What’s your secret to success?

Many years ago, my wife and I purchased our first home together. Although we had a professional inspection as part of the process of buying the home and the inspection report gave us a clean bill of health, we were more than a little surprised after the first major downpour.

It was then we realized we had a severe problem with gutters. I suppose that somehow the building inspector didn’t know or couldn’t have known they leaked water like a waterfall in the Amazon Rainforest.gutters2

When the rain subsided, I took immediate action. Being new to the neighborhood, I picked up the local community newspaper. It didn’t contain a great deal of news, but did contain an extensive classified advertising section.

I looked under several home repair categories for anyone that looked as though they had some knowledge of gutters and downspouts and waterfalls. I found three, placed three calls, and left three messages.

Within a few minutes, the phone rang. It was a young man who introduced himself as Brad. He asked a number of questions and said he’d be happy to provide an estimate after he personally inspected the gutters. He asked if I would be home in the afternoon. I told him I’d be home and available all afternoon.

Within about an hour Brad knocked on the door. He again introduced himself and together we walked the perimeter of the home. When we finished, he excused himself and went back to his truck to calculate the cost. In a few minutes he returned with a written estimate.

I looked at it. Having nothing else to compare it to and with more storms in the forecast, it seemed fair and reasonable to me.

I asked him how soon he would be able to remove the old gutters and install new ones. He and I looked at the calendar and determined that he would return in three days to start the work.

Like clockwork, three days later Brad arrived bright and early with two helpers, several very large ladders, and a machine attached to the back of his truck specifically designed to extrude aluminum gutters in practically any length. This guy meant business!

About an hour after they started, I went out to check on the progress. Brad and his team were making tremendous progress.

I saw Brad as probably only in his mid 20s. Yet he was already running what I saw as a successful, well-run business. He and I chatted for a bit about his business and about how he got started.

Toward the end of our conversation, I asked him what his secret for success was.

Without hesitation, he said, “I show up.”

He went on to explain that his primary success strategy was to respond quickly to calls and requests, schedule work as soon as his schedule permitted, to charge a fair price, and do a great job. That simple strategy was earning him a tremendous amount of work and helping him get one referral after the next. With a broad smile, he also confided in me that he knew his competitors were always very slow to return phone calls.

Sometimes, business owners old and new overlook the very simple things that can lead to success. What young Brad had learned helped him snatch up one job after the next.

I’ve shared the story of Brad with the number of business owners because of the simple lesson it contains.

Brad was right. It doesn’t take a lot to be successful. Responding quickly and professionally the way Brad did is one of those things that any business can adopt as a standard operating procedure –– starting as early as tomorrow morning.

By the way, to this very day the other two gutter companies I called have never responded.

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4 Responses to What’s your secret to success?

  1. I try to respond to clients within hours of their initial contact. Since I work a “regular” full-time job, I have to check emails frequently on breaks and at lunch. I know if I contact a company or service provider, leave a message or send an email, and they don’t contact me within hours, I start calling others. So, yes, quick, friendly response is a must! And showing up is incredibly simple but so important. If I promise a finished MS by Sunday morning, you can bet you will have it in your inbox Sunday morning.

    • Gil Effron says:

      Doing everything you promise is just as important as showing up on time. It’s one of the ways that professionals and businesses are judged. It’s also what I recommend to people that sign up for committees. The way to become valuable to any organization is to do what you promise. Thanks for the idea for another blog post!

  2. Hugh Manning says:

    I believe it was Woody Allen who said that 80% of success is just showing up. I remember when I was in Russia back in the 1990’s, one local said that best thing a young Russian could do was get a job at McDonald’s. She said it taught them three things: 1) Show up on time every day. 2) Be ready to work when you show up 3) Be consistent in your job performance. While you mention the first as important, the other two as important as well. It does no good to show up, if you are going to be ill prepared for the job, and you turn in a crappy performance. I would say that it is a three part secret: Show up, do what you say you are going to do, in a quality and timely manner.

    • Gil Effron says:

      Thanks, Hugh. Points 2 and 3 are absolutely relevant to success. Now that you’ve said it, I don’t have to write the other two posts — the ones about being ready to work and consistent in ones job performance.

      Seriously. Great thoughts and thanks for chiming in on this. In the end, success is about all those things and many other factors large and small.

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