Are you building a team or raising a family?

boys in the boat

“The trick would be to find which few of them had the potential for raw power, the nearly superhuman stamina, the indomitable willpower, and the intellectual capacity necessary to master the details of technique. And which of them, coupled improbably with all those other qualities, had the most important one: the ability to disregard his own ambitions, to throw his ego over the gunwales, to leave it swirling in the wake of his shell, and to pull, not just for himself, not just for glory, but for the other boys in the boat.”
Daniel James Brown, The Boys in the Boat: Nine Americans and Their Epic Quest for Gold at the 1936 Berlin Olympics

“A happy family is but an earlier heaven.” — George Bernard Shaw

If you haven’t read The Boys in the Boat then buy a copy immediately, set aside a few hours, and dive in.  If you’re from the Northwest you’ll fall (back) in love with our incredible history, the men and women who helped make us who we are and shaped where we love to live.  If you’re a history buff then you’ll go bananas for the classic heroes journey: ragtag Americans vs. Nazis in the 1936 Olympics.  If you’re a business owner you’ll most likely envy–on a “Why can’t I build THAT team?” level–that nine young men of no pedigree, a boat-building genius, and a quiet, visionary leader built a team that created something unspoken and remarkable.  You might ask yourself: “Why don’t I get the very best from everyone on my team?  Why don’t we work better together?  Do we all share the same goal?  Am I building a team or am I raising a family?”

Teams are performance-driven, families aren’t.  Ideally, families are about love, forgiveness, tolerance, patience.  Great teams have familial qualities as well but there’s something else.  Teams inspire and extract the best performance from everyone.  They have to if they want to win.  Nobody on a winning team wants to see a fellow team member fail.  Individual agendas are set aside for the greater good.  There’s no question that winning teams are internally competitive, but not at the expense of the cause.  The self-less dedication to a cause.  It elevates everyone:

“What mattered more than how hard a man rowed was how well everything he did in the boat harmonized with what the other fellows were doing. And a man couldn’t harmonize with his crewmates unless he opened his heart to them. He had to care about his crew.”

Are you building a team or raising a family?

Do you have an inspiring, flag-waving cause?

Does your entire team work in harmony in the interest of winning?

Are performance and attitude held accountable to the  highest standards?

Is ho-hum performance allowed to slide because “that’s just how they are?”

Are individual agendas or egos allowed to supersede the greater good?

Do polarized priorities subterfuge the total effort by pitting one group against another?

Do you accept less than a person’s best?

I know a few business owners who want their businesses to feel like a family.  That’s perfectly fine.  Those environments are usually nice places to work and those owners have their reasons (stress, effort, time with family).  But if you’re starting a business, if you’re managing a team, or if you have owned a business for a long time it’s nonetheless important to have a clear picture of the culture that you’re pulling for: Team or Family?

Podcast #3: Rich Johnson

Episode 3 – Rich Johnson

Hey there listeners and thanks for tuning in!  In this podcast I interviewed Rich Johnson, sales manager for Sherlock Heating and Air Conditioning.  It’s a fun interview and Rich shares his perspective on managing a team, learning to balance multiple demands, and handling price-driven competitors.  Lot’s to learn and I hope you enjoy it.  Matt

Drive for show, putt for dough.


I’ve heard people say putting is 50 percent technique and 50 percent mental. I really believe it is 50 percent technique and 90 percent positive thinking, see, but that adds up to 140 percent, which is why nobody is 100 percent sure how to putt.
 – Chi Chi Rodriguez

The single biggest driver of stickiness, by far, was “decision simplicity” — Harvard Business Review, “To Keep Your Customers, Keep it Simple.”

I don’t recommend playing golf if you have a remotely OCD or addictive or obsessive or solipsistic personality (however I do recommend playing if you’re in to self-improvement–I’ve never played a sport that is so instructive in that regard).  You find yourself playing for the two or three split seconds when the club strikes the ball perfectly, crisply.  Language falters at that moment.  You just know it happened and that it’s gone.  Then you chase the dragon and fall in love with the pursuit.  For guys like me tt’s impossible to perfect.

My grandmother always said: “Drive for show and putt for dough.”  Putting is hard work.   And because you use the putter more than any other club in your bag it’s important to be a better putter than, say, a big hitter.  I use my putter three times more than my driver.  So when my putter started making a weird noise it wasn’t good.  I’m already a master at bogey and double bogey golf.  A funky putter wasn’t going to help.

The local pro thought the noise was from loose epoxy or something in the shaft of the club.  His assistant volunteered to take the putter apart.  Another pro recommended I call Callaway.  His suggestion illustrated a critical point of doing business: keep it simple and earn loyal customers.  

I called Callaway.  The service was incredible.  A gentleman answered the call on the second ring.  His tone was easy, friendly, concerned, and familiar.  He apologized for the problem and thanked me for calling.  He sounded genuinely interested in helping!  Here’s what he didn’t do: make it difficult.  He didn’t ask me questions like: “Did you buy the putter from an authorized Callaway dealer?” or “Did you always keep the putter in the protective cover?” or “Are you sure it’s an authentic Callaway product?”  He didn’t tell me that the putter was not under warranty or that it was no longer in stock.  The CSR eliminated all of the potential friction:

“I’ll ship a new putter to you today.  Once it gets there send the defective putter to us.  No charge.  By the way, are you ok if we send you the new 2017 model?”

A new putter arrived three days later.  Flawless customer service.  Simple customer service.  A win-win solution.

Customer service is the crucible at which a company’s claims and missions and values are tested.  Many companies talk about putting the customer first or being customer-centric.  Not as many companies practice what they preach.  Difficult customer service erodes customer loyalty.  Simple customer service improves it significantly.  When it’s time to buy a new set of clubs I’ll certainly look at Callaway.  Aren’t they also benefiting from a little free press as well?

Simple service, empathetic interactions, win-win solutions, and fast follow-up.  Sometimes the secret ingredients to improve service and sales aren’t that secret.  Keep it simple.

Just what the world needs: Another podcast!


So I launched a podcast today.  I’m in a unique position to meet, work with, and become friends with exceptional individuals both in and out of the trades.  The purpose of the podcast is simple:  Add value.  Learn how people are reinventing sales and customer service in a modern economy.  What are their habits?  What lessons have they learned?  How are they balancing personal and professional lives?  How are they staying at the top of their game?  My guests are real people doing real work in an exceptional manner.  You can find the podcast here, Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.  It will be on iTunes shortly as well as Stitcher.  Thank you listening.  Please send me any feedback or critique.  There will be a new episode coming in the next two weeks.

Your friend, Matt

Podcast #1: Kyle Cline

Welcome to The Thank You Note podcast!  For the very first episode of the podcast I interviewed my friend Kyle Cline.  Kyle is a Director for Locke Supply and is part of of the service industry’s future.  He’s innovative, disciplined, and brings a unique perspective to the trades.  Plus, he’s a super good dude.  Hope you enjoy it and thanks for listening!

Fear is the Real Objection

A gentleman said something very truthful to me yesterday.  “I’m going to talk to a few more contractors before I make a decision.”  I asked him why.  “I don’t want to make a bad decision,” he explained, “I don’t want buyer’s remorse.”

He’s entirely correct.  The salesman I was with was asking to disrupt his life.  Financial disruption.  Time, space, schedule, people.  Lots of temporary disruptions.  And because the gentleman had never been through this process before it made sense.  He doesn’t want to look back on the decision and kick himself.  Bear in mind the salesman did an exemplary job.  Still, the customer may have been asking himself :

“Is he being truthful?”

“Is he over-promising on the results”

“Am I confident in my understanding of this process?”

“Does the value exceed the sacrifice he’s asking me to make?”

“Am I compromising existing loyalties?”

“Are the recommendations improving my current quality of life?”

“What are the risks?”

None of these questions are going to be answered with a “take away close” or a “first person who talks loses” or “hand them the pen and be quiet” attempt.  They won’t.  Buyer’s remorse is motivated by fear.  Fear is the real objection and understanding a consumer’s fear is the key to resolving nearly every objection.

Gaining this level of understanding often happens during the beginning of a sales call.  Salespeople should slow down, ditch the predictable questions and stop looking for pain or, worse yet, inventing it for the customer.  Have an authentic conversation about priorities, aspirations, and yes–the things that worry customers the most about disruption.  Allow customers the opportunitiy to tell stories that are rich in detail.  Encourage the customer to co-create the value proposition.  Identify the risk/reward considerations that the customer is weighing.  After all, people don’t buy products they buy progress.

People buy things because it makes them feel good.  It’s that simple.  Successful salespeople understand that their job has a little to do with nuts and bolts and more to do with helping customers attain safety, calm, peace-of-mind, and progress.

“I have asked to not have a TM”

“Lately I have asked to not have a TM, just give me the bigger discount . . . since they can’t provide added value and are simply wasting time calling on the business.”

A business owner shared this candid opinion of TM value with me yesterday.  Territory Managers who cannot add value to their clients are more likely to struggle with price bake offs.  More likely to lose business from friends.  And more likely  watch their margins erode.  Lastly, sub-value service harms the TM’s company brand.  However, there are five things that a Territory Manager can do to prevent their customers from questioning their value:

  1.  Learn how your customers make money.  They don’t make money buying your products.  They make money selling your products, installing your products, managing labor, controlling inventory, reducing work-related call backs, retaining customers, and cross-selling products and services.  Smart Territory Managers can utilize this advanced insight to thicken their value.  In lieu of this insight the TM-to-Customer relationship will most likely remain transactional.
  2. Improve your business acumen.  Salesmen speak one language.  Business owners speak a different language altogether.  Theirs is the one that matters most.  You don’t need an MBA to improve your acumen.  For example, here’s a link to an accounting and financial statements course from The Khan Academy:  It’s free and it’s good: IF you’re one of those insatiably curious professionals.  Your ability to speak a business owner’s language increases your credibility.
  3. Teach your customer’s how to sell your products.  Leave the spec sheets alone and please don’t rely on a brochure or product tear-down.  Very few homeowners care about motor bearings or heat exchanger construction.  Teach your customers how to sell your products using homeowner-friendly retail language.  You can’t expect a retail salesperson to know how to sell your products if you can’t do the same.  If you’ve never made a living at the kitchen table then this will probably be an eye opener: are you able to sell your own products?
  4. Know your customer’s customer.  Spend time with homeowner’s–ride along with retail salespeople.  Listen to homeowners.  Learn about their interests.  Learn about their concerns, objections, questions.  Reverse engineer the field experience in to value-added coaching sessions.  If you’re guffawing: “My customers would never let me go with them on a sales call” then ask yourself why.
  5. Do your job intentionally.  Plan in and out of every meeting.  Focus on short, medium, and long-term development goals.  Agree to shared accountability.  Always ensure that loose ends are tied up.  Follow-up.  Honor your promises.  Make it easy to do business with your company.  Add value, add value, add value.  If you want to know how to add value then simply ask your customer.

If you’ve every lost business from a friend then you also know that “friends buy from people they like” is a hopeful strategy at best.  In order to improve top line results, protect margin, and secure loyalty a Territory Manager must gain a deeper understanding and appreciation of a customer’s definition of value-added services.

Green Apron Cards: Put your culture in your hip pocket

Green Apron Cards

Many front line employees struggle to communicate their company’s value proposition to their customers.  Harder still if the company itself hasn’t invested the time and thinking in to clarify its core behaviors (not principles, not vision, not mission…be-haviors).  The Starbucks solution: Green Apron Cards.  Each card defines one of the company’s core behaviors.   They’re smartly designed and simply worded.  Each card has a “Thank You” on it.  The original intent was that barista’s would carry their values with them.  More than that, they would live them.  And although the cards are not a known product among consumers, barista’s are encouraged to share the cards with us.

Culture and customer experiences are not a “to-do” list, although too many leaders mistakenly think this way (here’s how to answer the phone, here’s the playbook for greeting a customer).  Culture is not a standard operating procedure.  Culture is the be-havioral DNA that turns the ordinary in to the extraordinary.  Culture starts with “being” and becomes “doing,” never the other way around.

Which be-haviors define your company’s culture?  How does a customer experience these nuances?  How does your team communicate them?  And are they concise and clear enough to fit in your pocket?


You’re not selling. You’re applying for a job.


Not to sound superficial but I dig these transformation pictures.  It’s touching to see a person’s dignity restored after they’ve fallen on rough times.  Right or wrong we’re judged on our appearance: Is this person successful, happy, confident, competent, educated. Often times our own conduct changes accordingly.

I took a visual survey of my clients yesterday.  15 professional salesmen.  Lots of black shirts (when did black become the official color of the service industry?).  Tennis shoes.  Carhartts.  Jeans.  Polos.  A few hats.  A few goatees.  The uniform of the trades.

I asked the group: Would you wear these clothes to a job interview?  Someone said, “We’re not applying for a job.”  And then the point hit home.

When you’re in sales you’re always applying for a job.  

A sales appointment is an interview.  Customers are interviewing candidates–searching for the right fit, the person that will be the greatest asset, help them make the most progress, and is the most credible.  Salespeople should prepare for an appointment as if they’re preparing for a job interview:

Step up your appearance game.  People rationalize their way out of improving their appearance (“I have to get in an attic” or “Dressing like a service technician helps me build trust.”).  But when you apply for a job you design your appearance in order to make a positive and professional first impression.

Prepare for the interview.  Before an interview you research the company, double-check your facts, bring relevant materials, rehearse sample questions, get a good nights sleep, and show up early to the appointment.  If you want to be hired, because you want to be hired, you work hard to be better prepared and crisper than other candidates.

The WOW factor.  It’s important to share your uniqueness when interviewing.  You want the potential employer to know that you’re bringing skills and experience that are uncommon and valuable.  You demonstrate scarcity.

People hire Progress.  Employers hire candidates that help them progress, move forward, attain goals and objectives.  During an interview you’ll talk about your wins, share success stories, illustrate unique solutions.  You’ll work very hard to demonstrate your ability to help a company move forward.

Follow-through.  Smart candidates follow-through with open issues, thank you letters, and respectful phone calls.  They demonstrate care and that they’re motivated to earn the job.

There’s nothing genius about these recommendations.  They’re tried and true for anyone applying for a job.  Unfortunately salespeople in the service industry disregarded them every day.  We’ve become lackadaisical about our pre-call preparation, our professional appearance, our presentation skills, our follow-through.  We’ve forgotten that before you can sell anything the customer has to hire you.

A recommendation: Stop trying to sell and start applying for jobs.