One thing that all people in the service industry must remember is that you are on stage. I just finished reading a book by Lee Cockrell called Creating Magic. It is an outstanding book that I recommend to anyone who is in the service industry or has any interest in building a successful team. In this book he quotes his wife as saying that “Everyone is watching and judging you”. This parallels the same guidelines I have expressed to my team; that you are always on stage so you better get it right.
In a previous blog post “First impressions” I speak about a company that got it wrong when they were on stage. I expressed the importance of making sure that all team members understand that they are representing the company’s brand every minute that they ‘fly the company’s banner’, through a shirt logo, truck signage, or just plain conversation. If you are connected to the company in any way, either at work, or on your own personal time, you are representing the company brand and people are watching.
I have shared a story with my team members over the years that will demonstrate this better than I could ever explain it: There was a young man, we will call him Bob, who had started his own electrical company at the very young age of 19. Bob had struggled for the first year trying to break into the construction world and make relationships with contractors in the area. He had done everything right. He spent time on branding and marketing to make sure his name was out there and that everyone knew what his company was all about. He spent time at the local associations getting to know everyone and waiting for the chance to bid the right project that would catapult his company into the big leagues. You see Bob wasn’t looking to just put numbers on the street. He was looking for partners in the industry.
Finally he got his chance. A local company that had a reputation for only hiring quality contractors had contacted Bob about getting together a price for an upcoming project. They sent him a huge pre-qualification package to fill out prior to receiving the plans to make sure that Bob’s company fit into the mold of the type of contractors this GC dealt with. This company had a great reputation for never using low bid contractors, and was focused on building long term business partners to work together building quality high value projects, the exact customer Bob had been searching for. Bob spent quite a bit of money putting together the perfect prequalification package that would illustrate his commitment to quality and value. The company was impressed and signed Bob on to the bid list.
Bob spent nearly three weeks putting together this bid. He build this job several times over in his head to make sure that every value was considered and had pages of notes on ways to improve the efficiency of the project as well as many ‘value engineered’ portions to get better performance out of the overall design. Bob knew this was his shot to not only impress the client, but also to become a real player in the industry. This was a high level, well known project that many long-time contractors wanted, and only the best would have a chance at getting.
Once Bob completed his entire proposal package he made the call and to his delight, the customer told him to come in on Tuesday for a meeting and a short presentation of Bob’s vision for this project.
Bob was nervous. The gravity of this presentation would set forth the entire future of his company and would set Bob up for many more opportunities with this client. On Tuesday morning Bob got up early, put on his best suit, and spent time rehearsing his pitch in front of the mirror. Bob looked at the time and realized he needed to get going so he wouldn’t want to be late.
As Bob headed out he hit the usual traffic on the expressway. Today seemed more congested than usual and Bob was stressing out. As Bob headed up to a toll plaza he waited in line like everyone else. As he approached the toll booth another car came flying up next to him and cut him off. Bob blew his horn and the other driver made an obscene hand gesture. Being that Bob was already stressed out this set him over the edge, and Road Rage set in. He rolled down his window and started yelling profanities at the driver. As the driver pulled through the toll Bob paid his toll and raced up to the other driver. Bob rolled down his window side by side with the other driver, and was still screaming and swerving at the man who cut him off. Finally, the other driver, realizing that Bob had lost it, made a quick exit and left the highway.
Bob was furious and seething he was so upset. He turned on the radio and tried to cool down. Bob arrived at the client’s office about an hour early and decided to go get a cup of coffee and finish calming down and preparing. After recomposing himself he went into the office and told the receptionist he was there for a meeting and she asked him to take a seat and someone would be right with him. After waiting a few minutes a man came out to meet with Bob. To Bob’s utter horror, it was the same man that had cut him off at the toll booth. The man took one look at Bob, and said I have decided that you are not the type of person my company would like to do business with, “Good Day!” And he turned around and walked away.
Put yourself in Bob’s position. Did he need to act that way? He had left in plenty of time to get to his appointment.
The fallout from Bob’s actions were even worse than just not getting this job, he had destroyed everything he had worked so hard to build, in one moment of rage. And the person he lashed out at was a person of great influence in the industry which would have long lasting effects.
Always remember that you never know who your next customer is, or where they might come from. You are always on stage and should act accordingly. While we can all agree that Bob’s actions are wrong in any walk of life, sadly for him, his story quite clearly illustrates the point that you are always on stage, and you are always being watched, so you better get it right!