Since many of you have been suggesting audio versions of my blog posts and books, I thought I’d give the format a try from on the road. In this quick podcast, I’ll share some thoughts and lessons from a recent visit to a North Carolina company with a great backstory. I hope you’ll take 5 minutes to give it a listen – and a couple more to share your comments with me!
I think we can all glean a couple of key valuable lessons from the example of a company I will talk to you about that I ran into recently during our travels. So I wanted to try out this new audio format – for about a 5-minute listen on your part – and describe to you what I saw, and also the lessons that I believe we can learn.
When Lindy and I travel, I just love the fact that I can visit various organizations, observe, and watch people in all kinds of situations – business and otherwise. Recently, we visited a company in North Carolina that Lindy was going to be dealing with (and I was simply the bystander), and I was not only impressed, but I was also inspired as I heard the backstory:
In 1972, a then young man named Bob Page was an accountant working for the government – now there’s a pretty secure job for you, at least I would imagine. Trouble was, he really didn’t like his job at all. But what he loved, on weekends, was going around to garage sales. And he particularly fell in love, over time, with searching for china, glassware, etc.
Eventually, about 10 years later, in the early 80’s he decided to, with courage, leave his accounting job with the government and form his own company. With one employee, he started out as an entrepreneur.
Now, today, 2018, he is the owner of about an $80 million company with about 400 employees and has a warehouse the size of, like, 8 football fields.
What he did was start the business that he loved doing, thinking other people probably loved this too.
People have broken china, and they want to fill out their set, so they want to buy 1, 2, maybe 3 plates, a couple saucers, etc. And Bob figured out that other people like him might like going around garage sales and finding china and glassware. So he just became the broker: Replacements, Ltd. (the name of the company), putting the 2 people together.
So you can go to him with china that you have and you want to sell to him, and you can go to them with needs that you have for china and glassware and fill out your set.
That kind of growth is exciting, yes. But there’s also a couple of very intriguing lessons.
One, I believe, having to do with career coaching, because I run into it all the time: Bob didn’t like his job. So many people out there don’t like their job. It’s not their vision. But they’re afraid to try it. And Bob tried it, and he went for it.
And then, second lesson is a really basic management lesson when it comes to the customer experience:
There is a very interesting thing as you walk around Replacements, Ltd. and look on all the desks of all the employees. No matter what their position is, all phones have a red button. I learned later that even Bob Page’s phone has a red button. So if the sales department’s telephones are all busy when customers are calling in, the machinery automatically cycles the phone call to all the telephones everywhere, to the red button, in the entire company. And every single employee knows that if they are not dealing with a customer at the moment the red button blinks, they’re to answer that line and help that customer that’s on the phone, again, including Bob.
Now, number 1, that results in almost all customers getting answered on the telephone.
But number 2, think of the wonderful signal that it sends to all the employees, every single day. When they look down at their phone and they see the red button, they’re reminded the customer experience is important here.
So 2 lessons to glean from that one travel experience.
That’s it! Always keep your eyes and ears open, friends, because the best university in the world is the career of life you’re living.
Thanks for listening. See you back here soon.
* Correction: In April of 2019, a spokesperson from Replacements, Ltd. contacted me the clarify that “The red button on our phones is actually a ‘mute’ button; our phone system isn’t set up to roll over calls throughout our company.” She went on to request the name of the individual who had shared this information with me, so that she could get to the bottom of the misunderstanding. She was very gracious, in keeping with much of the Replacements, Ltd. team, but the details of all this are still a mystery. Nonetheless, this is a company that stands out for its high level of customer service, and the startup story is an interesting example of fusing one’s passion with a perceived need – a great example from which to learn. Should I learn more from the company to clarify the details of this piece, I will add an update here.