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January, 30 2005

Service Station

We always discuss very important issues while exercising at the Health Club, right? This week one of my panting cohorts mentioned to me that she had to leave a little early to pick up her car at the nearby gas station. I told her that the same station had been wonderfully helpful to me when I had an emergency during a snow storm the week before. She said, "I've been going to them for years. This is the third car that they have taken care of for me."

I asked her if there was a reason for her loyalty and she told me that she had been having a recurring problem with her last car. She had taken it to the station and they hadn't fixed it. She thought that maybe the dealer needed to see it and so she took it to a local dealer. $800 later and it wasn't fixed. She took it back to the local service station and explained to him that it wasn't fixed after his first repair and that she had taken it to the dealer and explained what they said they had done. He said he couldn't be sure if his next approach would work, but he gave her his recommendations.

She agreed to the new repairs and he set to work and charged her at the end another $200. BUT -- it wasn't fixed. Three or four days later, the car acted up as if it hadn't been worked on. She took the car back to the station. He was perplexed and he said that he didn't think the car was safe enough for her to drive -- he didn't know what to do -- and he recommended that she trade it in -- it was about 7 years old. He then returned the $200 to her that she had just spent on the car plus he added a portion of what she had paid to him the first time she brought it in. What a guy! He cared and he built a long-lasting relationship and it really didn't cost him THAT much though it was certainly expensive for him.

However, my exercise buddy has since taken her car in to him numerous times and she has recommended him to many of her customers (she's a hairdresser) and to friends and family. I often wonder why more people don't understand what this service station owner did...One, we treat our clients as we would our own friends and family...two, money is the currency but it isn't as important as the investment we make in our relationships...and three, we stand by our work -- we do the best we can and hope that it's the best that anyone can do, but it needs to satisfy us and bring satisfaction to our customers. Needless to say, I'll be taking my car into this station in the future and I'll also be telling my friends the story of the owner who went the extra mile. Can you tell a customer-service story like this? It's over the top delivery...Hooray!
How do you expect the unexpected? I am being serious. I have talked to two businesses this week, which are really in trouble and as an outsider, I can see that neither organization expected the unexpected. So you can anyone expect the unexpected. You have to explore every now and then a worst cast scenario. But even if you don't do that and, say, you lose a contract quite suddenly -- that's the very latest that you need to explore what that is going to mean to the business and THAT's the TIME to do some very serious short-term planning. DON'T WAIT as two of my cohorts told me they did this week to see how the chips were going to fall. This is no time to wait! A good way to expect the unexpected is to make sure that you have a cancellation of contract policy that gives you a modicum of breathing room -- 60 to 90 days -- and then every minute of every hour of that time, think about business development and/or short term cutbacks to get you through the tough time. Good contingency plans can only be drawn if everyone leaps to action and starts the process of making things happen. I have a colleage who did take such action when a year ago she received some bad news. Today her business is doing better than ever because she moved aggressively, realistically and tirelessly to find new contracts. Stuff happens. Often solutions can be found. Don't allow yourself any sympathy time or become an ostrich. And while things are good, have a staff meeting and talk about how to expect the unexpected. At the very least it may guide you to new business right now. And it may some day save you from a bunch of misery.

January, 16 2005

Easy Button

I love the new Staples Ad, which features an "easy" button. It is a parody about making certain issues in life easy and, of course, the Staples company is convinced that they can make a business owner's life EASY. I think that all of us could make our own lives EASIER -- yes, I do. I think we struggle with many issues, which are far easier than we believe. Many of my clients come to me with the statement -- "this is SO hard." and my response often is: "What if it's not?" What if it was easy? Resistance is a funny thing -- it can be helpful in pointing out the direction that is most beneficial to us and yet, it is the source of our pain. So I invite you to ask yourself, "How can this be easy? What is the path that will take me through this in the best possible way? Where is my resistance and what will come if I let it go?" I have been happily surprised when I allow myself to find and appreciate the EASY way.

January, 04 2005

You're Health

When the flu hits, sit down! Yep, I got the dreaded something flu, which has made me really sick AND I'm on the mend. But the body heals at its own rate, so much as I would like, I can't rush this recovery. I appreciate having a normal temperature all day long, nose drops that work, soft tissues, cough drops that work for a short time, even an hour's more sleep at night. When all is said and done, NOTHING is more important than our health. I now know that in a fresh and poignant way. Wasn't I lucky that it was only the flu, which made me realize what a gift good health is? When you appreciate your good health, it would be my request that you do so with feeling, humility, and a penetrated understanding...May 2005 be a healthful year for you.

December, 27 2004


A Tsunami -- in seconds, horrible loss of life and devastation of property. The fragility of human experience. How seconds change the course of lives. I feel compassion, hopelessness, and sadness. I also flash back to what I might have been worried about right before I heard...or last week...or last month. How senseless I was to waste even a fraction of my short life on a triviality. I can send money. I can send hope. I can promise myself that I will remember to value all that is given to me. I am so fortunate.

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