12 Scout Laws for Today’s Business

timeless_values

"On my honor" taken from the BSA Scout Oath.

“A Scout is Trustworthy, Loyal, Helpful, Friendly, Courteous, Kind, Obedient, Cheerful, Thrifty, Brave, Clean, and Reverent.”

For years at weekly Scout meetings, I robotically repeated these words without ever really understanding the commitment I was actually undertaking. I agree that a book could be written on each one of the 12 Laws, but for the purpose of expedience, what follows is my general thoughts on the 12 Scout Laws and how each relates to conducting business in today’s marketplace.

A Scout is Trustworthy.

A manager often has the confidence of coworkers, direct reports, team members and upper management. Being a mid-management corporate liaison often carries the burden of disseminating executive decisions and also bubbling up any news from the trenches. An affective manager knows how to restructure the message so that it is understandable. It’s an art in itself. A lack of trust disrupts this information channel.

A Scout is Loyal.

The concept of loyalty has taken a step backwards in recent years. I blame the trend on professional sports’ free agency rules. Yes, loyalty is a two-way street. A company must be faithful to its employees, but it is difficult to be loyal to an employee who looks elsewhere for employment. Conversely, an employee who doesn’t have job security isn’t likely to be loyal to that company. Again, this responsibility falls on management. Training a new employee is expensive and mostly avoidable. Similarly, cola, telecommunications, cigarette and beer companies excel at creating brand loyalty within their respective markets. Spending billions of dollars on customer loyalty programs is directly related to research that suggests it is 5 times more costly to gain a new customer than it is to keep a customer. Valuing and keeping an employee is always cheaper than hiring and training his replacement.

A Scout is Helpful.

Scout is trained to be prepared as an assistant in all situations. There is more to management than delegation of authority. A successful manager also shares ultimate responsibility through the cooperation of the individual team members. Shared accountability is underrated in most sales environments, but I’ve learned that beside healthy competition between individuals, an “all boats rise” approach seems to work better. Corporate goals are more important than individual accomplishments. It is the ultimate responsibility of the manager to understand the strengths and weaknesses of his team members, to increase the likelihood of that team’s success.

A Scout is Friendly.

I was taught to look a person in the eye and shake his hand when greeting them. I’m constantly amazed that this simple skill that is often overlooked in the workplace. I don’t mean to imply that everyone needs to have an A-Type personality, but “you only get one chance to make the first impression.” Believe that. Not all of us have a background in corporate sales, but we sell ourselves on a daily basis. While punching code in a darkened closet might appeal to some developers, there is still no place, in any environment, for snobbery and condescension. It has been said that you can tell the true nature of a person by the way they treat their waiter. I believe this. Oh, I don’t mean flirting with the waitress, but being genuinely pleasant to friends and strangers alike.

A Scout is Courteous.

My father would slap me in the back of the head if I didn’t hold the door for someone or if I started eating before my mother sat. While manners are taught at an early age, they rely upon a lifetime of reinforcement. Remind yourself of your surroundings, create a chivalrous aura around yourself. Help the little people. Don’t ask, just do it. There are still men that push their way through the staff buffet line to get their second helping before some women haven’t even had time to get their first plate. I despise these guys and will never promote them. Good manners, while sometimes overlooked, will never be overrated.

A Scout is Kind.

Kindness is not the same as being a pacifist. A person can still have a will without being pushy. A person can disagree without being argumentative. Be gentle and nice to everyone. Kindness goes beyond just gentility. It also means to treat your coworkers with the same respect regardless if they are your superior or intern. There’s nothing worse than working with someone whose inner struggles are apparent to those around him. Nobody likes to work with the grumpy guy at the office.

A Scout is Obedient.

While it is the responsibility of the employee to seek methods of process improvement, it is the manager’s responsibility to recognize that process improvement. Obedience has nothing to do with suppressing creativity, but more about working a plan that is in place. Companies spend countless hours developing marketing and sales plans. Without obedience, there is failure. Without order, there is chaos. There are thousands of quotes available online describing the relationship between order and chaos. I’ll spare you the details of an extensive search and just tell you “keep your head down, your mouth shut, and do what you’re told.” But, I will also tell you that progress is the direct result of questioning the very processes we are told to obey. Keep in mind that if “pro” and “con” are opposites, then the opposite of progress is congress. More later.

A Scout is Cheerful.

In most cases, the termination of an employee is not due to poor job performance but because of a cancerous attitude in the office. Spewing negativity not only disrupts the workflow of coworkers, it also creates dissension among employees. A happy employee is a productive employee, but, unless you work with 7 dwarves in a diamond mine, do NOT whistle while you work!

A Scout is Thrifty.

Frugality goes beyond your own piggybank. It is the employee’s duty to contribute to the profitability of the company. Saving money is just as important as making money. Wasting company resources can be just as damaging as losing a huge contract. The bottom line is profit. I’ve seen enough wasted copy paper and bloated expense reports to ruin most companies. As much as we might hate to admit it, money makes the world go around. Corporate greed has been the topic of many recent protests, but there is nothing wrong with a company making a profit.

A Scout is Brave.

With great risk comes great reward. Yes, but also there is nothing gained through reckless abandonment. Daring is different than bravery. Daring is dangerous. Countless technological advancements are the direct result of brave leaders who took chances. Each of these individuals didn’t just act on a whim. Detailed research, due diligence and careful consideration went into each decision. That is the difference between bravery and daring. Bravery trickles down through the ranks of the company. Of course, it’s always easier to be brave when the company supports the decisions being contemplated.

A Scout is Clean.

Aside from personal appearance, an employee has the responsibility of maintaining an orderly workspace. Keeping files organized and easily accessible will increase productivity and profitability. More so than just the physical appearance of the office or employee, a good employee also conducts himself with professionalism that would make his HR department proud. Yep.

A Scout is Reverent. 

This is a tough one in today’s business world. Without getting into religion or personal beliefs, I feel that every employee should be thankful for what he has. The grass isn’t always greener on the other side; It’s greener where it is watered most and gets good sunlight. Water your own grass and quit worrying about the neighbors’ yards. Be thankful that you have a job, a house, a great spouse, family, pets, etc. Be thankful. Thank whomever you want, just be thankful. Beyond any of the other Scout Laws, this is the most important and serves as the “golden rule” of business. And with this being said, I would like to thank you for allowing me to ramble on.

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Why Salesmen Are Also Golfers

Ben Crenshaw's emotional 1995 Masters win.

… and that’s when legendary golfer, Ben Crenshaw, showed me how to correct my slice. (I’ll get back to that story in just a bit).

First off, let me explain that I am NOT a good golfer. I’ve joked on many occasions that I could lose a sleeve of balls on a Putt-Putt course. I’ve swung clubs at golf balls since I was just a kid, never really played well, never had lessons until high school. I was an alternate on our high school golf team (there’s a great photo in my yearbook of me taking a divot out of Hillcrest Country Club‘s 1st tee box.). So, no, I do not consider myself a ‘golfer’, but I can hit a long drive… and when it goes straight, it travels a good distance. But, usually, it tails out in front of me like I’m on a dogleg right fairway.

What I am, though, is a salesman at heart. A few years ago, I realized that most of my fellow-salesmen were also enamored with the game of golf. We had the usual weekly office pools for football and March Madness, but there was also a Master’s Pool for golf. What? I didn’t know anything about professional golf and was lucky enough to choose Vijay Singh as my golfer. I think I won $30 somehow. Anyway, I have put together a list of WHY salesmen play golf. Enjoy.

  • Before smart phones and the increasing overuse of mobile phones, golf was a sure way to offer a salesman a 4 hour escape from the office. It also relaxes the participants so that many business deals have been made on the course.
  • What I feel is most important, is that a salesman usually has a monthly sales quota. Unlike any other sport, golf also has a ‘quota’ called “par”. There is a goal and a golfer is able to determine how well he does based on a pre-determined quota. Exceeding quota, for a salesman, is the same as making birdie on a hole. Again, golf is the only sport that has a quota.
  • Unless the golfer is playing on a scramble team during a tournament, a golfer is responsible for his own individual score. There’s not much direct competition, but the success of a golfer is determined by his comparison to the others playing around him. Sound familiar? It should, if you’re fighting to be the top salesman on your sales team.
  • I’ve used this last scenario many times. A golfer can be having the worst day, losing balls into the water hazards and just be playing lousy. Depending on his temperament, he might be ready to break clubs, sell everything and quit altogether. THEN, he lines up and hits the most perfect approaching shot that lands a few feet from the pin to ensure a birdie. That one shot keeps him coming back for more. That one shot makes all the other shots seem petty. That’s how I often view prospecting for new business. You can have the worst time trying to sell your product or service, but that one “Yes!” keeps you hungry for more; It’s that realization that all your preparation has led you to success you’ve just had.
Oh, back to Ben Crenshaw. It was the Spring of 2002, I was at a book signing for Crenshaw’s new book. He asked if I was a golfer and I gave my usual response about my terrible slice. He stood up and gave me an on-the-spot golf lesson while everybody else waited in line. He told me that the great Harvey Pennick helped him to correct his own slice decades before. “Drop your left heal at the same time you drop your right elbow and you’ll never slice.”I’ve since tried it and I’m still an awful golfer, but I’ll never forget that lesson.
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Sales and Dining Out

Is your steak getting cold?

Quickly think of your favorite restaurant. Whether that restaurant is an upscale steak establishment or your local hole-in-the-wall Tex-Mex joint, it doesn’t matter. Just think for a second.

Okay. Now, how often do you fill up on the bread sticks or chips and queso before your meal even gets to the table? How often do you tell the others at the table, “I shouldn’t have eaten so much of the appetizers.”

That, in essence, is essentially the same big mistake that many sales professionals make when prospecting for new business. Often, a salesman’s energy is wasted on menial tasks like compiling lists, composing the perfect spiel or lining up their CRM database so that he can ‘easily’ conduct his business. Just pick up the phone. Don’t wait. Don’t hesitate. Remember, that the person on the other end of the phone has received more sales calls than you have made. That potential customer doesn’t want to hear your pitch anymore than you want to give it. Sure, rehearse the obstacles to overcoming objections, but don’t waste your time on the fine details. While a good map is good to have, the only way you’ll ever get where you’re going is to step on the gas and GO!

Now, back to the meal. When your meal does finally arrive, don’t goof around with the potatoes or broccoli while your steak gets cold. The steak is what you paid for, not the side dishes. The steak will never taste as good as right when the plate hits the table. Eat it now. Another way to look at it is an old blacksmith saying, “Strike while the iron is hot.” This is just a simple lesson in understanding your priorities. There’s plenty of ‘tire kickers’ out there and, if you’re not careful, they’ll consume every minute of your time. Of course, be nice to every customer, but learn to differentiate the buyers from the liars. Three types of answers are “Yes”, “No” and “Maybe”. Unless the “No” and “Maybe” comes from your target customer, move on without looking back. A “maybe” might lead to something down the line, but don’t get bogged down in dealing with this vague and indecisive customer. If you have a good product, are knowledgable, have good marketing and believe in yourself, then you shouldn’t have any problems finding business elsewhere. Don’t let your steak go cold. And, please, don’t settle for “low-hanging fruit.” If you want to look more deeply into that adage, remember that the fruit at the bottom of the tree might be easier to get, but it also doesn’t get the sunshine. Work to get to the top of the tree and you’re pipeline will reward you with tastier results. Wow, I just realized I crammed a dozen cliches into one paragraph. 

Oh, and always leave room for dessert. Often, salesmen are so caught up in finding the next big deal that they rarely take time to reward themselves for the success they’ve had. I’ve done it and, chances are, you’ve done it too. Maintaining a steady pipeline doesn’t necessarily mean to keep cranking until you burn out. We work to live, not live to work. End of the month and you’ve met your quota? Great! It all starts over again on the 1st. This isn’t a plea for anyone to let up or coast, but realize that even the best starting pitchers in the major leagues operate on a 5-day rotation. Your sales manager will probably disagree with my philosophy on this. I’ve been a salesman in both types of companies. I had one manager yell at us until close of business when we were 120% above quota, while another rewarded the entire staff with a last Friday party at noon every month. A happy employee is a productive employee and we worked hard to get that party.

In summary, enjoy your life as a salesman. Without you, your company wouldn’t have revenue. Without revenue, there wouldn’t be a company. Control your daily actions, don’t get bogged down in non-essential duties, plan your day to maximize your efforts and enjoy the fruits of your labor.

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Marketing and Yard Work

Your business could be suffering from weeds!

With apologies to Stanley Spudowski, life might be like a mop, but marketing has an entirely different approach. No, it’s not like a box of chocolates either. No, I view marketing more like yard work. Allow me to explain.

If you put your house on the market to sell, you’ve got to have “curb appeal” or the potential buyer will just drive right by. Your home could have crown moulding throughout, Italian marble flooring and custom cabinetry, but if your yard is bad, nobody will care about the inside.

What does your yard say about you? If you don’t care to maintain your yard and keep the front of your house looking good, then chances are, the inside is just as unkept. Of course, there are always exceptions and I lay no claim that anything I say has scientific backing. I speak from experience. At one time, I didn’t care about my yard, never edged, rarely fertilized or killed weeds. I didn’t spend time in the front yard, so I ignored it. I even got an anonymous letter in my mailbox from a ‘concerned’ neighbor. No, I’m not proud of the past issues with my yard. My brother-in-law used to say that he viewed his own yard work as therapy. I never understood that until a few years ago, when I bought gas-powered edgers and mowers. Using electric equipment always left me frustrated having to move the cords around. A lot can be said for having the proper tools for the job.

So, what does this mean and why am I writing about mowing? Well, just today, I realized that yard work is like marketing. How?

First, nobody will care to look at your product unless it is properly presented with slick graphics and great layout. You might as well be selling from the trunk of your car unless you have good presentation. Just like your yard, regardless of what the value of your product, your potential customer will drive right by without ever stopping to see what you have on the inside.

Abraham Lincoln once said, “Given 8 hours to chop down a tree, I would spend the first 6 sharpening my axe.” Think about that. You have to have a plan. There has to be a road map before you start on your journey or you’ll just end up wasting time and money… and you’ll end up lost and beaten.

Launching a social media campaign is a lot like Abe’s tree. Spend your time to understand what you hope to get out of your efforts. Don’t waste your energy swinging a dull axe.

Most importantly, marketing is NEVER done. After I finish my yard, I have about 4 or 5 days to enjoy it until it’s time to start preparing to mow again. The success of a good marketing campaign will propel your business, but you’ve really got to stay committed to your goals. If not, your business will suffer and you’ll end up with nothing but dead grass and weeds.

I hate mowing in 100+ Texas temperatures, but I know that I’ve got to do it. If not me, then I’ve got to outsource it to one of the teams of workers that leave flyers on my front door knob. Either way, it’s got to get done. If you don’t have the right equipment or software, there are plenty of agencies (this one included) that will be glad to assist you.

In summary, look at your own social media campaign and ask yourself if you are fertilizing properly. Do you have weeds? Will a potential buyer want to buy your product or house? Or will they drive by without ever seeing what you have to offer on the inside?

I know that North Dallas Media has arguably one of the most boring websites and we are going to work on that. We use the “plumber always has the leakiest pipes” excuse.