Volume 50, Issue 5 - May 2015

theBusiness

This Kid’s Got A Future

by Lyle R. Hill

He was a good-looking kid … 12 years old I would have guessed … maybe 13. He was dressed for the cold weather that was still holding Chicago in its icy grip. I was sitting in the waiting area of the local drugstore while a prescription that was designed to knock out the lingering congestion from a month-old cold was being processed. The kid whipped out a cell phone and a little black book. This caught my attention. I was pretty sure he wasn’t a bookie, but in Chicago you never know.

“Hello, Mr. Cerny,” the kid began. “My name is Jimmy. I represent Clean Cut Lawn Service and I was wondering if I could provide you with a quotation to do your grass cutting this coming summer?”

His voice was pleasant, unusually calm and professional for someone so young. Really a likable kid I thought. He finished his pitch and paused for Mr. Cerny’s response.

“Oh, I see. So you’re quite happy with your current service and not looking to make a change. Well thank you for taking the time to speak with me and have a good day.”

He made a notation in his little black book and dialed up another number. This time the guy was named Luckett, but unfortunately his response was the same as Mr. Cerny’s. A person by the name of Olson came next. By the shortness of his response, Olson was a little more abrupt than the first two, but the kid stayed cool and composed. I was starting to like this kid, but by now I was also feeling sorry for him.

“Hey, kid,” I said, “Maybe it’s too early to be calling people about their grass-cutting needs. Maybe you’d get a better response if you waited until March or April.”

“Thanks mister, but I think you can never get started too early. And besides, haven’t you ever heard that it’s the early bird that catches the worm?”

Now I really liked this kid. I wanted to tell him that of course I’d heard that old worn-out saying … maybe a thousand times or more. And it has bothered me for as long as I can remember, because my position on the early bird thing is that the early bird can only be successful in catching its meal if there is a corresponding early worm. Unless, of course, you believe that worms follow a different schedule than do birds altogether. Personally, I believe that most worms are actually nocturnal and are underground long before the earliest of birds arise. So my premise is that the only way an early bird catches a worm is if the worm is actually running late. I have felt this way since I was about this kid’s age. I’m convinced that there must be others who have reached this same conclusion, but I have never felt comfortable enough to openly admit how I feel about this subject until this very moment. But for now, back to our story.

“Listen, kid,” I said in an effort to ease his pain, “you can cut my lawn this summer if you’d like.”

“Well, to be honest mister,” the kid replied, “I don’t know if I can squeeze you in or not this summer. I’m actually pretty full right now.”

“But wait a minute,” I said, taken aback by his response to my generosity, “I just overheard three people in a row turn you and your Clean Cut Lawn Service down. If you were full, then why were you calling these people trying to get them to let you cut their lawns this summer?”

“Well,” he answered, exposing a bit of a sly smile, “my company is actually called Grass America and those people I called are already my customers.”

“Kid, you’re confusing me. So why were you calling them pretending to be someone else?” I asked.

“To see if they were happy with their present supplier … me,” he fired back. “You see I know it’s a lot harder to get a new customer than it is to keep an old one. And while my tactics might be a little sneaky, I just want to make sure I’m doing my job to their complete satisfaction. I also know there’s always somebody who will be cheaper than me, so it’s important that I offer quality work and a very high level of customer satisfaction.”

Wow! This kid really was something. I had to give him credit. He truly recognized the importance of customer satisfaction. While his methods were a little unusual, in his own way he was measuring the level of his performance relative to his customer’s point of view and level of expectation.

Just then the pharmacist called out “Billy, your mother’s order is ready. See you this spring when you come to cut our lawn.”

“Looking forward to it, Mr. Kramer” Billy replied, looking back at me with a smile.

the author
Lyle R. Hill is the managing director of Keytech North America, a company providing research and technical services for the glass and metal industry. Hill has more than 40 years of experience in the glass and metal industry and can be reached at lhill@glass.com. You can read his blog on Wednesdays at lyleblog.usglassmag.com.

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