Stay in Your Lane! 3 Attitudes That Inspire Profitable Working Relationships (Path to Profit Series, Part 6)


A waiter drops a tray of food in the restaurant where you’re having lunch. The crash is deafening. Everyone turns to survey the disaster. You are seated with your team at a table nearby and immediately, this is what transpires in the minds of your colleagues: Seated to your left is Ann, a manager in your company. Ann sees the mess and immediately thinks of what the waiter might have done to prevent the spill. If he would have slowed down a little and not put too much on the tray, if he had on a different pair of shoes, if he had grabbed a bigger tray, he might have prevented the spill.Next to Ann is Susan. Susan is in customer service and thinks, that poor guy, and she resists the impulse to get up and help clean up the mess while thinking of how quickly they can replace the meals. Next to Susan is Rachel. Rachel (in accounting) immediately calculates the cost: four meals at $15 per meal she thinks, and she worries about the liability. John, seated at the end of the table, is in sales, and he wonders how many more meals will be required to make up for that lost sale. Four people. Four different responses. Each unique to their personalities and even the roles they occupy in their business. If the entire table applied their responses to that problem, you would resolve future spills, salvage a coworker, prevent future loss, recover, and increase your sales. A restaurant is no different than a promotional products distributorship, its real success is due to a network of colleagues each of whom bring an expertise that, when freed to do what they do best, creates an interdependence that makes the whole operation hum as one, the key is in each individual relying on one another to do what they do best. By yourself, you could not grow your distributorship beyond (for rough numbers) $500,000-$750,000 in sales. Scaling your business requires a fierce dependence on others, but there are three mental attitudes that you must embrace to achieve profitable growth: 

#1 Stay in Your Lane!

 For salespeople, in particular, you must resist the impulse to micromanage your projects. In a restaurant, the chef can’t come to the front door to greet guests and cook the food and serve the food. And the matrîe d can’t hop back in the kitchen and cook. If everyone abandoned their stations, you’d have no customers! If, as a salesperson, you can’t relinquish control of follow up on orders or resist the temptation to constantly dabble in the production process, you will become the bottleneck that slows all processes, all orders, and you will only be able to produce a limited number of sales. For every minute a salesperson spends on an order that’s already in production, an opportunity is lost.But it not only stifles your sales growth, it also stunts the professional growth of your colleague. The only way your team will learn is to let them learn valuable lessons themselves. When we give our colleagues more latitude and trust, they start to develop the muscles necessary to carry on the strength of the work. Most of the learning in this business comes only through experience, and when you trust your team, you embolden them which, in turn, provides you much more solid support for your future sales! 

#2 Embrace Imperfection

 Even if a salesperson meticulously tracked every part of their order, the order could still get lost in shipping or produced incorrectly at the factory. The ugly truth is, you cannot prevent 100% of the errors by micromanaging. Understand that something will go wrong. Orders will go off the rails. Mistakes happen. In this business, the variables are so intense that it’s amazing how many orders go right! And it’s true that some orders are more important orders than others, maybe it’s an over $10,000 project or, a high profile order for a high profile customer, but you must maintain a strong confidence in the trio that supports your sales: confidence in your system (both your software and your processes), confidence in your team (recruiting the right team members and relying on them to do their job), and confidence in your supplier-partners (more on that in an upcoming post). But the the business is so fluid that you’ll never reach perfection, which is why the perfection trap is such a ridiculous quagmire to get stuck in, you’ll never get out! 

#3 Practice Trust

 In theater, there is a special exercise a director would have you do right before a dramatic performance. One actor stands in the center of a circle of her fellow actors. The actor in the center stands with her eyes closed and her arms to her chest while the remaining actors stand around her, circling the actor. The director then tells the circling actors to stop and tells the actor in the center to fall backward, keeping her legs locked and her arms held tightly to her chest, not knowing which team member she will fall into. The actors in the circle will then catch the actor, often letting the actor fall far enough to almost hit the ground in what is known as a trust-fall. The exercise is meant to force the actor to experience the physical sensation of relying on her colleagues, who will catch her.When we started this series on profit, we referenced all the stakeholders that are involved in our business, from clients to suppliers, to employees. One of the most important ways we can invest in our colleagues and ensure that they actually become stakeholders and emotionally invested in our business, is to trust them more. The more we trust our colleagues, the more they will learn. The more they learn, the more valuable they will become to our operation. Most importantly, for you to operate at your very best, you must trust those around you. Like our example with the waiter who dropped the tray, your colleagues each bring a special skill that is unique to their personality and their role, a skill you do not possess. And the real secret to success in this crazy and chaotic industry in particular, is to lean on all of those interdependent relationships around you and harness their very best work to maximize your time and your profit!
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