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My wife is fond of saying that I live in an alternate universe. And also that I am not human. She also claims that I have selective hearing — apparently I hear everyone else, just not her. But we’ll save that for another time. I do, however admit to being an “off-the-charts” Type A personality.
Let me share a little background with you that might help you understand. First, I am a salesman. I was named to the “Top 40 Under 40.” Became a millionaire at 39, yada yada yada. Big deal. The house I live in is the one I pointed out to my Dad when I was 10 and told him I would one day buy it.
You’ve gotta have goals and something to set your sights on. I used to carry around a list of the Top 10 things I wanted to achieve by the time I turned 40. I laugh at them now, but I did them all.
What do I sell?
What do you need to complete your project? Or make your life better? Or take care of your family? I sell all of it.
My primary products are plumbing supplies, but please don’t limit me to that! Of course, sinks and toilets will never be a dot.com away, nor do you really want to wait for Amazon to get you a toilet or provide hot water when you don't have it. I’m “just a person who can get things.”
What are our hours?
When do you want it? I am writing this at 4:15 a.m., the usual time I get to the office (same for the last 20 years). We are, therefore, open. In fact, if you had needed something at 3:30 a.m., we would have been open then, too. Last week, I stood right outside of my local cell phone provider’s store, and watched the employees inside doing nothing, rather than opening their doors five minutes early to help me out. Just shoot me!
I live by a code that drives my very existence — to provide a level of customer service unmatched in our industry or any industry. To do this, there are simple rules I live by — they’re not just lip service. By the way, I hate meetings — never have either them or employee reviews. I don’t sit in a private office; I sit in the inside sales area and for 12 hours a day I am basically “sitting in on” all the meetings and reviews you could imagine. Just say the wrong thing to a customer or have a bad attitude or give less than 100%, and we’ll have a “meeting” right then.
But back to the code. Here is my list:
• You’ve got to care — about every thing and every one. Show me a person with good relationships with their parents and family, and that’s a start. You have to care more about others than you do yourself. When you get an order, thank your customer. Then handle it as if nothing was more important. Make them feel special. Don’t you hate ordering from someplace or sombody that doesn’t seem to care if they get it right or not? Or that you get it when you need it?
• When you are at work, be at work! Kind of like that old saying, “If you’re in the game, be in the game.” Put a limit on distractions — Facebook, e-Bay etc.
• Make yourself indispensable. Learn about everything from the copier to the coffee maker — how they work, how to fix them, and be wiling to help others when they’re having trouble.
• Know everything about your customers, their families and whatever makes them tick. Same for fellow employees and supervisors.
• One of the sayings around our offices is “whatever it takes.” What is unacceptable is failure because you didn’t try.
• Value your service and knowledge. Have a healthy self-worth, but acknowledge that we all have a lot to learn.
• Always do more than expected rather than the bare minimum. Lead by example on that!
• Know the difference between injury and illness. I didn’t miss a day of work until I was 48 and had hernia surgery. Even then, a customer came to my house for lunch and gave me an order.
• Never give up on an order, customer or employee. Anything can happen and anything is possible.
• Get a life! Be able to talk about something other than yourself or work. They say we work to live — not live to work!
Carlo Joseph is Partner and Vice President at V&W Supply Co., a Birmingham, Ala.-based wholesaler with four branches and three Design Center showrooms. Their customer service is legendary, and the V&W leadership remains committed to employee and customer training, as well as forging strong relationships among their supply chain partners.