful in sales as you continue to grow? Reach out and let me know. Just take our short assessment and then book a strategy call with me.

And always remember. TNU.

“The only people who don’t want to hear from me are the people I’m paid to talk to.”

I was speaking virtually to a group of salespeople recently and you could see their demeanor change as they came to this realization.

Like most companies, theirs looked to hire extroverts – the “High I’s” on the DISC assessment – that would be comfortable talking to new people. This can be a great strategy, but it comes with a potential problem.

That is, the people who like to talk to other people are usually the same people who really, really want everyone to like them.

In modern business, there is no shortage of people vying for our attention. We have bosses and co-workers, customers and suppliers, and so much more.

They’re calling us, leaving voicemails, sending text messages, tweets and direct messages, pings and dings on any number of social media platforms (that all of these salespeople are told they need to be on, right?).

Those who have a need to be liked feel a need to constantly reply to anyone and everyone who asks for a piece of their time. Because each individual response makes someone happy – thus making the responder happy.

But for salespeople, like the ones I was speaking to, there is one group of people who are not asking for their attention – prospects.

That’s when the salesperson said, “The only people who don’t want to hear from me are the people I’m paid to talk to.”

That’s why time management is such a big deal for salespeople. But it’s more than the ability to manage time. It’s the ability to get yourself to do the stuff you know you need to do but don’t want to.

That’s why author Nir Eyal, says that a better term for time management is pain management.

So, how do you manage your pain? It’s a process of knowing your goals, determining the highest value tasks to help you reach those goals and the using your calendar to prioritize those tasks.

It’s that simple.

And that hard.

It’s one of the things we do all through our process of working with companies as they go through our 4D Transformation Method. We help them prioritize their time so that they can spend it on the things that make their highest value contribution to the company.

But we spend the most time on it when we’re documenting the sales process and helping their sales team prospect for new business.

You can learn more about that fourth and final step in our process by watching this video:

If you are an owner-operator who wants to improve the results of your service-based business, I might be able to help you. Just take this short assessment and book a strategy session with me.

I’d love to help you stop avoiding your prospects and growing from the inside out.

Is your customer experience better than an airport janitor?

Travel has been picking up again lately and so I found myself at the Sioux Falls airport a couple of hours in advance of my flight.

I’m not usually there that far ahead of time, but my wife dropped me off on the way to work and I was planning to work in the business lounge while waiting for my flight.

I also don’t usually check a bag, but I had to this time.

Thus, I found myself alone at the ticket counter without an American Airlines employee in sight.

That’s when a janitor came by pushing his cart and said, “They probably won’t be there for another 30 minutes.”

He must have seen the annoyed look on my face, so he explained why and then said that the coffee shop was open and there was a place to plug in my laptop.

I was impressed. He read the situation and gave me a solution.

But it got better.

After I had been sitting for 15 minutes working, that same janitor stopped by the coffee shop and said, “It looks like someone is at the gate now.”

Wow.

I’m pretty sure that none of what he did for me was included in his job description. And I’m pretty sure he was an employee of the airport, not American Airlines, who I was waiting for.

But he clearly felt a sense of ownership that led him to take care of me, the customer.

When I teach companies how to create a remarkable customer experience, the first concept we discuss is time – time is the currency of experiences. This isn’t my concept. It comes from visionaries Joe Pine & Jim Gilmore.

It’s not your product or service that creates the experience. It’s the time your customers spend with you. Honoring the customer’s time means two things:

  1. Being efficient with their time (time well saved)
  2. Making their time valuable (time well spent)

This janitor did both. When he was first confronted with my problem, he couldn’t make the gate attendant get there any faster. But he could show me where the coffee shop was.

Then, once the attendant was at the ticket counter, he minimized my wait by letting me know of their arrival.

He honored my time.

If you want to know how well you honor your customer’s time as well as how you perform on the other four components of a remarkable customer experience, just take this short assessment.

Because, as that janitor demonstrated, every member of the team has a part to play in creating a remarkable customer experience.

Start with WHY

When we started FiveFour in early 2018, the vision of the founders was to teach everyone what had made our individual businesses successful: a remarkable customer experience.

But what we discovered is that, with our customers, most needed a step before that. They needed to start with WHY.

I was reminded of this while listening to Simon Sinek’s book, Start with Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action. Sinek writes:

It all starts with clarity. You have to know why you do what you do. If people don’t buy what you do, the buy why you do it, so it follows that if you don’t know why you do what you do, how will anyone else?  If the leader of an organization can’t clearly articulate why they organization exists in terms beyond it’s products or services, then how does he expect the employees to know why to come to work?

If a team doesn’t know WHY it’s important to have a great experience for their customers, teaching them WHAT to do has far less of an impact.

That’s why the Define the Culture is the first of the four steps in my 4D Transformation Method and Design the Experience is the second. We have to start with WHY.

Sinek perfectly describes the type of business we most frequently deal with:

When organizations are small, WHAT they do and WHY they do it are in close parallel. Born out of the personality of the founder, it is relatively easy for early employees to “get it.“ Clarity of why is understood because the source of passion is near – in fact it’s physically comes to work every day. In most small businesses all the employees are all crammed into the same room and socialize together. Simply being around a charismatic founder allows that feeling of being a part of something special to flourish.

But, as Sinek writes, For companies of any size, success is the greatest challenge. When businesses grow and employees are no longer around the leader all day, every day, the WHY can get fuzzy and disengagement creeps in.

The answer is almost always to rearticulate the WHY. Sinek writes:

Finding WHY is a process of discovery, not invention…the WHY from every individual or organization comes from the past. It is born out of the upbringing or experience of an individual or small group.

And in our experience, that rediscovered WHY always includes something that was done for the customer, which perfectly sets the stage for focusing on customer experience.

How’s the WHY of your business? Has it gotten a little fuzzy? Take my assessment to find out and then chat with me about how to rediscover your WHY.