It is Amazing What Difference a Mile or Two Can Make

I was coaching youth baseball in Smithtown, N.Y., in the ’80s and ’90s. Smithtown is a big place—about 100,000-plus residents at the time—and had different sections, geographically. The Little Leagues were based on these sections. Why am I telling you this? Because Craig Biggio, who was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame on Sunday, was from Smithtown, and I was ‘this close’ to being to being able to coach him. Well, actually ‘this close’ was just a couple of miles. Craig’s baseball life is a great story, and this story can help your glass company, too!

In high school, he was an All-Star football player and baseball player. Baseball won out, basically because he is small, 5-foot-10 and wiry. But tough like you have never seen. He was a catcher growing up and came up to the Houston Astros at the position. And he became an All-Star as a catcher. Good for you, Craig. After catching for a while, and becoming a great hitter, his manager asked him to switch to second base. The Astros needed a second baseman, and they was felt that this move could lengthen Craig’s career, as catchers’ knees usually wear out. Craig said yes, it would be a job to learn a new position, but he would do it. He put in thousands of hours practicing his new position; every day he would take fielding practice and listen to the coaches to learn the intricacies of his new position. He became an All-Star again.

This doesn’t happen often. Only a handful of players earn this accolade. And then, his team, after many years, asked him to play in the outfield, as they had a young second baseman coming up in the minors. Craig did it for the team. Thousands of hours of work again, and now, he is in the Baseball Hall of Fame.

So, this is another Paul-baseball-story. And it can help you, too. You may have talent in your company, and you may have needs for talent. But they don’t seem to be in same place at the same time. Go ahead and make the switch. But, be sure to give plenty of training in the new position, and be supportive of your trainee. Give him or her all the help and benefits of working with your seasoned people. Don’t pigeon-hole people early in their career and be afraid to let them grow into a new position because they are so good in their current job. 

It is this type of job switching that keeps employees motivated and eager to help their company. Look throughout your whole company, whether a five-man shop or a full fabricator, and see who has talent. Don’t let them stagnate in one position. The biggest single reason people leave jobs is to get new and more challenging opportunities, not money. By the way, Craig Biggio stayed with the Houston Astros for more than 20 years. 

The Best Way Ever, Bar None, Tip-Of-The-Top Tip to Retain Customers

This is not one of those bullet-point lists that has 300 ways to do something. It is not even the top three. Or in baseball terms, this is the winner of the World Series in four straight.

How can I be so sure of myself in making this outlandish statement? Is it because I just read a book about it? No. Did someone else whisper this in my ear? No. It is simple… I was in business and know this works.

Get ready. Here it comes:

The single best way to retain customers is to have great employees who interact with your customers. You can’t possible do everything yourself. You have to have good people around you. Let your employees be real people to your customers. Have every customer service person visit their key customers, in person. Have your credit manager or bookkeeper know the key players personally. Does your key foreman know the owners of the jobs you are working on? You can and should make it so.

This way, your customer knows there is a path to problem resolution. He will care about your people, more than caring about your company. This makes you a winner.

Train your employees to be customer centered. Encourage them to do everything they can for a customer, every chance they can. This is why Southwest Airlines is the best, or Nordstrom’s, or any glass shop that is doing well.

It is all about your employees interacting with your customers. If your employees smile as the walk through the door of your company, your customers will pick up on that. If they are more likely to be Oscar The Grouch, your customers will know that, too.

Now could there be a bulleted list of a hundred ways to keep your employees happy? Yes. But not for today.

Think about it. If you can, send me an email with the tips you have for keeping your employees happy at:  I’ll publish them in a couple of weeks, giving all writers full credit for their ideas.