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Volume 7, Issue 1        January/February 2005

Customer Service
Tips for quality service

The Insecurity of Money
by Carl Tompkins

There is nothing wrong with being a “for-profit” business. Within such a business scenario, profit is good and most everyone within the organization understands that profit sustains the business’s ability to operate. Profit is what provides a business the ability to expand, to reward employees with salary increases and stockholders with dividends. The question I pose, however, is should the attainment of profit and money be the sole intent and pursuit of business? I recently came across valuable information from some very successful business owners that should provide a real sanity check toward answering this question.

A group of entrepreneurs recently gathered to pool their thoughts on this subject through the orchestration provided by writer Jeff Siegel. The outcome, shared in his article “Business is Good,” outlined that each of these business owners were brought up believing that business ambition was built around the premise that making money was the only thing that counts. What they later learned, through each of their own and unique experiences, is that when money is the sole ambition of a business, that businesses will do just about anything possible to get it. As one business owner, Martha Hawkins, stated, “You’ll connive and you’ll scheme and you won’t give back to your community and what is the point of that?”

Show Me the Money
When money is the only target, eventually everything is lost, resulting in the most lonely and insecure position for any business or individual. Each of these businesses grew to feel the importance and benefit from being driven toward making a contribution to their community. Community is defined as environment and society. Society surrounds the specifics of people, both inside and outside the business. One business owner is driven toward providing nutritional foods through her chain of restaurants, while another is running a multi-million dollar business of recycling ink cartridges to save customers money and reduce the amount of petroleum-based plastics in landfills. Their summary was that their commitment toward benefiting their communities changed the culture of their business, how they operated, their attitudes and beliefs, and, above all, where they drew gratification and thanks. It should also be noted that financial profit was achieved.

I recently heard something within our own industry that demonstrated this very same conclusion. A young customer service representative (CSR) on the phone was taking a call from a car owner needing a price for a windshield. As she entered the vehicle information on her computer to generate the customer’s requested quotation, she asked for, and was granted, permission to share information concerning how the gentlemen should pursue securing the right kind of work to protect the integrity of his car and safety of its occupants. 
The point of proof for being more dedicated to her community than securing another job for her glass shop came when she asked the customer to make her a promise; a promise that he would be sure to select a glass shop that would provide trained technician work, a written record of everything done on the job and a quoted time that his car would be safe to drive. His promise to do so would indicate that she had done her best job toward serving the community. There was a ton of heart in this conversation that resulted in that young man feeling the CSR’s greater concern for his well being than her bottom line. Her glass shop got the job, but even when they didn’t succeed in doing so with others, she claimed that her glass shop did succeed in doing their part in making their community a safer one in which to live. This approach not only is rewarded with improved business opportunity but even a more gratified spirit of accomplishment.

Those who seek only money, no matter the cost, are in real trouble. It was sad to recently hear of a business that was breaking a long tradition of providing each employee a Christmas turkey because it had a bad year, even though the owner was taking his usual $200,000 salary. As a result, a group of service center managers got together and pooled money from their own salaries to make sure they could deliver this well-appreciated token of thanks for the efforts of their employees. 

Within our own AGR industry, a glass shop owner is on record with a distributor stating that not following safe drive-away times and the elimination of primers was going to add thousands of dollars to his bottom line. He felt his insurance coverage was sufficient to cover the risk of any subsequent injuries. Can you even begin to comprehend this careless act and the ultimate cost?

Ghost of Holidays Past
For those of you who need to be encouraged to follow the right path of profitability, allow me to introduce one of the wealthiest people in the world: Ben Duskin, a 9-year-old boy dying of leukemia. He recently was granted a financial gift from the Make-A-Wish Foundation to fulfill his life-long dream of going to Disneyland and meeting a sports celebrity. Instead of taking the trip and meeting his favorite sports celebrity, he donated his financial gift to a company so that they could manufacture a video game for other cancer patients suffering from the side effects of chemotherapy.

Having had 28 years of experience being around a lot of people and business situations, I’ve found that when money and profit are the only benchmarks of success, there will never be enough of either, never be any satisfaction, nor ever a heart-felt thankfulness for the success achieved, largely with their community and society of outside customers and inside employees they serve. This earns the condition of no true security or joy of accomplishment.
Your attainment of financial profit is achieved and sustained by your ability to focus on the priorities of running an efficient business through a maintained model of balanced costs-to-sale prices that, in turn, yield required profit. Outside of that model, fuel its existence around the contribution to your community. Within the AGR industry, we have much to contribute. As Siegel puts it, “Within our post-Enron world, business is not about making a pile of money by any means possible. It’s about selling products or services that address environmental concerns, or social ills, about treating employees fairly and about being a responsible corporate citizen.”

Personally make sure to offer thanks to everyone around you for their support and association. Give prayers of thanks during the holiday season for the many blessings you have achieved and that we have achieved as an industry, that are most often overlooked because of the relentless worries we have in trying to always attain more. The riches of our pocketbook seemingly have an uncanny way of taking care of themselves when we expand our considerations to include becoming rich at heart. A guy named Ebenezer Scrooge provides a nice reminder of how important this really is. 

Carl Tompkins is Western states area manager for the Sika Corp. of Madison Heights, Mich. He is based in Spokane, Wash.

Carl Tompkins is giving the keynote speech at the Independent Glass Association Independents’ Days National Convention & Spring Glass Show™. See pages 21-36 for details.

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