ICS Magazine

Reflection Amidst Celebration

December 30, 2008
I use Coffee-mate "creamer" in my coffee. I love it and use it by the dump-truck load. This morning - darn it - I was all out, and resorted to the healthier, but less appealing, coffee whitening alternative:  milk. I carried my cup into my office, sat down at my desk, spun around in my chair...and knocked over my coffee.

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I use Coffee-mate ‘creamer’ in my coffee. I know it’s bad for you but I love it, and use it by the dump-truck load. This morning - darn it - I was all out, and resorted to the healthier, but less appealing, coffee whitening alternative:  milk. I carried my cup into my office, sat down at my desk, spun around in my chair and knocked over my coffee. 20 ounces of milk-laced java soaked into my chair and my socks and found the path of least resistance down between the cracks of my floor.

I hate spilled milk so much. It reminds me of new motherhood, that vague puke smell that never leaves. New motherhood is only tolerable because a nice, little baby comes with the deal. But that smell!  Yuck. For the next six months I will be sniffing my office, searching for traces of that rotten milk. Better call a cleaning pro!

Just as I was finished mopping up, a friend called. I launched into an elaborate tale of milk gone bad. She empathized, then asked, “Did it get on your computer?”

“Well, no,” I replied, realizing that by some miracle my computer was spared.

“You mean, you had the full-tilt-milk spill and it missed your computer? Do you have any idea how lucky you are?”

Gosh, until then I had been feeling pretty unlucky. But that moment my perspective changed. I would not need to call the repairman. My work area had benefited from the recent, albeit unscheduled, cleaning. And, I can always hire that out. (Thanks, dear reader!)  Life was good. I moved from resentful, to thankful.

The year is ending. The holidays are upon us. What a wonderful time to express thanks, to be grateful. You know, when you appreciate what you have, the universe rewards you by giving you more. Generally, we are quick to give thanks for our blessings. This year, bless your misgivings.

Be grateful for your ‘prima donna’ technician
Do you have a fellow at your shop who is the best salesperson?  He always gets the job, customers love him and his sales account for most of your company’s top line. (Note:  Just because it is easier to read, I use he exclusively, not he/she or she, no sexism intended.)   But, he wanders in when he wants to and goes home “whenever.” You look the other way when his truck is dirty. He lets you know that he could find another, better job tomorrow, so you don’t push him. You feel like you are being held hostage. There is just no way you are going to be able to replace him! So you compromise yourself.

Bless this fellow. He is bringing in great sales. And he is going to give you the opportunity to demonstrate your integrity.

Between now and January 1, here’s what I want you to do:
  1. Understand that YOU are the problem, not him. You have allowed yourself to become the hostage. If you are the owner, you set the rules of the game. And you must be willing to play the game straight and fair. Make sure your policies are clear and in writing. Make sure everyone knows what they are.
  2. Explain to him that you have been negligent in enforcing policy. Talk from your heart. Tell him why you have let him get away with bending the rules. That you really don’t want to lose him. Take a moment to communicate why you have established the rules in the first place. Explain that your personal integrity is at stake and you can’t allow yourself to have two sets of rules at the company anymore. Let him know that you appreciate his sales and will continue to compensate his performance with the best pay in your market. Listen to his comments.  But be clear:  from this moment on, you will follow through on your operational policies.
  3. Be willing to fire him for non-compliance. Chances are good that this fellow will grumble, but comply. He and the other employees will respect you for sticking to your guns. And you will respect yourself.

I am not making light of the need for good technicians. Every contractor I visit with is frustrated by his inability to find suitable people. But are you willing to sacrifice your integrity every day by tolerating bad behavior?  What is your soul worth?  Play the game straight or don’t play at all. The greatest thing you can do for yourself, your family, your company and for the world is to act with integrity. Be grateful to this fellow for the opportunity to demonstrate your commitment to the high road. By doing so, you will attract good employees.

Bless your knuckleheaded competitors
Too many times, I have blamed the other contractors for the sorry state that our industry is in. It’s their fault that prices are low and people associate plumbing with butt cracks. No more!  I can’t change the other guy’s behavior. But, instead, I could sniff out the opportunities left in the wake of those who don’t know any better.

Change your perspective and thank your competitors who…

  1. Take care of the worst customers. Isn’t it nice that you can refer the fellow who only wants the cheapest job to someone who specializes in cheap jobs?  This is not a judgmental statement. It is fine to want cheap work. But if you don’t do it, steer these customers to folks that do. This is a win-win-win situation.
  2. Make you look good. Imagine starting a courier service and having to compete with Fed Ex. What a challenge!  The FedEx team is great in every aspect. How could you find a weakness to capitalize on?  Now, look at your competition. For the most part, just showing up the same day that you say you will sets you light years ahead of your competition. What can you do to set yourself ahead of the pack?  Simple stuff. Be clean and sober. Be punctual. Be polite. Answer your phone nicely. You can rise to the top of your market by simply using good manners. Isn’t it nice to have so much opportunity?

  3. I think most folks are doing the best they can with the knowledge and awareness that they have. Be kind to your competitors. Be thankful. They are just putting one foot in front of the other. And they are reason your future is so bright.

    Give thanks for your aching back
    If you are the picture of health, you are blessed. But you are probably taking your well being for granted. Be grateful!  Understand that you are just a poor decision or a single accident away from disability. At some point or another in our lives, we are disabled. When we are very young and very old we need help to get around.

    If you are recovering from an accident, congratulations!  There are some lessons that only a brush with disaster can teach. Vow to pay more attention, to do your therapy, to keep the weight off. Your health is precious and fleeting and sometimes it takes a tragedy for you to understand that.

    Maybe you are living with a chronic illness. Bless your illness and learn the lessons it can teach you.

    As acts of thanksgiving, do these things…

    1. Make sure that your business is accessible to folks of all ability levels. Don’t moan about the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The law has a good heart. You or one of your family members could find themselves disabled, either temporarily or for the rest of this lifetime. Be accommodating. It’s the right thing to do to ensure that the access to your building works for wheelchairs. Spruce up the restrooms with easy access fixtures.
    2. Limit the number of times you mention your ailments. I don’t suggest ignoring your illness or never talking about your health and your fears. Just don’t bring it up in every conversation. A casual “How are you?” could be answered with a “Fine, thanks” or “Still kicking!” If you give a running commentary on your cervical disc deterioration to each person you run into, folks will start avoiding you. And if you believe in the power of affirmations (I do!) you perpetuate your illness each time you mention it. Deal with your health problems, and talk about them to your spouse, doctor, minister or friend. Then talk about something else.

    3.     The greatest gifts are hidden in adversity. May your holiday season be filled with love, laughter, good food, peace and prosperity.

      “Some people are always grumbling because roses have thorns; I am thankful that thorns have roses.”
      --Alphonse Karr