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Archive for the “Meaning” Category

220px-NeelemanI am convinced the future sales and success leaders of our entrepreneurial vocation will be those who make their companies matter in the world.  Everywhere I look these days that fact keeps hitting me squarely between the eyes.

Case in point:  David Neeleman.  You may well ask whatever happened to David Neeleman?  Well he didn’t just disappear after essentially being fired from JetBlue (his own company) in 2007.  He went on to found Azul Brazilian Airlines, which is on the verge of becoming the number two airline in Brazil after just five years, grossing over five billion in sales during 2013.

I had the good fortune to hear David speak last week at the Darien, CT library.  I find him very much in the line of new business leaders who find remarkable service, spiritual generosity, and a sense of giving back to the universe the key to their success.

For Neeleman the question to focus on is:  Does your company matter?  Would it be missed?  Would you as its leader be missed?  The companies that would be missed are the ones that matter.  Neeleman’s list includes Amazon, Apple, and his own JetBlue.

Neeleman bases his entrepreneurial work on three basic business principals.  They are:

  1. Make your people feel your company is the best place in the world to work and they will sell your product or service for you.  Make your employees feel this is the best job they ever had and they will pass on to your customers their own happiness and sense of being cherished.
  2. 69515_002.tifExercise flawless execution at every point of contact with your customer.  Trust your employees to execute at every stage of customer interaction, but systematically check to make sure–much like Ronald Reagan, who famously said of his diplomacy with the USSR, “Trust, but verify.”
  3. Use your failures to solidify your brand and your passion for service.  When there is a problem use it to make people to love you even more.  Make things right.  It builds loyalty and trust.  Offer exceptional service and courtesy even in the midst of disaster.  People increasingly trust word of mouth more than any amount of advertising and your customers will sell for you.

As David succinctly puts it, “Too much service is not enough.”

In a speeding world of increasingly cacophonous claims of revolutionary innovation, I am convinced the real sales differentiator of the future is service of the highest order–the sort of service that can only exist in companies with a through-branded trope of unconditional love, if you will.  That is, a passionate caring at every level of a company, starting with the owner or CEO who walks a daily walk of unswervingly serving both her employees and her customers.

I am reminded of a story I heard Tony Hsieh tell at a book signing for Delivering Happiness in 2010.  Hsieh recounts he was at a sales conference in Santa Monica, CA and, after a night of bar hopping came back with a group of friends to his hotel.  The group decided they all wanted pizza.  The hotel kitchen was closed.  In a fit of drunken braggadocio Hsieh recounts, he dared his friend to call Zappos customer service and ask for a phone number for a local 24 hour Santa Monica pizza delivery.  They called Zappos and within two minutes were supplied with several numbers by the Zappos call center employee.  Such was the depth of unconditional service orientation Hsieh had steeped in his firm.

People like David Neeleman, Tony Hsieh, John Mackey, Steve Jobs, Danny Meyer, et al. are a growing cadre of leaders who’s sales strategy is ultimately to inform through their very existence and lived public presence that their companies have meaning well beyond their various products.

95c40/huch/1904/26If a dawning new paradigm for entrepreneurial success is mattering, and I believe it is, the main way I, as an owner, can make my company matter is to make myself and my actions matter, hopefully imbuing meaning throughout my firm and employees and into anyone and anything my company touches.  Good is greed.

Rabindranath Tagore says, “I slept and dreamt that life was joy.  I awoke and saw that life was service.  I acted and behold, service was joy.”  Thanks, Tagore.

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Those who follow this blog regularly know my love for language and the wonder of words, as well as entrepreneurship.  This week’s blog is a translated video.  It’s a hoot, if somewhat scatological.  I hope you enjoy it.

The video comes to us courtesy of my friend Madison Laird out in Silicon Valley.  He is a visionary serial entrepreneur, presently heading up kick-ass start-up Funding Profiles in Sunnyvale, CA.  Madison was a champion college debater.

The music accompanying the video is Deuces Wild by Artie Shaw.

Enjoy the waning days of summer.

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Good Business: Leadership. Flow, and the Making of MeaningHere’s a name for you: Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi. Try pronouncing that one! (It’s a Hungarian moniker. Sounds like cheek-sent-me-high-ee.) Dr. Csikzentmihalyi is professor of Psychology at one of my alma maters, Claremont Graduate University in California, where he is professor of Psychology and Management and heads the Quality of Life Research Center. He doesn’t write directly about sales, per se. But he does speak to the issue of meaning in business eloquently and scientifically. And there are certainly corollary implications for sales in his work.

His work centers around the study of happiness, personal efficaciousness, and creativity. To wildly oversimplify Dr. Csikzentmihalyi’s work, he writes about what makes for value and meaning and happiness in business and work. Among other things, he tackles the question of what makes a business life worth living and what makes life worth living.

I have just begun to scratch the surface of his work and I won’t insult Dr. Csikzentmihalyi with further shallow oversimplification from my limited understanding and exposure, but he writes well, accessibly, and with the humility and humor of a true seeker. For example, to give just a hint of his tonality and concerns, in his book “Good Business“, he quotes Norman Augustino, the former CEO of Lockheed Martin:

“I’ve always wanted to be successful. My definition of being successful is contributing something to the world…and being happy while doing it….You have to enjoy what you’re doing. You won’t be very good if you don’t. And secondly, you have to feel you are contributing something worthwhile…If either of these ingredients are absent, there’s probably some lack of meaning in your work.”

I‘m not an intellectual or an academic, like Dr. Csikszentmihalyi. This blog is meant to be practical, intuitive, annectdotal, and non-whitepaperish. It’s not the Harvard Business Review. But one of my recurring themes and passionate beliefs is that there is a great underestimation of the importance of meaning in the salesman’s life. Good salesmen and women are not testosterone driven, Darwinian manipulators, as they so often are portrayed. I believe deeply that lucre and achievement of material well-being are over emphasized in discussions of incentivizing sales folk.

My niche outsourced sales company, Corporate Rain, has mostly succeeded for sixteen years by projecting an institutional concern for ethics and meaning equally with profit. Maybe it’s a lucky accident, but it surely has made for a trope of centered happiness in myself and, I believe, in my sales associates and employees.

If you’re interested in reading more on this subject, I recommend a new book called “Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us” by Daniel H. Pink.

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