ICS Magazine

Winning vs.Success

July 15, 2003


“If you help enough people get what they want, they will help you get what you want.”
Sam Walton, Wal-Mart Founder

Everyone would rather win than lose. Losers have been mocked, ridiculed and punished for thousands of years, and this treatment isn’t likely to change anytime soon.

win vb: “to gain the victory in a contest.”

The problem with the traditional definition of “winning” is that for one individual to win, everyone else in the transaction must lose, resulting in bitterness, anger, guilt and a dozen other nasty, negative emotions that the losers must endure.

succeed vb: “to turn out well, to attain a desired end.”

Success, on the other hand, is not a “win-lose” situation. Success is not “I win, you lose.” True success means everyone wins, i.e. everyone gets what they want, and in the process they feel good about themselves.

Of course, the successful transaction scorecard is based on much more than just money. In business, successful winning depends on how you feel about the purchase you have made. Simply put, in a service transaction, if you feel like you have won, you have.

Winning is based on emotional factors, especially in the residential service industry. Emotional winning supports the idea of multiple winners. Why is this so important? Because everyone has a different definition of winning. “To Your Success” has always focused on the “Carpet Cleaning Triangle” formed by the homeowner, your employee and you as the business owner/manager. Let’s examine the emotional dynamics of a residential carpet cleaning job and how everyone in the triangle can feel like they have won.

The Homeowner. The No.1 emotion of your first-time customer as they wait for your technician to knock on their door? Fear. Homeowners are scared to death, and who can blame them? Between the all the television expos? carpet cleaning horror stories from the neighbors and the very real threat of violence and crime, I’m amazed anyone is getting their carpets cleaned anymore.

Homeowners feel like they have won when they feel good about both the work and the workers that are in the inner sanctum of their home. Remember, the quality of any service is defined in the customer’s mind by the relationship they have with the people performing the work. Therefore, your ultimate success will be determined by how well you train your employees to develop a professional relationship with the homeowner.

Your Employees. All too often we focus exclusively on our external customer, the homeowner, and forget completely about our internal customers, our employees, when it comes to emotional winning. So what is the No. 1 emotion of your (usually young) technician as he or she waits for the customer to come to the door? Fear. Yes, your technician is facing the same primary emotion as your customer. He or she is scared to death, and who can blame them? The fearful homeowner tends to be adversarial, suspicious, confrontational or even hostile toward your no-doubt well-meaning technician.

I call this fear, formed by the mutual mistrust and suspicion between technicians and homeowners, the Home Front Cold War. Like most wars it is so very sad because it is so unnecessary. More likely than not both your employee and your customer are good people. But they have absolutely nothing in common, which leads to a total lack of communication and understanding.

Train your employees to understand the fears of the homeowner. Give your people the tools to anticipate and answer the non-verbal questions of the homeowner. My guess is you don’t actually hear beauties like these too often:
“Will you do a good job?”
“Do you have any idea what you are doing?”
“Are you going to steal from me?”

Yet these unspoken questions are always silently screaming away in the minds and hearts of your customers. Left unanswered, these unspoken questions will doom your technician to an endless parade of callbacks and unhappy customers.

Simply put, employees feel like they are successful when they feel in control of the job by understanding the emotional dynamics of the Home Front Cold War. Technicians who feel good about themselves and their job are a joy to work with, both for you customers and for you. And speaking of you…

You. Don’t forget, you need to win in this emotional equation too. You are the master juggler, trying desperately to keep all the plates in the air. Not an easy task when both of the parties above have such different backgrounds and different agendas. But all too often, cleaning entrepreneurs becomes so wrapped up in keeping everybody else happy that they forget about their own need to win emotionally by achieving their own vision of success.

Like me, some of you may have accidentally fallen into the cleaning industry just because you didn’t have the education or skills to do anything else (honestly, when you were 10 years old did you ever dream you would spend your life as a carpet cleaner?). When I started my first carpet-cleaning business more than 30 years ago, my “long-range business plan” consisted of two goals:

  • make the most money in the shortest time, and
  • spend as much time as possible on the ski slopes (actually, this business plan still sounds like a pretty good definition of success to me!).

    Still, we all have to grow up. Growing up includes setting long range goals focused on the welfare of your family. Steadily increasing your net worth, college plans for children, caring for aging parents and the funding of a comfortable retirement all require self-discipline and long-term planning. And it’s not just you either. Most of us wind up with employees that also need to be guided and helped along the way to their own “grown up” goals.

    If you can achieve this vision of a business family, where everyone focuses on a common vision and helps each other along the way to achieve their life goals, then you will have created what I call “something of value.” And you too will win big time emotionally.