Time for Faith

A local dining favorite is about to close it’s doors in Murfreesboro, Tennessee. Peter D’s American Southern Bistro will close it’s doors on 4/18/2018. It’s named for Peter Demos, a prominent businessman in Tennessee.  It was said to be “Upscale, casual dining”. I’m not sure what that means, but the food was pretty good.  My  family and I went there several times since it opened about four years ago. You could find things on the menu there that were  hard to find elsewhere. Things like candied ribs and a quinoa salad. The foodpeter-d-s was good, the service was good and so was the atmosphere.

When you first walked into the restaurant, you could not help but notice the THOUSANDS of copper pennies inlaid into the floor of the foyer. I once asked the owner exactly how many coins there were and he told me. I have since forgotten that number but I was struck that he knew it down to the penny. The interior was rustic with rock walls and bourbon casks. But one thing in the decor that really fascinated me was all the “broken” clocks hanging in the waiting area. It looked like a scene from American Pickers.

The first time we visited, I didn’t ask about the odd timepieces as I was just taking it all in. When we went back, curiosity got the better of me. When I finally asked the hostess; “What’s with the clocks”, I was expecting to get some philosophical response about how time is money, the mortality of man or even the restaurants hours of operation. What I got instead was a little card that explained the meaning of each and every clock. The “times” correspond to a different bible reference.

The first clock was set to 6:33. This represented Matthew 6:33, “But seek first the kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” I thought this was pretty bold, especially in a day and age when it is not politically correct to be a Christian, let alone a Christian business. 3:05 was Proverbs 3:5, Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding.”  I was amazed to see such a witness in a time when there are those who grossly misinterpret the United States Constitution to read as a separation of church and… well, EVERYTHING.

Peter Ds ClocksYeah, this guy is a radical alright. In fact he even went so far as to remain closed on Sundays, so the employees could go to church that day.  A couple of years ago, I heard Mr. Demos’ testimony one Good Friday at a function sponsored by another public speaker in town, Coach Micheal Burt. He related how difficult it was to open this particular restaurant though he had been a restaurateur for decades. Nonetheless, God showed him the way. A way which would ultimately bring glory to the Lord if for no other reason than to share his story. That’s appropriate as it is a part of the restaurants purpose statement.

According to the Daily News Journal, which shot the main photo of this post, the Demos’ received an offer from a national deli chain to lease the property which was too good to turn down. The Peter D’s name will go on as the family’s catering business. Already, Peter has his sights on his next venture this Summer in Nashville. I’m sure my family and I will visit one of his many establishments for years to come, but I will personally remember how bold the Demos family is in their faith.

Blaine Little

http://MomentumSeminars.com

For the entire DNJ article, visit; https://www.dnj.com/story/money/business/2018/04/14/peter-ds-closing-murfreesboro-demos-restaurant/517178002/

Does Your Customer Service… Suck?

I’ll be blunt, customer service in the 21st century, pretty much sucks! Like small children, we have become a self absorbed society, and lost touch with the idea that the consumers of our product or service are ultimately responsible for our paychecks. In a word, our “BOSS”. But in a world filled with selfies, web addresses that begin with the word “MY…”, and an ever increasing use of unidirectional communication, i.e. texts, our focus has shifted from the true money makers. Large businesses, it seems, are more concerned than ever about taking in more than they give out. You can imagine the strain that would create on their relationship with the public.  Where is the pride so many companies use to tout when it came to their customer follow up? Do we understand the public’s expectations of us? Do we care?  Are we conceited, or have we just forgotten HOW to talk to customers?

The other day, an associate of mine commented on how great the customer service experience was with Amazon. To which, I replied how shameful it is that an “upstart” organization online, or over the phone can deliver better service than someone across the counter. It seems each year, dealing with a breathing body at the point of sale is becoming less, and less enjoyable. In fact, it’s more and more one directional. Do you hear that sucking sound too?

A month ago, I needed to get a new cellphone, so it was just a good time to change carriers altogether. I knew the headache I was in for, but felt assured someone at one of the world’s largest department store would be able to educate me as to the proper service that would fit my lifestyle. Typically, I go for the face to face transaction, though I am starting to rethink that. I looked at the in-store map for Plan A, and my entire State appeared to be covered in bright orange. That’s a good thing… I think. However, after waiting two days for “coverage to kick in” at my home, I took the product back to the store. I was informed though the coverage map was correct, it apparently just didn’t reach my home address, which, by the way, is in the geographic center said State. Really? Yes, they implied that the problem was somehow with me.

Undeterred, I switched to Plan B, however none of the four employees including a member of management could easily facilitate me in the switch since I was so newly in the system. Something about a vendor policy that would not allow them to manually fix the problem. Their solution; dial a toll-free number and hand ME the phone. Pathetic, but true. I first spoke to a man who explained the clerks earlier actions at the register deleted the phone number I had for the past decade, and he asked if I wanted him to see if he could retrieve it again. Obviously, my answer was “yes”. Why he even hesitated solving what was an apparent problem, I don’t know. Two hours later, after speaking to several voices, including Mary, who informed me she would need “two minutes of SILENCE” on my part while she typed in everything we discussed. Apparently, she was using pen and paper before. “Yes, Mary, I will grant you two minutes of silence”, I responded. Anything to get it over with. A college buddy of mine told me I should have done business with a company that specializes in cellphones. He’s right of course, but nonetheless, this mega corporation had forgotten what I was told the first day of business school; “If you cannot service the product you sell, don’t sell it”.

Corporations are at fault as much as individual employees. In the “me” generation of business, we tend to think once a product is out the door, or contract signed, we are done with our part of the sale. However, we need to wake up, grow up, and recognize the establishment of a business relationship that will carry on for several days, if not years. A distance transaction may go smoothly, because management has empowered their employees to make certain decisions. Of course, they are being closely monitored when there are electronic means being utilized. So, why are the counter clerks not empowered at the brick and motor storefront? Perhaps it’s a trust issue on part of the company which might not be able to eavesdrop on every conversation.  More than likely, it just goes to poor training. It’s no doubt, the mega store was running scared during Amazon’s recent attempt at a “Christmas in July” promotion. It’s assurance. Even if they get it wrong, Amazon will fix it.

So, who are customer reps? Anyone who deals with potential customers on behalf of the business itself. Whether you are an independent contractor, sole proprietor, or just one cog in the spokes of a billion dollar machine, if your interaction has the ability to put a smile or frown on a clients face, you are a customer service representative. That being the case, you are the eyes and ears of business. You also have the power to effect whether that business thrives or dies. Oh, did I mention your actions effect your paycheck? Payroll departments tend to stop issuing checks when their companies go belly up.

Customer service is not easy. But neither is business itself. It never has been, which is why so many fail. Last century’s giant could very well fall to next year’s upstart which fills a void; delivering or surpassing customer expectations. A third-world country may surpass America in overall sales of widgets and thingamajigs! Though, it may not be too late if we train, empower, and promote a higher standard of customer satisfaction among those who have the ability to raise it. With a shift from “me, me, me”, to “the customer is always right” (remember that?), a business just might survive. We might make the process “suck” a little less. In fact, we could BREATHE new life into an organization that was almost on life support.

MomentumSeminars.com

Talk a Good Game!

I have long said, “real estate is a people business”! Oh, I can hear the rumblings now… “But Blaine, didn’t you swear off cliché’s and erroneous business maxims in this blog”? Good catch! I knew I could count on you to keep me honest.

What I mean by realty being a PEOPLE business, is that it actually has little to do with real estate, or the property itself. Unless you are a builder, or investor, your commodity as a Realtor is in the service you provide, not brick and mortar. How many times have we been contacted by a potential buyer wanting THAT particular house, only to realize for one reason or another, it was not suitable for them? At that point, do we camp out on the front porch of THAT property, or begin to work with the buyer?  You see what I mean by it being a “people” business.

That being said, there is a whole new kettle of emotional problems in working with clients versus a house. Yes, emotions come into play when you work with people. It’s not so much a buyer wants THAT house, but rather what they think it represents. How will their family be affected by the move? Are their children safe here? Does this dwelling allow the family to accomplish it’s goals? And those newly single may not wish to be reminded of times at their prior residence, or the pain of losing a member of their family either through separation or death. We think of the experience being most emotional for our buyers, but we must remind ourselves, sellers are people too. Typically, we just don’t see them as often, and may not consider what is going through their minds.

But, unless we are also clinical psychologists, how do we deal with all these feelings, which aren’t even ours? The answer to this complex problem is simple; we talk. We ask questions of our clients, understanding their first response may not be the most accurate. We advise, tell stories, give feedback, and ASK for feedback. We must constantly “take the temperature” of those we are trying to help. Which means asking some of the SAME questions throughout the process to ensure our clients needs and wants haven’t shifted once they receive more information about the real estate process. I learned early in my career to not WAIT for my people to offer comments, or ask questions of me. Often times, they don’t know what to ask, don’t want to look ignorant of the process (which is why they hired us), or feel a bit overwhelmed and simply don’t know where to begin.

As the professional, it is up to us to anticipate problems and ask questions before they get too big. For some of us, this does not come easy. There are those in real estate who are very good with numbers, and willing to do whatever it takes to hammer out a good deal for the people they serve. But, is that enough? These are the left-brain people (much like myself), who don’t understand why someone would seem disappointed when “the numbers look really good”. We must continue to probe, and pull the details out of the minds of others.

For those of us not suited to reading the impressions of our listeners, it may be a good investment to enroll in a public speaking course at a community college. There, you will learn to judge your listeners’ reaction to the information you impart, to see if they are following what you are saying. Or for that matter, to better analyze whether what you are saying is even relevant to your clients. Dale Carnegie Training and Toastmasters International are also wonderful organizations to help you with speaking, listening, and critical thinking.

The fact that you asked the exact same question a week ago is completely irrelevant! All people change their goals to accommodate what obstacles life throws their way. It is OUR JOB as professionals in the business to keep up with our clients shifting desires. A house doesn’t change its wants and ambitions, people do that. Life would be so much easier if real estate were truly a housing business.

MomentumSeminars.com

BlaineSpeaks@gmail.com

You Are Out of Control!

This past year, a recurring theme in the Sunday School Class of my wife and mine, has been that of “control”. At no point have any of the lessons contained the word in its title, but in analyzing the root cause for relationship issues, lack of humility, unhappiness at work, or just plain being a curmudgeon, the “C” word keeps popping up.

I’m a self-confessed ‘control freak’, just ask my wife, or the other two people in my family to which I issue commands. It’s not that I think everyone should use their turn signals each and every time they change lanes, but rather that they just need to stay home if they don’t intend to do so. That makes perfect sense to me; freedom of choice. Abide by my way of how things should be done, or stay at home! In fact, the world would be a much better place if every inhabitant subscribed to my rules of the road, believed the way I do, joined my Political Party, and enjoyed Indian cuisine. Yes, six billion clones of Blaine Little would make the world a better place… for me.

Awakening from my dream-state, I realize that will never happen. I will never have the honor of issuing an edict providing for the backs of hands to be smacked by a ruler should they not pull the little lever on the steering column. Children will never stop doing things that embarrass their Controlparents, and parents will never stop doing things that embarrass their children. Though, I do savor the opportunities to make my kids cringe.

What we are all chasing, that to which we all feel entitled, is control. Control of society, the political process, our family, our work, and even from time to time, God Himself. Oh yes, we like to espouse what God would or would not do. Well, it’s a good thing none of us are Him. Corporate CEO’s, Generals, and Doctors all look good in their respective articles of clothing, but none of them are in control. They just want you to think they have it all figured out, which is the reason for suit, uniform, and lab coat. The harsh reality is none of us are in control. We never were. I will not even go so far as to say we are only in control of ourselves… because we’re not.

Attempting to gain control is a futile exercise which ends in anguish. It’s a workshop on self defeatism. Putting our hands on those things in our environment in order to change the course in which our circumstances lie is like teaching a cat to fetch a stick. Well, have you ever tried it? All you do is wind up aggravating yourself; I have the blood pressure pills to prove it.

What we really want is; peace, love, happiness, and a certain amount of satisfaction in our work. Here’s the irony; we don’t need control for ANY of those things! We can find peace by knowing God is in control, and living the way He would truly have us to live our lives. We can start by “loving our neighbor”. Some will even love us back. We can find happiness in our family, so long as we are willing to accept all their imperfections. We can feel satisfied by taking the right attitude into work with us.

Good things will inevitably come our way, but if we hold on so tight to things in our present, we will completely miss the opportunities of the future. The sooner we stop trying to gain control, the sooner we can just start living. Perhaps they just didn’t make turn signals on that model of car.

http://MomentumSeminars.com

BlaineSpeak@gmail.com