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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.

14 Responses to “Meaning, Mattering, and Entrepreneurial Sales”
  1. Micah Harper says:

    Tim, your blog today clearly articulated a concept that my team and I have been pursuing with our business as well. You have expressed it with such clarity that I hope it speaks to everyone else the way it spoke to me. Thank you.

  2. jeteye says:

    I cannot concur more… when you are committed to loving your team and your customers, there is nothing else than to serve, and serve them well. As Lao Tzu once said, ‘The be above men, you must be able to speak below them; to be in front of them, you must be willing to walk behind them.”

  3. Tom Martin says:

    Tim – I enjoyed your blog post about David Neeleman. Coincidentally, today I spent some time with a new friend who has launched a group in Greenwich, CT for
    entrepreneurs called StartupGrind, who is a friend of Neeleman’s, and he was telling me about a number of concepts you mention in your blogpost — including
    the importance of dedication to true service and also the importance of hiring the right employees & team members.

    Again, nice job!

    With best regards,
    Tom

  4. Tim Askew Tim Askew says:

    Hey, Micah. Good to hear from you again. I’m delighted to hear of your valuation of the service culture and mindset. I’m am convinced it is the future for successful business. Thanks for your comment.

    Tim

  5. Tim Askew Tim Askew says:

    Hey, jeteye. What a great quote from Lao Tzu. Thank you, my fellow traveler.

    T.

  6. Tim Askew Tim Askew says:

    Thanks, Tom. Yeah. David Neeleman gets both effective business and the value of goodness in everything. StartupGrind sounds interesting.

    Warm regards,

    Tim

  7. Jeff R. Wyant says:

    Hi Tim,

    I loved your blog posting on David Neeleman.

    –Jeff

  8. Tim Askew Tim Askew says:

    Good to hear from you, Jeff. All credit to the inspiring David Neeleman.

    T.

  9. Danny Meyer says:

    Tim,

    LOVED your piece on David Neeleman. We are indeed kindred spirits – although running an airline is a heck of a lot harder than running a restaurant!

    All best,

    Danny

  10. Tim Askew Tim Askew says:

    Good to hear from you, Danny. You’re too modest, as usual.

    Tim

  11. jeteye says:

    thank you Tim, jeteye is me, Jeffrey Fry… FYI

  12. Tim Askew Tim Askew says:

    Aha, Jeffrey. Always delighted to hear from you under whatever moniker you choose.

    Warm regards,

    T.

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  14. Tim Askew Tim Askew says:

    Wonderful, Meir. Welcome aboard! (Or you might just want to subscribe.)

    Tim

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