Mackay: Show customers you care about them and excellence

"Everybody needs four things in life: Something to do, someone to love, someone to believe in and something to hope for."

I wish I had said that, but it is from my friend Lou Holtz, the author, motivational speaker, sportscaster and retired football coach. I recently invited Lou to speak to a professional group I am mentoring, and he was his usual outstanding self. It's no wonder that the Washington Speakers Bureau calls Lou one of the best speakers in the world.

I've heard him speak 100 times, and he still amazes me with his practical, down-to-earth and simple advice.

For example, we have all kinds of rules and laws. We've got federal laws, state laws, corporate laws, bylaws ... you name it. Holtz simplifies things by following three simple rules:

Rule No. 1: Do right. "Just do the right thing," Lou says. "We've all done dumb things and wish we hadn't done them, but you can't go through life with an albatross around your neck saying, 'I made a mistake.' Say you're sorry, make amends and move on."

Rule No. 2: Do everything to the best of your ability with the time allotted. Lou says: "Not everybody will be an All-American. Not everybody will be first team. Not everybody will be great. But everybody can do the best they can with the time allotted."

Rule No. 3: Show people you care. I have seen this rule in action many times. Lou is constantly asking people, "How can I help you? How can I assist you?" He means it. He has a burning desire to help people.

Lou Holtz says he can get by with only three rules because the people you meet have three basic questions.

The first question: Can I trust you?

"Without trust, there is no relationship," Lou said. "Without trust, you don't have a chance. People have to trust you. They have to trust your product. The only way you can ever get trust is if both sides do the right thing."

The second question: Are you committed to excellence?

Lou explained, "When you call on a customer, you send a message that you are committed to certain standards. How much do you know about your company and what opportunities your company offers to satisfy people's needs? The only way that can ever be answered is if you do everything to the best of your ability."

The third question: Do you care about me?

Holtz said: "Do you care about me, and what happens if your product doesn't do what it's intended to do? Caring about people is not making their life easy. Caring about people is not being their friend. Caring about people is enabling them to be successful."

A few years ago I was asked to help raise money for a Lou Holtz statue at the University of Notre Dame. On the pedestal, his players had chosen three words -- trust, love, commitment. Those words represent Lou's core values.

Holtz finished with an exercise. He asked us to pick two people: Someone you love, admire and respect, and someone you've got a problem with. Ask these three questions about both people. You should answer with a simple yes or no.

"I guarantee you, the person you admire and respect, you said yes to all three questions," Holtz said. "The person you've got a problem with, you pinpointed a problem. Either you can't trust them, they aren't committed or they don't care."

When you have a problem with someone who falls into these three categories, you have to decide if you can change it or live with it. If you can't do either, your only other choice -- and probably the right choice -- is to divorce yourself from the problem or the individual.

Mackay's Moral: Life is a lot easier if you always play by the rules.

Harvey Mackay is a Minneapolis businessman. Contact him at 612-378-6202 or e-mail harvey@mackay.com.

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