Lessons Learned About Exemplary Service

Last week I had the privilege of attending the American Bankers Association National Conference for Community Bankers in Palm Desert, California. Beyond the beautiful weather, the conference offered some outstanding speakers. Three general session speakers, in particular, delivered inspiring messages. Although they all presented from different perspectives, their messages dovetailed nicely.

The first was Josh Linkner, a young man who started four different companies early in his career, all of which he sold for a collective profit of more than $200 million. Josh’s technique was to select unique business opportunities, and then apply a systematic approach to implementation. He was born and raised in Detroit and still lives there today. One bold idea that Josh has embarked on is to create a technology hub in downtown Detroit. He purchased a building and remodeled it to be high-technology-friendly. While that may not sound very bold, consider that when he did this, there was not a single technology company in downtown Detroit. Today there are around 80. Not only is Josh likely to make money on his investment, but he has hatched new hope for Detroit.

The second speaker was George Blankenship, who began his career at the Gap Inc. retail stores. He soon was promoted to managing his own store, which became the highest-selling store in the Gap network, then continued to rise through the ranks until he was managing all aspects of retail marketing. He retired, but not for long. Steve Jobs called him and asked him to come work for Apple Inc. Jobs was preparing to open a retail network of stores and wanted George to apply his retail skills; the result was the wildly successful Apple store model. Another brief retirement followed, but then George was contacted by Elon Musk, the founder of Tesla Motors. Musk wanted George to work his retail magic on the electric car company. Today Tesla is a profitable company, selling its high-end product in stores throughout the world. George’s message was two-fold: First, cater to the customer experience; and second, find a unique way to present the product to those customers. Too often, businesses are afraid to provide a unique experience.

The third speaker was Shawn Achor, former teacher of positive psychology at Harvard University and author of The Happiness Advantage: The Seven Principles of Positive Psychology That Fuel Success and Performance at Work. Shawn has made a career of studying the science of happiness and has concluded that happiness fuels success, not vice versa. His studies show that happy people are healthier, live longer and enjoy their work more than others. While these ideas seem intuitive, Shawn has conducted numerous studies that offer proof. More importantly, he has completed studies that show that we can all be happy, if we just learn how. His data and conclusions were completely fascinating.

When I reflected on these three outstanding speakers, I came to realize that all three were delivering different facets of the same message. Combine the three, and the takeaway becomes: Have a unique business plan, focus on the customer, and do it with a smile. It seems so simple, yet many businesses struggle to deliver these experiences. At the Indiana Bankers Association, it is our goal to provide exemplary service to you, our members, just as you strive to provide the same to your customers.

– S. Joe DeHaven

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