One of the questions I always ask a customer is why.
Why did you choose us? I love to call new customers and ask. I’ve done this hundreds of times throughout my career. In all of those conversations, I’ve never had a new customer not want to tell me the “why.” And I learn valuable information with each phone call or visit.
It’s such an easy thing to ask. I’m not sure why everyone doesn’t make it a habit. Like most things, it may be easy to do but it’s also easy not to do. I know when I fall out of the habit, I lose a valuable opportunity.
Almost always mentioned is the professionalism of the company’s representative. It may also be the service, the product, or the price. It could also be driven by a negative experience with the competition.
It’s important to listen and understand why customers are buying from you. It can inform your corporate strategy. You may spot a trend. You may learn that you have strengths you didn’t even realize. You may even develop new services because of the feedback.
Almost invariably on these calls I find other benefits:
Developing new relationships
Hearing about issues I wouldn’t have known about
Learning about employees who have gone above and beyond
If you’re running a business or in a leadership position, take the time out to make a few calls. Ask the question. Then, just listen and take notes. I’m willing to bet you will learn more than you thought possible.
Two weeks ago, I shared an interview that I did with legendary CBS anchor Dan Rather backstage before our onstage discussion. Today’s post features the onstage interview. Onstage we talked about a number of subjects ranging from the personal to the historical. If you have the time to view it in its entirety, I’m sure you will enjoy it. Because it is just over thirty minutes and you may not have the time to view it all, I decided to write the subjects we discussed with the approximate time.
If you only tune in for one subject, I suggest you watch Dan Rather give his perspective on Civil Rights, Dr. Martin Luther King and how it impacted his life. Here are a few highlights from that conversation:
“I find as a nation, as a people, as a society, we have a certain amount of amnesia. Amnesia about what the reality of the civil rights situation was particularly for people of color….Covering Dr. Martin Luther King and the Civil Rights movement changed me as a person and as a pro….I grew up in a segregated society…if I’m this afraid…what must it be like to be of color and know this is happening down the street?”
Dan Rather understandably became very emotional as he recalled those events. “To see people in power in city government turn high pressure fire hoses loose on children…I would not have believed people could do this, turn firehoses and vicious dogs on women and children.” 15:18
Recently, I had the opportunity to interview Dan Rather on stage in New York. It was a surreal moment for me. After all, I grew up watching the network news trio of Dan Rather, Tom Brokaw and Peter Jennings. I had watched Dan Rather interview world leaders. Tough interviews. Now I would be interviewing him about his life, which he has chronicled in Rather Outspoken: My Life in the News, a book I couldn’t put down. And that’s a good thing because I read it several times along with everything else I could about Dan Rather before our interview. I always prepare, but I definitely stepped it up knowing I was interviewing one of the world’s most prominent news anchors.
Years ago, I had casually met him once before in a hotel in Dallas. He was covering a story, and I was attending a Board meeting. I found myself in the elevator with the news legend. We only spoke a few words and we were both off running in different directions. I recalled his personal warmth but also could sense his intensity.
Before our on stage interview, we were to meet in the little green room backstage. I was waiting when I heard his trademark baritone voice through the curtain. He was very personable, humble and focused on everyone else. At 80, he is as sharp as ever. We started talking and I wish I had every minute on tape. His firsthand account of modern history is riveting. I asked him if we could sit down and turn on the camera for a few minutes before we jumped on stage. He agreed.
Dan Rather worked for CBS for 44 years and anchored the CBS Evening News for 24 of those years. At the same time, he appeared on 48 Hours and 60 Minutes II. He currently anchors Dan Rather Reports on AXS TV. Dan Rather has won numerous Emmy Awards for broadcast journalism and the Peabody Award.
In this backstage eleven-minute interview, we talked about the story that had the biggest impact on him, whether work-life balance was possible, how having rheumatic fever as a child shaped him, and finally his views on journalism today.
I started our talk with the discussion on the subject of leadership. Having personally known so many presidents and world leaders, what would Dan Rather say were the characteristics of a leader?
Joel Manby is the incoming CEO of SeaWorld and the former CEO of Herschend Family Entertainment. Herschend is the largest family owned theme park in the US owing 26 locations including Dollywood and Stone Mountain. If he looks familiar, you may recognize him from his appearance on CBS’ Undercover Boss.
Joel’s is the author of Love Works: Seven Timeless Principles for Effective Leaders, a book about practicing love at work. Talking about love at work may seem strange coming from a hard-charging executive who spent years in the automotive industry before joining Herschend. After reading this book, I could tell that Joel meant every word of it. Still, I had to start with the question about love at work.
This is a business book, but the title and the theme are all about Love. Joel, you were an executive at GM, Saturn and Saab. It’s all about metrics. Numbers. Results. But, you say no, Love Works. Tell me more about your transition from hard-hitting analytical executive to someone who sees love as a business success factor.
It’s still about metrics; the key question is which metrics? At HFE we measure all the standard business metrics including financial results, customer scores and employee scores. We all have to hit those numbers. In addition, we are also measured on HOW we go about hitting those numbers. We are all evaluated on the seven words outlined in Love Works. In fact, the top raises are given to those who hit both measurements; and all senior leaders are expected to be good at all of the above.
“Stick to your values in all circumstances.” –Joel Manby
How do you define personal success? Corporate success?
I define personal success as being consistent to my own personal mission statement: to love God and love others. I can achieve that in a number of personal endeavors; but feel blessed to be able to achieve it in a growing, profitable business. Corporate success should be defined the same way: ultimately, what is the mission statement of the company? Ours is to “create memories worth repeating.”