Ronald Reagan said "All great change in America begins at the dinner table." I love that quote because life and progress really boils down to communication, relationships and building trust. It’s about the basics and keeping things simple. We need to learn more about each other’s needs, challenges, families, interests, dreams, and aspirations. If we are going to continue to change Famous for the better, then we must all be committed to building meaningful relationships for life. Sometimes that¹s hard if we’ve had difficult situations with certain individuals. But we cannot allow that history to get in the way of moving forward. We need to see the good in everyone and be the bigger person. Gandhi said, The weak can never forgive; forgiveness is the attribute of the strong. Every relationship is so important to our ultimate success. In addition to having a philosophy to build associate relationships at Famous, we also need this mentality with our customers. In fact, I am convinced we can be fundamentally different by taking customer relationships to an entirely new level. Imagine what Famous would be like, and how incredible our lives would be if we could meet that challenge. As an example, what if every inside sales person made personal visits (with outside sales or management) to all their key accounts. Think of the impact of meeting them at their dinner table versus over the phone or via email. That would be powerful. I challenge everyone to get out and see our customers on their turf. Thank them for their business. Better understand their needs. Build meaningful relationships for life. In fact, getting additional inside people to the same accounts is important as well, so customers have a team to go to when their primary contact is on the phone, vacation or unavailable.
I will conclude with a crazy story that has always been a powerful reminder to me about the importance of face to face communication and relationships. About 15 years ago I received a call from a customer who had a legitimate issue with Famous. He was very direct and started raising his voice. He was extremely upset. What are the odds of a truck hitting a telephone poll just outside the castle and us losing service during our conversation? You guessed it. That happened. Unfortunately my cell phone was in my car, so I ran out to get it and called the customer back. When I asked for him (the owner), the receptionist said he was on the phone. I said, “I think he is on the phone with me.” She was confused, and stated, “No, he is on the phone with someone else.” I asked if he was yelling and screaming. She said yes, and asked how I knew that. I reiterated, I believe he thinks he is yelling at me. I then asked if she would knock on his door and let him know that Marc Blaushild is holding for him. She did, and she put the call through. I immediately apologized and told him what happened to our phones. There was a long pause, he laughed, and said, I am so glad that your phones went out, because I lost my temper, and I am so glad you didn’t hear everything I said. We both laughed about it. I said, “Instead of talking on the phone, how about I come out to see you face to face?” He said, “That would be great.” I went out the following day. We met for an hour, talking openly and honestly about issues and opportunities. They were about a $100,000 account at the time. Our Director of Sales, DSM, Product Specialist, and Outside Sales Person then became personally involved in this account. Through their hard work and a team effort, they took this relationship to the next level.
This owner became a personal friend to our team, and Famous built this into approximately a $500,000 account on an annual basis over the next 10 years. When I think back to this situation, it was sheer luck that the phones went out. But by simply talking, we were able to turn a lemon into lemonade. I can’t express enough how important it is to spend quality time with our customers. We must be pro-active and plan this time and not have to wait for a circumstance to bring people and a team together. This customer and I both laughed about this over the next decade. He was a great guy, had integrity, was loyal to Famous, and ran an excellent business. Unfortunately, he became ill and is longer with us. This is a further reminder how important it is to build meaningful relationships, because life is too short. Let¹s get to the dinner table at work and at home and build those special bonds.