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Soul Captains

“It’s not about shoes, it’s about customer service.” Says Zappos founder, Tony Hsieh. In a recent television interview about this dynamic mail order shoe company, sold recently to Amazon for $1.5 billion, we learn one lesson of success. Zappos customer service representatives are given the power to do whatever is necessary to make customers happy. One scene showed a rep speaking to a customer and going onto the Internet with her to locate a pair of shoes she had seen somewhere. We were told that the record for time spent on a customer service call was five and one half hours. While initially this seems to be an unbelievable amount of time think about the cost benefit relationship.

Even at $35/ hour including taxes and overhead for a total expenditure I estimate a cost at less than $400 for this allotted time. That’s the cost for the 5 ½ hour call but what might that investment be worth? If Zappos kept that customer for life they would easily profit from future sales. I am sure the customer shared this service story with many friends and positive referrals are always beneficial. Further I am now sharing the story with thousands of UniformMarket readers. So for their $400 investment I think Zappos got thousands worth of publicity. All the return on investment because of the culture of service set by the company founder.

We hear about these tremendous success stories even in these times of negative economic news. Fed Chairman Bernanke foretold more months if not years of anemic growth due to our rather severe downturn. Retail clothing sales were down an unexpected 1.2% in May. High unemployment lingers. Natural disasters such as the gulf oil spill will crimp the future of wildlife, cost billions and take years to clean up while visiting economic havoc on our neighbors in the South.

There’s enough negative news to satisfy most fatalists. The more we study history or have lived it, we realize there have been other challenging times. World population continues to grow and all those people are consumer of goods and services. So how do we reconcile the disparity between opportunity and hard economic times? You may not be able to resolve this issue but we can improve our performance and results. When my golf swing goes awry, the professionals advise reviewing the fundamentals first. Checking one’s posture, grip and alignment will usually reveal some facet of the mechanics that may have strayed out of line.

Which fundamentals in business can we search to check the mechanics of our success? Given the fundamentals are not new, there must be good reason for the longevity of age old wisdom. I turned to the classic work of Napoleon Hill and his 1937 book “Think and Grow Rich.” If you have not read it now is the time and if you have read it there’s no time like the present to review it. As with improving a golf swing, attention paid to just a few points will account for major improvement opportunity. (Pareto’s Principle known as the 80/20 rule is another proven fundamental. For example, eighty percent of your sales come from twenty percent of your clients.) So don’t be overwhelmed in reviewing the lessons for success. The rewards are self justifying.

For those of you not familiar with the book, Hill interviewed more than five hundred successful people from early last century. He identified thirteen behavioral traits common to most of these outstanding performers. We are talking about people like Thomas Edison, Theodore Roosevelt, John D. Rockefeller, Wilbur Wright, Henry Ford and Woodrow Wilson. This sounds like pretty good company to keep. And think about the tools not available to aid in their success. Their time was before Social Security, Medicare, personal computers, Internet, cell phones, email, Tweeter, Face Book or even fax machines. And the economic times they experienced were as rough as or rougher than ours today.

I remember the comment about wealth distribution I learned a number of years ago. If all the money in the world was collected and deposited in one place, it would all soon find itself back in the same pockets. What makes the difference in the determination of who will develop and continue to attract wealth regardless of the external circumstances? Our internal guidance and our external activities have and will always make a huge difference between having abundance or not.

I need not cover all thirteen of Hill’s points as you may read or review for yourself. But here is one insight with some clues. “Truly, thoughts are things and powerful things at that, when they are mixed with definiteness of purpose, persistence and a burning desire for their translations into riches.” Learn how to utilize the power of the Mastermind Group, energizing the subconscious mind to maximize our natural given brain power. If anything, technology has increased the information available and the speed to access it. William E. Henley, in his poem, Invictus, (also a great recent movie of the same title) writes that “It matters not how strait the gate, how charged with punishments the scroll, I am the master of my fate: I am the captain of my soul.”

So Captains, we all, first take charge of our thoughts. Mix in some faith, education and persistence and if you believe in the fundamentals you will not be surprised at your successful results. These principles held true in the past and no doubt will be valid in the future so let’s be intelligent and utilize these ideas in our present.

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