People Tools For Business: 50 Strategies for Building Success, Creating Wealth, and Finding Happiness
by Alan C. Fox
Alan C. Fox writes with the tone of a grandfather sharing lessons learned “in business and in life,” drawing from more than forty-five years of experience as a lawyer and commercial real estate investor. There are 50 brief chapters.
Fox shares a great metaphor explaining the difference between a short-term transactional attitude and a long-term relationship building approach. “Not every sales call, or every contact, results in a sale. And each sale does not always produce a profit. I read an article in the Wall Street Journal that compared the American style of business to the Asian model. Americans were described as hunters, with the goal of making as much profit as possible from a single kill. The Asian model was more like farming—cultivating the fields of their business relationships.”
“If you can only have one skill in life, learning how to effectively work with your customers, in business and in life, is the one to have… The customer is NOT always right, but the Customer Is Always the Customer, and you must keep their needs and desires in mind for your business to thrive.”
There is a chapter called A.S.S., which stands for After-Sales Service. “The success of every business is based upon relationships… It takes a great deal of time and money to obtain one new customer. Why not be careful to retain those you already have? With outstanding A.S.S., you will.” I am puzzled why the author chose a negative sounding label for something he is encouraging.
“Value is important. Perceived value is even more important… The story is told of two candy stores located directly across the street from an elementary school. One store prospered. The other store failed. When a young customer entered the first store and asked for a quarter pound of candy, the salesperson behind the counter was trained to place a small amount of candy on the scale, and then add to it. At the second store, the person behind the counter put a larger amount of candy on the scale, then removed enough to reach a quarter pound. The children thought they were receiving more candy at the first store. Not surprisingly, the second store eventually closed its doors… Ultimately, perception is reality.”
Chapter 22 is called Don’t Sue the Bastard. “Dickens’ novel Bleak House tells the tale of a protracted lawsuit over an inheritance. At the end of the book the case is finally dismissed. No one receives any money since the inheritance had been entirely consumed by the legal fees. In litigation, this result is not uncommon… Very few litigants really win… All litigation is emotionally draining… Judges and juries are fickle. When I graduated from law school I was certain that litigation was straightforward. You put in the facts, apply the law, and every judge will come to the same conclusion—that you are the winner. My original thinking was a complete delusion.”
Fox explains how to delegate. “Give away the ENTIRE task… Accept a blemish. Hindsight is grand. I can virtually always improve on a process or performance when I review it later. So can you. And it’s easy for each of us to believe that if we had performed the work in the first place it would have been better. Don’t believe that. Imperfections will exist no matter who does the job.”
“At work I focus my attention on those issues that will make the biggest difference in my business… Our renewal rate on leases was sixty percent. I knew that the industry standard was seventy-five percent.” Factoring the average cost per square foot, leasing commissions, and tenant improvement expenses, he calculated that his firm was underperforming by $7,000,000 per year. “When I discovered this I immediately began to focus my time and energy on carefully looking at all renewals.”
On the topic of confidence and risk-taking: “Many of us, perhaps most, often predict our own failure. ‘I can’t climb that mountain.’ ‘My speech will be terrible.’ … I would rather succeed than be ‘right’ about my forecasts of failure.” Fox quotes a surgeon who mitigates risk by thinking ten steps ahead. “If this goes wrong, here’s what I do. If that goes wrong, I do this.” The author adds that Ty Cobb’s “lifetime batting average was .366 (1905-28). This means that out of 1,000 at bats, Ty Cobb, the best major league batter of all time, failed to get a hit 634 times out of 1,000.”
“For those who do venture down the path of entrepreneurship… I want to share with you one of the most important lessons that I was fortunate to learn early on… Focus on smaller deals… rather than committing to a single venture which would take years to pay off, if it paid off at all… These smaller deals have been the bedrock of my financial empire… Don’t let the glamour or size of the deal get in the way of the bottom line… As an old saying reminds us, ‘Tall oaks from little acorns grow.’”
Fox, Alan C. People Tools for Business: 50 Strategies for Building Success, Creating Wealth, and Finding Happiness. New York: Select Books, 2014. Buy from Amazon.com