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I am a servant. To my company, my family, my friends and even people I don’t know — I am a servant. As I sail into the twilight of a 40-year career in business, it seems the world we live in today has forgotten and devalued the lost art of service. The ultimate servant lost his life in 33 A.D.; don't peg me as overly religious, I am just stating a fact believed by many. Buddha, Mohamad, Martin Luther King — all servants to their people.
Since March 2020, we have a new excuse for a lack of service, inventory or just caring — COVID-19. Now, I don't take this terrible disease lightly; it almost killed me last December, and did kill my dear mother. Even the recent vaccine I received brought back the vivid side effects that made me pull out the holy water from my mother’s house, as well as Tylenol for the raging fever and chills.
That being said, we survived 2020 with one of the best years ever in the history of the company, and 2021 is off to a great start.
Nothing will deter us. No excuses!
At our small, independent and locally owned plumbing supply company that operates in a world of giant conglomerates — home centers and multi-national competition — the most important thing we sell is service. One of my primary goals here is to teach my young salesmen the art of service. And it starts with caring.
Caring for other people more than yourself is something you learn quickly when you have your first child and realize their very life depends on you.
At our company, the day starts at 4 a.m. and doesn’t end until the last customer is handled. Everyone is on call 24/7. When the phone rings, it's answered by a human being, not a machine. And it better be on the first ring! Texts and emails demand an immediate response. Try getting that from the local big box. We demand and expect it.
What do we sell? What do you need?
Our clients ask for a wide variety of things a normal plumbing supply house would never sell. If they want it, we will find it and deliver it to them anywhere in the world. We also provide anything to make their lives better, be it tickets to an Alabama game, fishing trips to Dreamlakes or Sunday tickets to the Masters. It's all part of the service we provide.
If our clients are sick or have a family emergency, we are there for them because we care about every aspect of their lives, and believe more sales will always follow. The local Full Moon BBQ has sent food, day or night, all over the state to clients for funerals, weddings or events because the Maluff and Ajlouny families who own the restaurant understand and share our philosophy of service.
So what did I gain from this life of service? At 18, I made a list of all the things I wanted to accomplish by the time I was 40. I laugh at them now. For example, I wanted to be a millionaire, live in the biggest house I used to walk past going to school, own a BMW and Porsche 911, buy myself a Rolex, etc. But these things all came to me as a byproduct of my life of service.
You really have to ask yourself if you are willing to give the art of service the time it demands. It is not the immediate gratification often expected in this on-demand society we live in. It does not come easy, and it shouldn’t.
All I want these days is peace, understanding, cooperation and moderation — a happy healthy family, friends and fellow employees — and maybe a quiet day at the lake. That is all.
Simple Rules of Business, from the Word According to Carlo
1. You’ve got to care — about everyone and everything. Make it always seem like their problem/order/situation is the most important thing that you are working on. Then handle it!
2. When you are at work, work. Limit distractions. As I say, if you are in the game, be in the game.
3. Make yourself indispensable. Learn something about everything — from the coffee maker to the copy machine.
4. Know everything possible about your customers and fellow employees — supervisors especially. What makes them tick?
5. Do whatever it takes to accomplish the mission or project at hand.
6. Value your services and knowledge. Have a healthy self-worth but always acknowledge we all have a lot to learn.
7. Under promise, over deliver. Always do more than expected.
8. Know the difference between injury and illness. I didn’t miss a day of work until I was 48 and had hernia surgery.
9. Never give up on an order, a customer or an employee. Anything is possible.
10. Get a life! Be able to talk about something other than work — or yourself! Take a genuine interest in other people.
Carlo Joseph III is the executive vice president of Pelham, Ala.-based V & W Supply Co.