Up Your Business is an exclusive GEARS Magazine feature in which I share stories, insights, and reflections about business and life.
Last month, I asked you to consider what having a servant’s heart means to you. I said that it starts with a commitment to serving — serving customers and serving mankind in general. Your homework was to observe encounters in your life that exemplify the qualities of having a servant’s heart. Then consider how you can incorporate them into your business and life.
I did my homework, too. Here are three that I encountered in the last 30 days.
RELIEVING PEOPLES’ BURDENS
Rodger Bland and I recently visited Ralph’s Transmission in Modesto, California. We wanted to learn more about the secret sauce the owners, Mario and Maria Jauregui, are using in their recipe for success.
Mario will be speaking at the upcoming Powertrain Expo, and we wanted to view their operation on an up-close-and-personal basis. Mario’s topic is Knowing Your Numbers Backward and Forward. I fully expected that we’d spend the day hovering over a computer, crunching numbers on a spreadsheet while Mario explained how he tracks his rather unique set of KPI’s (key performance indicators).
While we did do some number crunching, we spent more time learning about Mario and Maria’s beliefs about business and life as a whole. They both truly have servant’s hearts and they foster that culture throughout their business. It’s evidenced by the attitudes of all their team members.
When I asked Mario what it means to have a servant’s heart, he responded, “It’s a desire to relieve people’s burdens.” I asked him what that means to him and, more specifically, what it means to the people benefiting from it.
In typical Mario fashion, he nutshelled it, “The best way to help someone is to relieve their burden, but first you have to identify it. Their burden is often hidden behind the pressing problem they’re experiencing. Our job is to take the time to find and solve the root issue which is their actual burden.”
He continued, “For example, when a customer has a broken transmission and seems overly upset, don’t assume it’s all about the transmission. Ask questions and listen. When you learn that their son has an out-of-town soccer game that afternoon; that’s likely their burden. Offer to rent them a car and the burden is relieved. By doing this, we make a friend and usually get the job.”
Mario has a way of shining the spotlight of clarity on things to reveal a fresh perspective. You don’t want to miss his session at this year’s Powertrain Expo. I promise you that it’ll be more than a number-crunching session.
IT’S WHAT WE DO
On Easter weekend, I purchased a toy for myself. It’s a 2007 Chrysler Crossfire: a sports car that DaimlerChrysler produced on the Mercedes SLK chassis and power train during their brief merger.
Eager to put it to the test on roads suited for a sports car, my wife and I took off on a road trip, avoiding interstates as much as possible. The route went from our home in Phoenix up to the Grand Canyon and over to Lake Powell. From there we drove through Utah’s scenic national parks and monuments continuing all the way down to Carlsbad Caverns, New Mexico.
Our return leg to Phoenix, began on scenic Highway 82 from Carlsbad to Alamogordo — a winding state highway through green hills and valleys climbing to over 8500 feet before descending to Alamogordo.
The Crossfire performed flawlessly… until it sputtered to a halt a few miles short of the crest. I recognized the symptom as lack of fuel. Still having over half a tank, I assumed it was a fuel pump failure or plugged fuel filter. In either case, driving my morphodite Mercedes- Chrysler in the middle of nowhere suddenly seemed like bad planning.
As we helplessly sat by the side of the road, a car passed us and abruptly pulled into the campground entrance a few hundred yards ahead. The driver was now walking toward us. Of course, all kinds of thoughts raced through my mind — everything from he’s a Good Samaritan to he’s going to mug us.
I decided it would be best to walk boldly toward him to camouflage my anxiety. Fortunately, I’m here to tell this story because he didn’t mug us… he was coming to help us.
His name is John Stroope and he’s the chief of the nearby Mayhill Volunteer Fire Department as well as a lieutenant with the Alamogordo Fire Department. His wife, Tiffney, is also a firefighter as is their friend, Cody Whelchel, who also happened to own the campground and is the captain of the Mayhill Fire Department.
The three of them weren’t just Good Samaritans; they were our guardian angels. What else explains why we broke down where we did? John owns a car trailer and he offered to tow us to a Mercedes specialist that he knows in Alamogordo. Cody had a cabin available if we wanted to stay the night at his campground. Cody is also a car buff and has a passion for Crossfires. He even had a scan tool for it. Tiffney reassured us and kept things light.
About that time, I remembered that I’d decided to top off the gas tank before we left Carlsbad. It was a top brand station, but I recalled that a few of the pumps were marked “Out of Order.” Maybe I got some bad gas.
Cody said that he had a fuel additive he’d use for his personal vehicles for water contamination. I was willing to give it a shot. He poured it into the tank and after allowing a few minutes for it to disperse, voila, the Crossfire fired off and purred like kitten!
Before heading off, literally into the sunset, Sue and I offered to pay for their unexpected help. Our three rescuers refused to accept anything. They even declined our offer to buy them dinner for their off-duty help. They simply said, “This is what we do. There’s no such thing as off duty for us.”
They’re just three of thousands of first responders across our nation. While I’m especially grateful to John, Tiffney, and Cody, their example serves as a reminder for us to be grateful to all of their fellow professionals as well. They do what they do because they have servants’ hearts.
THE LAW OF THE HARVEST
Tim Eversole manages Choice Transmission & Complete Auto Care in Gilbert, Arizona. Tim tells me that he and the shop’s owner, Jason Halaby, agree about how to build long-term customer relationships. He calls it the Law of the Harvest.
Tim says it’s simple, “You plant the seeds by showing customers that they matter to you, nurture customer relationships over time with respect and integrity, and enjoy the harvest of repeat business and referrals from happy customers.”
Tim shared a touching story that illustrates the Law of the Harvest. Several years ago, an older man named George called the shop for a price quote. He’d been told than he had a transmission problem that would likely cost around $2500. After a few minutes on the phone, Tim built enough rapport with George to convince him that it was in his best interest to bring the car in for further diagnosis.
It turned out to be a minor problem with a total bill of under $100. Tim recalled, “It was my birthday and I remember telling George that even though it was my birthday, I had a present for him.”
About an hour after George left, he returned to the shop with a birthday cake decorated with “Happy Birthday Tim.” If the story ended there, it’s a great story, but it gets better. Yes, George became a regular customer, but for the next four years on his birthday, George brought a birthday cake to Tim.
Tim said that it was never clear whether George did this because of the repair experience or the person-to-person relationship. On the fifth year, Tim got his answer.
George’s wife, Ruth came in with a birthday cake. George had recently passed away. She said that George had a safe deposit box and that among other things, he’d left a list of instructions. On the list was, “Bring a birthday cake to Tim Eversole on April 28th every year.” Tim says that Ruth is still a customer and still brings him a cake every year.
When I shared this story with my wife, she posed a great question. Does this story say more about Tim’s heart or George and Ruth’s?
WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO YOU?
In each of these stories, we get a glimpse into what it means to have a servant’s heart. The firefighters summed it up as, “It’s what we do.” I wonder, is it that simple? I believe it goes deeper. A servant’s heart is inside you. It’s who you are and that determines what you do.
You could dismiss their servant mentality with the notion that they aren’t running a business, so they can afford to be generous with their time. Personally, I think, just like Mario and Tim, they would render great service in any circumstance… it’s who they are.
Start looking today at what you do in light of why you do it. This Zig Ziglar quote from last month’s article is worth repeating: “If you go out to be a friend, you’ll find them everywhere. You can get everything in life you want if you will just help enough other people get what they want.”
Share Your Stories
If you’ve personally experienced a weird or unusual customer dispute and wouldn’t mind sharing it to help your industry, please contact me. You just tell me the story and I’ll do all the heavy lifting to write it.
We can make it an article about you, or you may remain anonymous. The main thing is we want to share stories that will help others avoid similar problems. Call me at 480-773-3131 or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
About the Author
Thom Tschetter has served and educated our industry for nearly four decades. Up Your Business topics come from Thom’s years of experience as a speaker, writer, and business consultant, as well as from his in-the-trenches experiences at his own, award-winning chain of shops.
He calls on over 30 years of experience as a speaker, writer, business consultant, and certified arbitrator for topics for this feature column.
Thom is always eager to help members of our industry and continues to be proactive in pursuing ways to improve your business and your life.