You may be wondering what a Grade 8 dropout could possibly provide by way of valuable team building advice when there are literally hundreds if not thousands of books and articles written on the subject. With the foregoing in mind, and since I don’t hold a Harvard doctorate on the subject, I’ll stay away from telling you what you need to do, and just share what I did that ended up building a productive team over 80 strong, as well as a prosperous business.
As I look back I can now see that it wasn’t really that difficult or complicated. All it took was an ambition strong enough to go where opportunity beckons—which included literally moving away from where I lived to the place where an opportunity appeared to be. My first business venture required quitting an excellent job and relocating; the venture went sour in just under a year and I lost my money, but I was able to go back to the job I had quit. The next opportunity, some three years later, was a very promising and unique (at that time, in 1963) tire repair franchise, calling on the independent automotive repair trade, car dealerships , and tire shops. Another relocation was required, so I packed up the family and away we went. Over the next 40 years I was blessed with success and grew the business to where we became a bona fide wholesale warehouse distributor of automotive parts.
What was the secret? How could a guy with little formal education succeed in a market that was very difficult to penetrate? I don’t know all the answers, but I do know some. When we started, we had a unique tire repair that, in terms of quality, remained unduplicated for a couple of years. This gave me a head start. During that period, without even knowing it at the time, I developed a success strategy that served us well over the remaining 38 years.
My entire focus was the welfare of our sales staff. I did everything I could to help them earn an excellent income, and I did this by striving to maximize their—and our customers’—success. I knew that if my sales staff were making money, the company was; if they weren’t, we weren’t. So 60 percent of my effort was to provide them with product and specials that would help them penetrate the market. There’s nothing worse for corporate growth than an unhappy salesperson, and to be happy and successful a salesperson must have a happy customer. Thus the remaining 40 percent of my time, energy, and concentration was spent on anticipating and meeting customer needs, discovering what we could do to help our customers prosper in their segment of the market.
The result of this simple method was profit and corporate growth. As a Christian I was fully aware that we were also on the receiving end of God’s blessings; we didn’t do this all by ourselves. Our inside staff were not forgotten, either. They were well informed, well supported, and on-side regarding the importance of backing the sales staff.
To recap, then, here are the four elements that led to a successful and prosperous team:
1. Ambition. 2. Ensuring staff success. 3. Maximizing customer benefits. 4. God’s blessing.
Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much. —Helen Keller