You may ask “What’s the ½ story?” For that you’ll need to read to the end
By Solly Tamari 15.7.2016
Over the years I encountered many interesting situations, and gained important (in my mind) insights that have helped me and guided me through the years, and continue to help me even today. In each point of this article I first tell the story of what happened to me, and then the insight that I gained from it. It might be a bit long, but each point encapsulates a significant life insight.
You may ask “What’s the ½ story?” For that you’ll need to read to the end.
Story 1: How doing a good thing can turn out bad, and how to avoid it.
Many years ago I was Technical Director at a large computer company. I had many technicians working for me, most with a company car. I hired four more technicians, who during their training period didn’t get a company car. However, one of my regular technicians went on reserve duty (miluim), and his car was available for the weekend. So, being the good (and naïve) manager that I was, I did a raffle and one of the new technicians got the car for the weekend. Wonderful, right?? Well, only for the one who got the car! Now, instead of having four calm technicians, I had one happy technician, and three disgruntled technicians!
Insight 1 – Of course it seems reasonable that if you give someone a benefit, they will be happy, and the others will be happy for you. Unfortunately, this is not how things work in real life. Peoples feeling of happiness depends not on where you are now, but rather on the direction we are heading – heading up makes me feel good, heading down makes me feel bad. Someone who has $1,000 now, and suddenly gets another $1,000, has $2,000 and feels very happy. At the same time, someone who has $1million, and lost $500,000, still has much more than $2,000, but feels bad. The same happened with the technicians: they all saw themselves already with the car over the weekend, and three were therefore disappointed. Use this basic human trait in business and in your personal life. Don’t raise people’s expectations unnecessarily, as they will be disappointed if you don’t deliver. Try to deliver better than they expect – and they’ll be happy. (OK, except those that are never happy…)
Story 2: Everything Starts from the Top
When I first moved to the United States, I lived in New Jersey. I had brought with me from Israel a technology to increase memory capacity on old computers, and needed a local company to actually do the upgrades. So, I contacted two local NJ companies, very similar in what they did and their expertise. However, apart from this, they were very different companies.
As part of my evaluation I met with the Presidents of both companies. President 1 was a wonderful, warm, friendly and cooperative owner, and we had wonderful discussions. President 2 was obnoxious, rude, used foul language, and not very helpful. However, as an additional part of my in-depth research I also met with the employees of the two companies. What I found was that the employees of each company were very, very similar to their company President in almost every aspect. So who did I hire? Well, obviously, the nice guy, and nice employees at Company 1.
Insight 2 – Managers tend to choose people similar to them, people with whom they feel comfortable and share their values. This is especially true in smaller companies where the owner is still doing the hiring. However, this also reflects on a company’s overall culture even in larger companies. So choose your employees or co-workers carefully, and make sure that they have values similar to yours. This will help in the short and long run. Also, learn to trust your gut feeling, your instincts.
Story 3: Call Your Customers Before They Call You
As mentioned before, I was in charge of service both as an employee and as an owner. When I started out, we didn’t always have the spare parts we needed to fix the customer problem, and sometimes we even had to bring them in from overseas. Initially, when I didn’t have the part and we couldn’t complete the repair in a timely manner, I tried to avoid speaking to the customer as I didn’t know what to tell them. However, I eventually learned that this was not a good policy. On the contrary, even if there was a delay in getting the part, or the technician was stuck at another customer, I made sure that I called the customer ahead of time to let them know the situation. This – and other steps that we took, turned around our reputation from very bad, to actually becoming the main selling point of the company. I, of course, continue to use these methods in all my companies.
Insight 3 – Lack of knowledge on what is happening is a very strong emotion. Unfortunately, my brother was killed in the Yom Kippur war. While we were devastated by the news of his death, before we knew, when they first called us on the phone and wouldn’t tell us anything – and my father was also in the war – it was a terrible feeling.
In the same way, your customers don’t know what is happening, and they are worried. Will I get service, are the technicians somewhere else, etc? So actually calling your customers and telling them the status, will reduce their pressure in 95% of the time, and yours. Moreover, it shows them that you are thinking about them all the time. If they call you first, and you give them the same information – now it’s an excuse. This is true on development projects and any other project.
Story 3-1/2 – How to Stand Out and Grab Attention
During my 17 years in the US I participated in hundreds of trade shows where we had a booth, with many additional vendors, each trying to capture leads from the shows. We all dressed similar and had similar booths, (except the Big Guys, with all the money). People came by my booth, loved the products, left their names and took brochures. Being a good salesperson, a week later I followed up with a phone call. They didn’t remember me, my company or our products (Science Kits).
So I decided that I need to do something very different. I bought a Purple Wizard costume with a peaked hat and magic wand (Yes, that’s me in the picture). I changed my booth and presentation to a Science Magic show. This already increased the number of visitors. Then, a week later, when I made my follow-up phone calls, if they didn’t remember me I told them “I’m the Science Wizard with the Purple Lab Coat”. Now the reply was: “Ah, now I remember you, and I also remember the wonderful science kits that you had”. This also helped increase the sales closed.
Insight 3-1/2 – in today’s world, it is very hard to stand out. Human nature looks for and recognizes patterns. Is what I see “going to eat me” – and I better run, or “is it something I can eat” and I will chase it. Also called Fight or Flight. We are built to notice irregular things, things outside the pattern, things that move. Therefore, the Purple Wizard Coat was very different from the regular jacket and tie that the other exhibitors wore. This created a memory that was easily triggered again and became an associative memory that brought back all the other related memories.
Same with the 3-1/2. Most headlines talk about 5 best this, and 7 best that. ½ is irregular. Did it work???
The author is CEO of Red Dot Marketing, a Digital Marketing company. He was previously CEO of Omnitech Computers and TPM Computers in Israel and Effective Education and Business Equipment in the USA.