No matter how long you’ve been in business, no matter how much you’ve learned, you can never know everything. Trading is an adventure with no end and a never-ending training. I have had countless teachers in my career. Some of them have acted as guides and mentors. Some are people I met, some are experiences I went through during that time. They all taught me lessons that helped me improve myself and my business.
Consider our program that takes clients on a tour of our Brooklyn office. As they were about to leave, I put on my coat and saw them off to the car. Usually, guests will say, “Oh, no need. He is very busy. I can find my own way.”
I said, “No, of course I do and I’ll explain along the way.” Then I told them about my meeting with King Hussein of Jordan.
It was the mid-1990s, on a trip to Jordan arranged by the Simon Wiesenthal Foundation, when I was on their board of directors. The King invited us to tour the country, to meet him and Queen Noor. Seven team members – led by Rabbi Marvin Hier, founder and president of the Simon Wiesenthal Center – arrived in Amman, the Jordanian capital. We stayed there for a few days, touring in government-supplied limosines, until word came that the king was ready to receive us.
The driver drove us to the palace at the appointed time, we entered one of the buildings of the palace complex. In the middle of the room was a long and wide table, at one end a chair for the King. As we waited for him to appear, the chief of foreign affairs placed us in the order of his audience. “The King wants to see each of you individually,” he said.
A few minutes later, King Hussein, Queen Noor and their entourage appeared, followed by introductions. As the king walked along the audience line, he greeted each one by name. “Oh, Mr. Brodsky,” he said as he approached me. “I know you’re a businessman in New York.”
I have two reactions. Firstly, extremely proud. It makes me feel warm and happy to think that the King of Jordan knows who I am and what I do. Second, I’m surprised. I think you must have about twenty to thirty meetings like this a week. Are you preparing every meeting like you are doing with us?
After the introduction, we sat around the table, and for the next hour or so we chatted with the King and Queen. Finally, the king said, “I’m sorry, but I have another appointment and I must go now. I want to thank all of you for coming here. Please enjoy the rest of your visit to our country. Let me see you out to the car.”
I had never been seen off to a car by a state governor before. Besides, we had to go a long way then. The King shared the street while chatting with us, as we made our way to the corridor and down the stairs. Outside, right in front of the castle, he stopped so we could take pictures before seeing us off in the car.
“This is unbelievable,” I told the head of public relations.
“What is it?” he said.
“The King saw us off to the carriage,” I replied.
“It’s just our usual courtesy,” he said.
Days later, I still ponder that comment. If it’s common courtesy for the King to see me off to the car and it’s also common courtesy for him to get to know me before meeting, then why can’t I do this with visiting clients? me? My feelings about King Hussein and Jordan are exactly what I want my clients to feel about me and my company. I want them to know that I really care about them personally. That’s how you develop a lasting relationship.
So in addition to so many good memories I’m back from Jordan with two great business tricks. From then on, I always made sure I had some simple information about the people I knew would be visiting, enough to build a bridge with them. At the end of each meeting, I would see them off to the car.
That’s the basic way I get business ideas. I collect them wherever I go. I view anyone I meet as a potential source of knowledge to improve the way I do business. I don’t tap into people’s knowledge, but I closely observe what they do and how it affects everything around them, myself included. As a result, I constantly discover new things that I can use to strengthen relationships with people inside and outside the company.
Here is another example. Not long ago, I was in Princeton, New Jersey and decided to stop by a local clothing store. I hate shopping, but I love watching the salespeople at work. I think I can learn from them. I even like going to resorts and listening to part-time salespeople recommend services. For me, it’s really relaxing.
Shop Princeton is wonderful as heaven. The salesman there is one of the best I have ever known. He was in no hurry; he is friendly, relaxed style; he made me feel like he really wanted to help me choose the best outfit. I’m a picky clothes shopper, but when I meet a good salesman, I’ll buy anything, even if I don’t know if I really need it or not. This time, I bought two suits and a sports jacket and ordered it delivered to the office. We thanked each other and I left.
Three days later, I received a small letter from the salesman thanking me for visiting the store, expressing his pleasure in helping me, and asking if he could serve me in the future. It’s not a sample letter. It is also not computer-edited. It is a personal, handwritten message. I showed it to Elaine. “Isn’t this great?” I say. “We have to start doing this,” she said. I agree. Since then, Elaine has written personal letters, by hand, to all new clients, welcoming them to the company and asking them to contact either of us directly if necessary.
I know, some people will question the importance of these actions. Does it matter, they wonder, when you see customers off to the car or send them a handwritten letter? Relationships with customers based on price, service, and benefits. If you can’t compete on those areas, you’re out of the game. To have a long term relationship you need more than these basics. Everyone can offer the same or better price and service than you and everyone promises to provide excellent service. If you want to keep customers, you have to do more. You have to give them a reason to stay. One of the best reasons is because they like you, trust you, and want to do business with you. There is no magic formula for these bonds. You have to do little things like that to build their loyalty and trust – call your customers, visit them, take care of them, and after five or ten years you still treat them as kind. when the relationship has just been established.
Issues can be a great source of management knowledge, if you’re willing to learn. Unfortunately, people often view problems as isolated events, without looking at their root causes. As a result, they fail to learn the lesson the problem is trying to convey.
Consider the experience Elaine and I had at a bustling seafood restaurant in Dallas a few years ago. Although the restaurant was very crowded and we didn’t have a reservation, the receptionist said he could find a table for us in about twenty minutes. We went to the bar and Elaine ordered a shrimp cocktail. Before the food was served, the receptionist approached and said we had a post on the balcony, overlooking the main dining room.
“I just ordered a shrimp cocktail,” Elaine said.
“No problem,” said the receptionist. “I’ll have someone bring it to you.”
The shrimp cocktail was served at the table as soon as we sat down. Elaine tasted the sauce and found it too spicy. She intended to lighten it a little, she reached for the bottle of ketchup on the table. As she turned the cap, there was a loud “peeling” sound, ketchup splashing out, spilling over her coat, shirt, skirt, and entire arm. Elaine sat in amazement, covered in ketchup. A waiter came running. “Oh, I’m really sorry,” she said, and handed us the towels. “Let me help you.” She quickly cleaned up the mess. “If you bring clothes tomorrow, I’ll wash them,” she said.
I had the “blood” of business when I was in college fifteen years ago. I am currently happily married with two sons. Family brings joy and meaning along with many responsibilities to my life. So, I plan to keep my main job as the operator of a Fortune 500 company, but I feel like I should also pursue my entrepreneurial ambitions. I have a lot of experience and knowledge that I think will help anyone who wants to start a business. I’m thinking about volunteering in a new company, giving about twenty hours a week. In return, I will ask to be treated like a partner without salary or shares. How do you think?
I think you should be rewarded for being able to make one of the most difficult decisions in your life, which is to put family responsibilities first. A lot of people can’t do that. And yes, I think your idea is great. I also love building businesses and I know that I can fulfill my dreams by helping others start businesses. But twenty hours a week seems too ambitious. Instead, I would suggest meeting with the business owner once or twice a week for advice as an advisory board. You’ll provide excellent service and learn lessons that can be applied by starting your own business – as your kids grow up.
After a while, the manager appeared and apologized to us. He wiped the ketchup on a chair and sat down. “I sincerely apologize for this,” he said, handing us his business cards. “Send me the laundry bill. I promise we will take care of this.”
Both me and Elaine were very impressed. Every industry, including ours, has accidents, carelessness, and incidents that happen to customers. If we were the customer, we would want the supplier to behave as if they were sincerely sorry and do what was necessary to make up for the damage. We would be completely satisfied if the manager just stopped there. But when he stood up, he added: “You’re very lucky.”
“What do you mean?” Elaine was surprised.
“Last time, a guest got his hair sprayed with soy sauce. We had to send her to the hairdresser. At least she just got shot on her clothes.”
“You mean this has happened before?” I ask.
“Oh, yes,” replied the manager. “It happens quite often. During the day this area of the restaurant is very hot. We ask the staff to loosen the cap on the ketchup bottles, so that no pressure builds up inside, but sometimes they forget and the ketchup bottles explode when guests open them.” Then he said goodbye and walked away.
Elaine and I didn’t know whether to get angry or laugh. We are silent. I can think of all sorts of ways to make sure customers don’t get hit with ketchup bombs: bring bottles of soy sauce home every evening, buy a small fridge for the balcony, and keep bottles of soy sauce during the day; pour soy sauce into ventilated flasks; Only serve ketchup when requested by guests. Instead, the restaurant came up with a solution that did not solve the problem. The bottles continued to explode; ketchup continued to splash; the staff continued to clean and apologise; victims continue to tell people they meet about their experiences; So a humiliating incident became a popular story. This can happen when you don’t learn from your mistakes.
The ketchup story is a special situation, but the phenomenon is strange not rare. When inundated with trouble, you will tend to focus on the current crisis to solve it, then move on to another issue that needs more attention. For example, I know a couple who had a company that made women’s clothing. To ensure that there is always enough stock to meet customer demand, they have a habit of producing more clothes. So they ended up having a mountain of surplus clothes that they had to sell at a discount. This is faster and easier than facing the fundamental problem, they don’t have the ability to predict accurately, so they keep doing it, year after year – until they go bankrupt.
The truth is that if you don’t rule out the root cause of the problem, it will only go away temporarily. So I try to establish a principle in the company by constantly reminding people of the two steps when it comes to fixing a problem. First, you must prevent the damage – that is, deal with the consequences and minimize the loss. Then find out why and make sure it doesn’t happen again.
Let me tell you a story about my early days in the record keeping company. At that time, we had a lot of boxes of records. To track them, we had to install a barcode system that would identify each box and locate them. Therefore, the place where the boxes are placed is not so important. We can find them when needed.
However, not long after, customers started complaining that we had lost some of their boxes. At first, I didn’t believe it. I think our system is infallible. For me, the loss of the records box could be due to a mistake by the customer in the process of keeping the books. But then we found a few lost boxes in the warehouse, I knew we were in trouble, so we went through our two-step problem-solving process.
First, I set up a team to find lost boxes. We had to go through the warehouse and check all the boxes everywhere, then match the list on the computer. Fortunately, the number of boxes at that time was still within capacity.
We’ve actually found the boxes, and I think we can stop this and hopefully it won’t happen again. But we do not forget to find the root of the problem. Therefore, I stipulate that new boxes will not be put in stock until we know what is going on and form another team to find the cause and solution.
This didn’t go on for too long. As I surveyed the archiving process, I realized we had made a fundamental mistake by not taking into account the possibility of human error. We do not have a work re-check system. Drivers receive document boxes from customers and bring them to the warehouse, these boxes will be stored directly on the shelves. We don’t stop to count the boxes and make sure the amount we unload from the truck matches the amount we receive from the customer or the amount we put in stock matches the amount we unload from the vehicle.
Obviously, we need to take an extra step in our hosting. We decided that in the future when a vehicle returns from the customer’s office, we will place all the boxes in the makeshift area and will scan the barcodes of the boxes in this area, then load the boxes. this information to the computer. Next, we will move the boxes to the main storage and scan the barcode again. When loading the list of boxes in the main storage, the computer will compare the list of boxes in the temporary storage. If the two listings don’t match, we immediately know we’ve made a mistake and try to fix it right away.
With the new system, we have solved the problem of lost boxes. Finally, we added a measure of security by purchasing a device that allows drivers to scan barcodes at the customer’s office. As a result, we are now able to match between the customer and the truck, between the truck and the temporary warehouse, between the temporary warehouse and the shelf area. In theory, there is still a chance that a box will go missing, but this hasn’t happened in years.
The problem is that you can’t really solve the problem unless you remove the germ as well as the phenomenon. Most people tend to overlook this because of the pressure of the day-to-day business. How can I make sure I always remember? I recommend getting in the habit of asking you and your employees, “Why did this problem happen in the first place?” And one more thing: the next time you go to a bustling seafood restaurant in Dallas, be careful when opening the ketchup.
Early in my career, a judge taught me a great lesson that has helped me immensely today. I was 23 years old then, just graduated from Brooklyn Law School. Even though I passed the exam to get my license, I still haven’t become a real lawyer. In those days, it took six to eight months to be admitted to the bar after the exam. Like most young lawyers, I spent a lot of time working at a law firm, where I learned my basics through my internship.
Preliminary lessons take place during the first week of work. When I was ready to leave at five-thirty in the afternoon, the lawyer I was working with gave me a huge file and said I would have to be in court the next day to present the petition he had filed. submitted on behalf of the client. I was very surprised. “You want me to go to court?” I asked, “I have never been to court.”
“Don’t worry,” he said, “it’s okay. Get there at nine-thirty in the morning.”
“Nine thirty in the morning!” I looked at the stack of files and said. “You want me to read them all tonight?”
“No, no, no,” he said. “You don’t have to read anything. Nothing happened. When the judge asks, you just answer: ‘According to the petition.’ The judge will say something like: ‘I’ll see.’ Then you can go.”
“Okay,” I agree, but still nervously. The next morning, I sat in the dark hallway of the courthouse in Queens, New York. It makes me feel like the people here are all in their seventies. When the judge arrived, we stood up and saluted. It was true that he looked ninety years old. I sat and waited until he called me, which I memorized and said cautiously, “According to the petition.”
When I answered, the judge took off his glasses and looked straight at me. “Hey boy?” he asked, “did you just say that?”
My stomach tightens. “Yes, Judge,” I replied.
He pointed his long bony finger at me and snapped back. “Come here,” he said. I stood up, and walked along the middle aisle toward the judge’s chair. I could hear people giggling around. The judge waited until I stood before him. “Nah..o..o,” he looked down at me slowly from the judge’s chair and asked, “Is this your first time in court, boy?”
“Um…m… yes, judge,” I replied. Laughter rang out from the hallway.
“Have you been accepted into the bar association?” asked the judge.
At that moment, I shyly replied, “Not yet, Judge.” Everyone below laughed louder.
“Hey, boy, tell me what the petition is about,” he said.
I stammered: “Er.., I, um.., it’s about… I mean… in the petition, we were… okay, not us, the attorneys. I help…”
The judge interrupted, “I don’t know what it’s about, do you know, boy? You went to court unprepared, didn’t you? For this reason alone I was able to refuse the petition.”
Everyone burst out laughing. I was so embarrassed that I wanted to Apparate. “Yes, Judge,” I said.
“But instead, I will teach you the first lesson in life,” said the judge, “never to enter my courtroom unprepared.” He looked at me for a moment to let the lesson seep in, then motioned for me to retreat: “Come on, back off, back off. Go back and tell your master that you didn’t perform well today.”
I turned around and lazily walked out. Everyone laughed. I heard someone say, “One more person.” I left the courtroom as quickly as possible and drove back to the office. Upon entering, my master had a big smile on his face. “What happened in court?” he asked.
“You know what happened!” I say. He just laughed.
So I was trapped. I later learned that the judge had a tradition of teaching such lessons to novice lawyers. That experience was traumatic and I swore that I would never allow myself to be humiliated like that again. Over the next few months, I went to a lot of hearings and said, “Follow the petition.” None of the judges asked me what the petition said – but I can answer if asked. I have read the profile. I was prepared.
When it comes to business, the habit of thorough preparation has become second nature to me and has become one of my primary competitive advantages. I knew I could close a deal at a higher percentage than my competitors simply by knowing more about the client, the agent, and the deal-related aspects. For now, this is still true. Our closing rate is consistently greater than 95% for potential customers who visit our premises, not least because we have a great warehouse, beautiful offices, and great staff ( though they all contribute greatly). but because we are always well prepared. Before the client arrives, I go online to find out as much information as possible about the structure, mission, and history of the organization. The salesperson would brief me on the clients I was about to meet – what they personally liked. What do they do, other competitors they are considering, how they make decisions, and so on. I will follow that to adjust the presentation.
For example, once, I took a few clients on a tour, who intended to switch to us after many years of working with another supplier. My salespeople say their biggest concern is related to maintaining access to their records while relocating. Then, during the tour, I can’t tell the client all about how we work, but if I know of a particular concern, I can raise the issue without being asked. In this case, I said upfront: “One of the things we care about most is making sure customers can access their records or data boxes during the move. This is how we do it.” The customer is satisfied and we close the deal.
Preparation is even more important if you’re meeting with a client after a problem. Sure, you have to apologize and promise that the problem won’t happen again, but you also have to answer what customers are always asking: “How did that happen?” This requires preparation. You have to figure out exactly what the problem is, why, and how you can make sure it doesn’t happen again. You could then state, “We researched this incident, and here is the cause. We are not trying to make excuses. We just want you to understand what happened and what measures we have taken to protect you and all of our other important customers in the future. In fact, he helped us fix an important problem that we hadn’t noticed. We owe you a thank you as well as an apology.” In most cases, the client will give you a second chance.
There are no shortcuts here, even when dealing with clients with a longstanding partnership, you cannot assume that you or they know the contents of the contract just because you have done it in the past. many years. It’s easy to overlook important details – the details that determine whether or not you can retain customers in the future. I remember a client doing a re-auction after we worked with them for 12 years. The customer is an agent in the city. Because of our records and close relationship with the people who worked at that company, we thought we would have a good chance of winning the contract again, but – when it came to the auction – we discovered, at least on paper, that our bid was higher than the rest.
“What we will do?” Brad Clinton, the sales manager asked me.
“The first step is to re-read the contract,” I said.
He looked at me curiously: “Okay, if you say so, but…”
“But why?” I ask.
“Well, it sounds like we don’t know what it’s about,” he said, “we’ve been doing it for 12 years.”
I couldn’t help but laugh as the memory of my first day in court flashed through my mind. “Let me tell you a story,” I said.
Brad got the hang of it and brought out the contract. During our review, we found a provision stating that anyone who signs the contract cannot use a subcontractor. This has eliminated a company from participating in the auction, whose employees also negligently did not study the contract as carefully as we did. In addition, we know that the remaining competitors have made bids based on unrealistic expectations when performing some work. Instead of studying, they made predictions. After calculating their true price, we were again the low-price contractor. So we renewed the contract and I owe it to the judge I met in court.
I’ve been a recruitment manager for fifteen years. Two years ago, I linked up with one of my clients and the partnership has been fantastic. I hired two new recruits to fill the demand. My annual sales went from $150,000 to $800,000 and we rarely argued. I know there’s only one thing stopping us from building a sustainable organization: me. It suddenly dawned on me that I didn’t have the capacity, patience, or management skills to grow this franchise. What should I do?
First, don’t be too hard on yourself. You’re lucky you realized this before you got the company into trouble. I also had to go through some traumatic experiences to realize that I did not have the necessary competence to run a business, the most important of which was perhaps patience. In the end, I realized that I could only grow the company to that extent, and didn’t like it growing any further. I needed to find real managers – patient, detail-oriented people. They are not good at starting new businesses, and I am not good at managing companies. We work together very well. Remember that you will need a good working relationship with recruited person. That means you must be willing to learn from each other.
EMERGENCY AND WAIT
I believe the most rewarding experience of my business career was getting out of Chapter 11, Bankruptcy, although I am not asking you to follow me. Before my bankruptcy, I was like most young entrepreneurs who came to me for advice. They were all in a hurry. They are ambitious to pursue whatever goal they set out at the time. Most of them have already decided on their next step and are well on their way to doing it. What they want from me is encouragement. What they get, however, is advice to stop and think.
You should never make a decision when you realize you’re being rushed by feelings of haste. I don’t care if the rush is because of your impatience or because others pressure you into making a decision. Although the decision must be made immediately, if you feel that way, don’t rush it. If you make hasty decisions, there’s a good chance they’ll come back to ruin you.
This is not an easy rule to follow. Most entrepreneurs are in a hurry. In the first place, you wouldn’t be in business if you didn’t have a desire to go somewhere, do something. But that desire can become your biggest enemy if you don’t learn to control it. I’ve been hit hard before I realized the dangers of being too impatient to achieve my goals.
After all, it was out of haste that – in the late 1990s – I bought a company that was suffering from a series of problems. In my heart, I knew it was a bad trade. The voice inside me said, “Are you crazy? You don’t need those troubles at all. You are putting the entire company in jeopardy.” But you won’t listen to your inner voice while being controlled by a sense of urgency. You ignore your instincts. You make excuses. You tell yourself things you want to hear like: “I’ve saved bankrupt companies before; I know how to work with sales people. I can solve any problem they bring. Oh, I’m Superman.”
So, I continued to complete the deal. You already know the rest (If not, read chapter 2 again.) For the next three years, as we worked our way out of Chapter 11 of Bankruptcy, I spent a lot of time thinking about what was wrong. his mistake. I realized, it was more than a bad decision. That decision has to do with my personality, the need to continuously succeed. I work in haste, without considering the consequences or without consulting others. And when I set a goal for myself, I just focus on achieving it – even if it’s a misguided goal. Besides, I can see that personality lead me to countless other mistakes over the years, in life as well as in business. I had to find a way to control those trends. I know I can’t get rid of them completely. They are too deeply embedded in my personality. But I don’t want them to make decisions for me.
So I made a rule: never make an important decision before taking a shower.
I mean, I usually take a shower before I make a decision with long-term consequences. The truth is that even though I may think best in the shower, I don’t have time to shower all day. So I’m really telling myself to postpone the decision time for 24 hours. This is very difficult to do, at least at first. I like to make decisions immediately. When someone wants me to do something, it is very difficult for me to answer: “I have to think. I can’t give you an answer right away.”
What I needed was a mechanism that would slow me down, and the bathing principle met that requirement. It was a way to force me to think about procrastination. It forces me to take the time to make decisions, listen to what others have to say, calculate the consequences. Normally I would act the same as I did initially, but I proceed with confidence because of careful consideration. And sometimes this thought process will save me from an imminent mistake or point me to an opportunity that I may have missed.
In the end, my rule of bathing became a habit. I learned to recognize a sense of urgency and stop it. Now, whenever I need to make a decision, I automatically postpone it. The managers criticized me for being indecisive, but they were wrong. What I do is give my subconscious a chance to consider the problem. I had to make sure my sense of urgency didn’t overwhelm my inner voice. It’s a trait I’ve noticed in other successful entrepreneurs who’ve run companies for a long time. For them, there is no urgency. They are not in a hurry to make decisions. They learn to step back, weigh all the factors, and slowly decide how to proceed.
But stepping back is not easy for young entrepreneurs who are eager to move forward. Of course, they are afraid of missing the opportunity in front of them. It’s a feeling that smart salespeople know how to exploit. They will make you believe that the opportunity they offer will disappear tomorrow and they are your sense of urgency to force you to make a quick decision. However, with experience and seniority, you will learn two things, first, the world is full of great opportunities, more than you can take advantage of, and second, real opportunities don’t go away. pass away. I can’t think of a single opportunity I’ve missed since applying my bathing rule.
Besides, I am also the cleanest CEO in the region.
First: Great business lessons are everywhere you go, but you have to remember to look for them.
Second: Problem solving is a two-step process. First, the damage must be prevented, then you need to address the root cause.
Third: Preparation is an important competitive advantage. Don’t assume you know the contents of a contract – even an old one – if you don’t go back and re-read it.
Fourth: The more people push you to make a quick decision, the more determined you should be to take the time to think.