Tough Man, Tender Chicken: Lessons from Frank Perdue

iStock_000008310866Small

A Visionary Leader

He entered many of our homes via television, winning our hearts with his clever ads about his chicken.  Appearing in hundreds of ads, Frank Perdue turned Perdue chicken into a national brand.  “It takes a tough man to make a tender chicken,” the ads touted.

Frank Perdue was a visionary business leader.  He focused on culture, leadership development, packaging, promotion, and operational excellence perhaps years before others.

Frank and Mitzi Perdue, Used by Permission Frank and Mitzi Perdue, Used by Permission

Recently, his wife, Mitzi Perdue, wrote a biography Tough Man, Tender Chicken: Business and Life Lessons from Frank Perdue.  The book paints the picture of the man, allowing us glimpses into his personal life, but also is full of business and leadership advice.

Mitzi herself holds a BA in government from Harvard, a masters in public administration from George Washington and was for years a syndicated columnist for Capitol News then Scripps Howard.

I recently had the opportunity to talk with her about her late husband.

 

“Find out what the customer wants and then make it better.” –Frank Perdue

 

Take Care of the Customer

There are so many business and life lessons in this book.  Let me just ask about a few areas.

One story you tell was about packaging.  It grabbed my attention because he wanted better packaging, but his team said no.  They said it was too expensive.  I know he was frugal, so his commitment to make it happen speaks volumes.  That little story says so much about his style and determination. Would you help us understand why this was so important to him?

Funny you picked on that story because it happens that I’m (I think) unusually qualified to comment on it.  My master’s thesis from George Washington University was on the importance of packaging.  I felt that the packaging of an idea or a product wasn’t as important as the content, but it was way up high as a consideration.  Frank intuitively understood this concept without having to get a master’s degree!  In the cases of the cartons that chicken was delivered in back in the late 1960s, it was pretty much industry standard to have flimsy boxes that might leave someone’s processing plant looking fine, but by the time they arrived at the distributor’s loading dock in a big city, the box might be crushed and leaking.  Crushed and leaking boxes were a mega-headache for the distributor because it’s hard to handle them on a forklift, and it’s unsanitary.  Frank realized that if he could create boxes that wouldn’t crush or leak, he’d be solving one of the distributors’ major problems.  His attitude was that as long as his goal was to be the best, the price almost didn’t matter, he had to fix the fragile boxes because, “We can’t afford not to.”  It fit in with his motto of, “Take care of the customer,” and the result was that when a distributor wanted chicken, he probably had Perdue on his speed dial. Packaging was an extraordinary competitive edge for us.

Mitzi Perdue, Used by Permission Mitzi Perdue, Used by Permission

“A business that doesn’t change is a business that is going to die.” –Frank Perdue

 

Build A Culture of Disagreement

Take us into the culture of the company.  It tolerated disagreement and strong opinions.  As you say it tolerated “really forceful disagreement.”  How did Frank encourage this?  When did he, as a leader, stop the argument and unify the team?

Why Standing Out is More Important than Ever

bigstock-Close-up-view-of-the-working-b-42767212

 

Your Personal Buzz

Recently, I shared my observations about all things honey.  A honey festival demonstrated that it’s possible to differentiate almost anything—at least from my uninitiated view of the product.

 

“Why fit in when you were born to stand out?” –Dr. Suess

 

Differentiate YOU

That amazing array of honey products got me thinking about personal brand.  We are all at a fair of sorts.  Whether the marketplace or in your social circles, there are many others competing for time, for opportunity.  How do YOU differentiate YOU?

Most of us don’t think about a conscious plan for standing out.  We have learned to blend in.  But great leaders stand out.  Work that is extraordinary captures our attention.  If you fail to stand out, you will be passed over at promotion time.  Overlooked in the marketplace.  Ignored for the most important opportunities.

 

“Great leaders stand out.” –Skip Prichard

 

Some work stands out so much that it generates that viral buzz that the media savors.  If it makes you uncomfortable just thinking about that type of attention, I have good news.  It often is tiny differences that make the big difference.  Success often happens at the margin.  If your work is only slightly better, you have an enormous advantage.  Often we look with interest at the shocking or spectacular, but settle for purchasing or consuming something closer to our version of normal.  The choice we make, however, is usually one that is just ahead of the competition.

Are you a leader?  Leaders do not blend in.  They don’t hide their unique qualities.

 

“Be the one to stand out in the crowd.” –Joel Osteen

 

Are you a blogger? More than the look and feel of your blog is the personal touch, the sharing, the authentic voice.

Do you have an upcoming speech?  Share a personal story or do something that no one else would do.

Creating A Buzz: 7 Ways to Stand Out

bigstock-Honey-in-glass-jars-with-flowe-44092480

It’s a honey festival.  What would you expect?  Honey!  And honey is a commodity, right?  It’s all the same.  If you want honey for a recipe, or to add to some hot tea, you pick up some honey at the store.

My view of honey completely changed when I attended the Lithopolis Honey Festival last year. I left not only with new information about honey, but also with observations on how to make nearly any business stand out.

Arriving at the festival, I see the streets have been closed to allow for tents to fill the streets.  People are everywhere, crowding the vendors.  With so many people milling about, how do the honey manufacturers attract customers?

As my family walks down the street, we stop to visit each table.  I begin to notice how wrong I am about honey.  There are innumerable ways that each company is different.

STAND OUT

Here are a few ways that I began to see the differentiation:

Don’t sell a product.  Entertain the audience.  Crowds gather around to see “Bee Beard.”  That’s where a man of perhaps questionable sanity has somehow managed to create a beard made of hundreds of bees, extending down his body and circling his head.  From the number of people crowding around, it’s clear that this team is successful.  It’s hard not to stop and take a look.

Use personality to develop loyalty.  Some honey producers were present in the aisles with a friendly smile. They were not accosting or overly aggressive.  These savvy customer service honey sellers met us in an engaging way, answering questions.  Somehow in the first minute, we know the history of the business and the family.  You don’t need an academic study to know that you are more likely to buy from someone you know.

Create unexpected flavor.  Did you know that honey could come in cinnamon or raspberry?  Resisting the chance to try various flavors is futile, so we stop and taste a few.  Now we are comparing notes, sharing tastes.  Engaging with a product in this way increases the sale opportunity. 

7 Tenets of Taxi Terry

It Started With A Question

 

“Are you ready for the best cab ride of your life?”

When the door slammed shut, Scott McKain wasn’t only taking a cab ride to his hotel.  He was embarking on one of the greatest customer experiences he could imagine.  Not only would Scott enjoy a memorable cab ride, he would exit that taxi with lessons that can make a difference in every business.

 

“Passion without effort equals failure.” –Scott McKain

 

The taxi driver, Taxi Terry, didn’t know that he had just picked up my friend, bestselling author, extraordinary professional speaker, and customer service expert Scott McKain.  Of all the people in the world to pick up at the airport, Taxi Terry picked up a global expert in standing out, in the art of distinction. In fact, he is the Chairman of the Distinction Institute.

 

7 Tenets of Taxi Terry

  1. Set high expectations and then exceed them.
  2. Delivering what helps the customer helps you.
  3. Customers are people, so personalize their experience.
  4. Think logically and then act creatively and consistently.
  5. Make the customer the star of your show.
  6. Help your customers come back for more.
  7. Creating joy for your customer will make your work–and life–more joyful.

 

That simple, enthusiastic question, directed to an exhausted traveler one night was the beginning of a customer experience that tens of thousands of people have learned from. Scott has presented the lessons he learned to audiences around the world.  And the lessons are now available in a new book, one that will inspire you.  7 Tenets of Taxi Terry is sure to be one of the enduring business books that will come up in conversations everywhere (yes, even in a cab!).

 

“If you want your business to get better, the first step is for you to get better.” –Scott McKain

 

Do You Want to Create Memorable Customer Experiences?

Reaching Your Peak Performance

bigstock-Himalaya-Mountains-43956478

“Does your performance reflect your potential?” is a question posed by Scott Addis in the introduction of his new book.  It’s a question I have often asked of myself and of others over the years. Reaching your potential, hitting peak performance, and achieving your best self are different ways to talk about the subject of personal success.  I recently had the opportunity to talk with Scott about his thoughts on maximizing performance.

Confident people risk security to achieve higher levels of growth and independence. -Scott Addis

 

Scott Addis is the President and CEO of The Addis Group and Beyond Insurance, and author of SUMMIT: Reach Your Peak And Elevate Your Customers’ Experience. Beyond Insurance is a coaching and consulting company whose purpose is to transform the process that insurance agents, brokers and carriers use when working with clients. Scott is recognized as an industry leader having been awarded the Inc. Magazine’s “Entrepreneur of the Year” Award as well as “25 Most Innovative Agents in America”.

SUMMIT is divided into four elevations.  What are the four elevations?  Why is the book organized this way?

When it came to putting the material into a book, I thought it seemed natural to organize and edit the writings into a sequence that reflected a progression from individual skill development to business relationships to the customer experience.  Summit is therefore divided into the following four elevations:

 

Elevation I: Preparing for the Climb (Developing Your Personal Readiness)

Elevation II:  Setting up Base Camp (Preparing to Present Yourself to Others)

Elevation III:  On to the Summit (Focusing on the Customer Experience)

Elevation IV:  The Final Ascent (Discovering Your Inner Strengths)

In Elevation I, you emphasize the importance of paying attention to four performance indicators and developing them as the reader progresses.  One of these performance indicators is natural strength.  Why is it crucial to focus on honing natural strengths rather than improving weaknesses?

Every person who has ever lived has natural strengths (also known as Unique Abilities) though most people are not conscious of them.  Because of this lack of awareness, these people have not experienced the infinite rewards that come from being able to harness and develop their natural talents and pursue their passions wholeheartedly.  The more you are able to recognize your natural strengths and shape your life around them, the more freedom, success and happiness you will experience.  Your Unique Abilities (i.e., Natural Strengths) have four characteristics:

  1. A superior ability that other people notice and value
  2. Love doing it and want to do it as much as possible
  3. Energizing for you and others around you
  4. You keep getting better, never running out of possibilities for further improvement

Most individuals are not able to identify their natural strengths, let alone concentrate on them, because they are trapped by childhood training.  We learn at a young age that the secret to success in life is working on our weaknesses.  Unfortunately, it is the focus on weaknesses that results in a sense of deficiency, failure and guilt.  As a result, our lives are filled with frustration, wasted potential and missed opportunities.  Letting go of these “lack of abilities” to focus on the things you love is a key to maximizing your performance.

 

Innovation is the lifeblood of the peak performer. -Scott Addis

 

In Elevation III, you discuss the customer experience.  What is the customer experience?  Why are the first impressions so significant in building customer relationships?

The Customer Experience Journey is the sum of all experiences that the customer has with you and your firm, the actions and results that make the customer feel important, understood, heard and respected.  Each customer interaction molds and shapes the Journey.

A first impression is the mark you make in the first moments of interacting with someone.  This impression has a strong effect on one’s intellect, feelings, or conscience.

It is interesting to note that the brain is immensely perceptive and takes into account every minor detail of another’s facial features.  The sight and sound around us are picked up by sense organs and the signals are passed to the brain.  These signals are then compared to the memories of past experiences.  The interpretations of these signals play a key role in forming the first impression.Addis_jacket.indd

In your book, you write:  “Work-life balance remains my biggest challenge in my quest to reach the peak.”  How do you define work-life balance?  Why is it difficult to achieve equilibrium between the two?

The term “work/life balance” first appeared in the 1970’s.  The expression means having equilibrium among all the priorities in your life.  It is interesting to note that this state of balance differs from person to person.  However, if there is little or no balance over an extended period of time, the vast majority of people experience stress and, eventually, burnout.

Today’s intense, competitive business climate has created corporate cultures that demand more and more from professionals.  To get ahead, 60 to 70 hour work weeks appear to be the new standard.

Goal setting is also very important on the climb.  Why is mental imagery, or visualization, a key component of successful goal setting?

Visualization allows you to see yourself at some point in the future, while goals offer a road map to reach these visions.  There is nothing more rewarding than having visions, setting goals, launching into action and persisting until you reach your destination.  The key to goal setting is your ability to turn this vision into reality.

Mental imagery is essential to goal setting.  Your ability to see yourself at the point of goal actualization is a key component to successful goal setting.  Goal setting breaks down unless you have great clarity about your vision.

“The last few steps of the climb will be the toughest, yet the most rewarding. They will require mental toughness, commitment, drive, self-discipline, positive attitude, and positive self-image.  It is when you make your final ascent that you will discover your inner strengths.” –F Scott Addis

Why is a positive first impression so important?  What are some tips you can offer our listeners or readers on creating a positive first impression?