Editor's Blog

Can't Drive It, Wear It Or Show It Off To My Friends

June 27, 2010

I grew up in a family business. And the lines between family time and work time were very blurred at best. Talk around the dinner table was always a mix of the state of our NY sports teams and the pros and cons of the latest jobs at work.  

If you just landed from space at our dinner table and overheard the chatter, you’d surely be confused. I think even we could get lost in mid sentence. But, I assure you the discussions were always heated and full of passion whether it was about sports or work. Sometimes, passionate discussions turned into shouting matches and insults, but it was normal….after all we’re an all American family from NYC.  

My oldest brother and I were - and continue to be - avid Yankee and Giants fans but the middle brother, who we think was adopted, was and continues to be a Mets and Jets fan.  

To say the arguments about sports were heated is like saying jalapenos are just like ketchup.  

The arguments about how to do our work and what products we should be selling also spiced things up. It’s tough to get three brothers to agree unanimously about anything. And when there’s money and potential headaches on the line it’s bound to get heated.  

My dad was the arbitrator between the three of us and he typically had a cooler head. But, that didn’t mean we wouldn’t take him on if we were passionate about the way we were doing our work, the people at our company doing the work for us and the way we were going to the marketplace.  

Many years ago, I was lobbying for the right to sell European high-end technology and build a niche business vs. selling the same things my competition were trying to sell which was the plain vanilla products installed at the cheapest price.  

After a long discussion between me and my dad about selling this new way, he tells me, “Al, I know you love this stuff but nobody will pay more for something they think of as a commodity. Frankly, if they can’t drive it, wear it or show it off to their friends they won’t go for anything more than they have to.”  

Well, I had returned from Europe armed with a new vigor and a determination to sell the superior products.  

Here’s the great news. People bought the higher-end higher priced equipment from me. I believe they could see the logic of my arguments about energy savings, comfort and safety. But what I believed even more is they bought my passion.  

As luck would have it, I received a letter from a customer after doing an extensive installation job. And I kid you not, here’s what the customer wrote:  

“This is the best money I ever spent that I can’t drive, wear or show off to my friends!”  

It was a lovely moment!  

And when I shared this letter with my dad, who was always a good sport, he looked at me smiled and said, “I’m happy to be proven wrong.”  

So, what are you thinking that you can out cheap your competition on? Do you want to sell a commodity and make no money or a niche product for more profit?  

Find something that’s better out there in your market and get yourself fired up about it. I bet you make more sales and more profits than you could have ever imagined on something most customers “can’t drive, can’t wear or show off to their friends.”


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