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Sitting on the Fence

Over the years the gate leading into our back yard has deteriorated and needs some serious repairs.

Not knowing anyone who is in the fence business I went to the Google-machine and started looking for fence companies by my house. I looked at each one’s reviews. One company I found had all five-star reviews. I went to the company’s website and here is what I found:

XYZ Fence is a new locally owned fence company that serves the Central Texas area. Our company may be new, but our employees and contractors have over 25 years of experience installing fences. We design and install cedar wood privacy, etc.

As I read this I was excited that I had found a new company that installs cedar fences and MK and I could help them with their start. We’ve all been there, haven’t we? I convinced myself they would do an excellent job and provide a fair value. I called them only to learn they were out of the office, but I could leave a message. I gave them my direct office number and my cell phone.

That was Tuesday. No call back.

Okay . . . okay. Have patience, Mark – after all this is a new company. I was sure they would call back on Wednesday. Crickets.

The same on Thursday. The company I was excited about giving business to was now the last company on the planet I would ever recommend.

It made me think about our industry. What does our website say that we do? What do the people who answer our phone promise? What about our techs – if they are going to be late do they call or text?  If not, why?

My best friend retired not long ago and is now in project mode. Everything he needed to get done around the house he is now starting. What shocks him is the poor service he gets from virtually everyone he deals with.

I wanted to see just how bad service is in America, so I went back to the Google-machine:

  • An American Express survey revealed 78 percent of consumers have bailed on a transaction or not made the purchase because of a poor service experience.
  • Another source revealed that a typical business hears from 4 percent of its dissatisfied customers. Ninety-one percent of those customers will never come back.
  • The White House Office of Consumers Affairs tells us that loyal customers are worth up to ten times as much as their first purchase.
  • This Consumer Affairs division also tell us that it is six to seven times more expensive to acquire a new customer that it is to keep a current one. And for every customer who bothers to complain, 26 others remain silent.
  • Another source reveals that 80 percent of companies say they deliver “superior” customer service. Eight percent of their customers think these same companies do.

Interesting statistics. I’ll probably do a Google review on XYZ after I get my fence fixed by someone else. I wouldn’t want anyone else to choose them. Leaders look at their companies, their people and their promises through the eyes of a consumer – not from their PR.

Note:  The fence company called me Friday at 4:50 p.m. No sale.

Seeing Life Long-Term

WARNING: This may seem like a long story. The ending is worth the wait. It emphasizes my point that the ability to look at life with a long-term vision is so important for leaders.

January 2002. I’m in charge of Franchise Development (sales) for 27 states at Midas. Best job of my life working out of my house in Wisconsin. Company car. Loving life. My phone rings and my boss tells me to sit down. He proceeds to inform me that the following Friday I need to bring my computer and car in to headquarters. Half of the development staff was being downsized. I was part of the downsizing.

Having exceeded all my sales goals for the previous year I was shocked.

My boss reminded me that Midas had already paid for my registration and plane flight to the International Franchise (IFA) Convention in Orlando the next month. He helped me by saying I needed to network there and find a job with another franchisor. The downsizing had nothing to do with performance.

Out of absolute fear I sent over 120 resumes out by the weekend. One led to a meeting in the Tampa area immediately after the IFA Convention. I also set a couple of other appointments with companies in Florida where there was mutual interest.

At this point I vowed that I would do whatever I could so this never happened to me again. I loved the franchise world and realized if I got heavily involved in IFA committees I could network my way for future opportunities.

I loved franchising because it represented small businesses. All of us are involved in that arena – regardless if we are franchised or not. We make the world go around. We all offer jobs to people in our communities. We all work hard for an honest day’s wages. In fact, most of us work longer and harder than most who have the “corporate jobs.”

Two months later I started working for Valpak working out of my home-office in Milwaukee working with their franchisees throughout Canada. This led to a promotion and Florida move within a year.

Within two years I served on three different committees at the IFA. One of them with the now-president and CEO of the Dwyer Group – Glass Doctor’s parent company. I also go to know Dina Dwyer-Owens, CEO of Dwyer, who became the chairwoman for IFA in 2010.

At Valpak I met this amazing woman who was managed the Los Angeles Valpak operation – the largest Valpak operation in the world. We dated cross-country for two years before she was promoted and moved to Florida. Several months later Mary Kay and I got married.

In the next decade I realized that asking for things is the first steps to getting them!  As I became president of Glass Doctor I reached out to glassBYTEs offering to write this weekly column on leadership. What a blessing this has been as Mary Kay and I were able to coauthor a book recently.

A couple years ago I was invited to be a member of IFA’s Board of Directors. This distinguished group includes the President of a Marriott International Division, VP and Sr. Counsel of Hilton, as well as the Presidents and Founders of Edible Arrangements and Sports Clips.

Last week the Board received an e-mail from the senior VP of governmental relations and public affairs that read:

IFA is working with the White House to identify employees of franchise owners who have benefited from tax reform. If you have any franchisees who have employees who have a positive story to share about receiving more take home pay or other benefits from tax reform, please let us know. IFA is sharing names with the White House to consider being invited to a Rose Garden event on April 12th in the afternoon.

I sent this notice out to a select group of Glass Doctor franchisees. One responded that this reform had helped him as well as a couple of his employees. To end this long story – he and his employees were at the White House, in the Rose Garden, with the President of the United States last Thursday.

My favorite job ever, in 2002, doesn’t hold a candle to this one. My wife has been an inspiration to so many people in business as the president of Five Star Painting and is a wonderful grandmother to nine kids as well as a very well respected and loved stepmom.

Who would have thought that an event in 2002 made this all possible when I received the phone call that I was being downsized? Who would have thought that the best years were just a decade ahead? I certainly could not see it then – could not even imagine a good outcome from those events. It is difficult to avoid getting mired in the down times, but it is critical that you keep moving forward so you avoid that pitfall. Take control of your future and refuse to be a victim of circumstances.

Leaders understand that life isn’t all about one negative event in their life. It holds a bright future when you keep pushing forward.