OPINION: Some Valuable Business Advice from a Retiring Father

OPINION: Some Valuable Business Advice from a Retiring Father

With so many gurus and influencers in the world today, it’s hard to sort good advice from bad. This is especially true for business leaders seeking ways to improve their bottom line. However, sometimes a piece of advice lands in your lap and stops you in your tracks. That happened to me recently as I was talking to my father about his pending retirement.

Pops is hanging up his management hat this week after 32 years at Talquin Electric. For three decades he has managed a team at Talquin helping customers navigate their utility needs. A few days ago, I went by to visit him at his office for the last time and asked him what some of his biggest takeaways were from a career there. I made sure to write down what he said as I was leaving.

Pops told me his best advice in business was that “you should always do everything you can to help the customer.” What a simple yet profound statement. He shared with me that in all his years at Talquin, that was his guiding principle. He added, “If you get that right, everything else will work out just fine.”

I’ve stopped by to see Pops at his office hundreds of times over the years and seen this principle in practice. After leaving there for the final time, I was flooded with memories of all the folks I’ve seen him help before. No matter who they were, what their situation was, or what he had going on, he always stopped to help. He’s part of the reason Talquin has such a strong relationship with its co-op members.

I often tell my clients that your brand is the story people tell about you. That’s why brands that solve customer problems have such staying power. When you can help someone overcome a challenge, they’ll remember you for life. That’s what Pops does better than anyone.

His brand has always been about helping people. He helps customers at Talquin; he helps his co-workers there; he helps his neighbors; he helps my mom; Lord knows he helps me. I can’t imagine a better story for someone to tell about a person.

Hearing Pops share this wisdom made me take some time to measure how my company is doing in this critical area. I keep asking myself, “could we be doing more to help our customers?” What a great way to get uncomfortable.

The answer to that question is almost always “yes.” That’s not to say that we don’t do a good job in the problem-solving department, but there’s always room for improvement. The same is true for every business. Which brings me to an observation I’ve made about my father during all those office visits since I was a kid. No matter what the interaction is, whether a phone call, email, or in-person meeting, he always asks “is there anything else I can help you with.”

While that kind of mentality should be customer service 101, sadly it’s not. All business owners need to do a better job of considering the customer’s perspective when presented with a problem. Think of how often you’ve been disappointed as a customer in your life and compare that to the times when you walked away impressed. Someone going above and beyond to help is always the difference.

Come next week, Pops will be enjoying some much earned down time, but knowing him, it won’t be long before he’s helping someone somewhere solve a problem. Mom tells me she has a list brewing for him and I’ve got some kids who need babysitting. Meanwhile, Talquin Electric will have to figure out who is best suited to fill Pops’ shoes at the office, but as long as the next manager keeps his principle in play they’ll do well. I’m going to try and do the same.