Tuesday, 6 May 2008

Business Lessons From One Man And His Ladder

There's loads of lessons on business and enterprise told by great management gurus and CEOs of big corporations but sometimes you can learn so much from ...literally... a bloke on the street.
The bloke on the street in question was a decorator, up a ladder painting the outside of our neighbour's house. He was there yesterday, an old guy who’d decorated all his life.. and loved it. I said hi to him. He said he’d noted that the guttering on one side of our house was full of earth and moss so he’d put his ladder up and removed it for us. ‘Wow’ I said, ‘Thanks’.

Then he said that when he did that he noticed that one of the valleys at the front of the roof had some cement missing. ‘Oh dear’ I said, ‘thanks for spotting it’. He smiled. ‘So I fixed that too, just put some new cement in the gaps for you’.

I was stunned. He was decorating my neighbour’s house but had taken the time and trouble to look at our roof and fix it. I told him how grateful I was. ‘it was nothing much’ he shrugged.

I went back out to see him later in the afternoon and he mentioned some of our old window frames were in need of attention so I booked him to do some work for us in July. I don’t think it was a sales-technique; this guy was genuine in his goodwill in helping us out; but on the other hand, what a perfect way to introduce his great service to new clients? Not only did this work with us but he said he’s also decorating the neighbouring house on the other side, as his next job.

I often have the same conversation with associates and contacts about the process of business development – how we don't want to 'give away too much for free' in pursuit of building relationships with clients. What the decorator proved is that you shouldn't be too mercenary. A genuine gesture of goodwill can get rewarded with the commissioning of a new project. Of course, we could have just taken his free work with no commitment to pay him for any work in the future, but on the other hand we were touched by his gesture and he proved he'd be a good safe pair of hands for any work he did in the future....

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