Giving a little extra

I recently read 212 The Extra Degree: Extraordinary Results Begin with One Small Change. It’s a small book that only took a couple of hours to read, but it made a powerful point. At 211 degrees you have hot water, at 212 degrees you have boiling water, and with boiling water you have steam. Steam can power a locomotive. Sometimes just a little extra effort can make the difference between being average and being great at what you do.

There is a great story told of former President Jimmy Carter. When he was in the Navy he applied  to serve on a nuclear submarine. At the time, every officer serving on a nuclear ship had to be personally interviewed by Admiral Rickover, the father of the nuclear navy. For two hours the Admiral interviewed Carter. Towards the end of the interview he asked Carter about his standing in the Naval Academy. Carter responded with some pride that he graduated 59th in a class of 820. Rickover then asked him if he had always done his best. Carter started to answer yes, but as he looked at Rickover he admitted that he had not always done his best. Carter wrote that Rickover looked at him for a long time and then turned his chair back around to his desk indicating the interview was over.

At the end of each day we need to ask if we gave it our best that day. Did we do the little extra that would lead to much greater success in our careers, our families, our personal lives? Did we just do what’s expected, or did we go beyond that to the 212th degree. Zig Ziglar used to tell his audiences that the days of job security were over. The only thing we could count on now was employment security, and if you were a person who consistently did far more than what was expected you would never have to worry about being out of work. There is always someone looking for the person willing to go the extra mile.

Be willing to make one more call each day. Be willing to do what others won’t do so you stand out. Be willing to learn something new every day so you can become an expert in your field. Be committed to being the best you can be in every area of your life. With that type of commitment you will enjoy success in each of those areas far beyond what many others will ever know.

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Learn something new every day

One of the things I enjoy about being an auctioneer is that I am constantly learning new things. Someone once told me they had never seen anyone more committed to life-long learning than me. At the time they were referring to my formal education which I’ve pursued throughout my life. For instance, I didn’t get my masters until I was in my mid-50s and my doctorate  when I was 61. However, I’ve always been looking for seminars and conferences that would help me learn and grow.

In the auction business your education comes from different sources. Indiana does require anyone seeking an auctioneer’s license to have classroom training and regular continuing education classes when it comes time to renew your license. While that training is helpful, the real training comes through hands-on experience. I’ve been blessed to have had auctioneers teach me things that schools do not cover. Although we compete with one another for business, several have been more than willing to give me pointers to help me develop as an auctioneer.

My buyers have also been a valuable source of information. I now have two bookshelf rows filled with books to help me identify items I might sell, but my buyers have been more helpful than any books. I have one buyer that specializes in primitives and small antiques. When I need to know what something is he is the first one I ask, and he can usually tell me. Another regular attender of my auctions has been buying and selling for nearly 40 years. He has been a wealth of information which he’s been willing to share with me. Today, a new buyer called me on the phone to finalize a purchase he had made at my last auction. He lives some distance away but seems like he would be a good buyer so I asked him what he collected or liked to buy. He not only told me but gave me a brief history of the items he’s most interested in. I definitely saved his contact information.

Regardless of what you do, you should always be looking for ways to learn more about your career and your interests. Look for people who have more experience than you do and pick their brains. Some, if they think you are a competitor, might not be willing to share their knowledge with you. That’s fine. Just take a day and talk to someone 100 miles away. Chances are they will be more than willing to share what they’ve learned.

When John Maxwell was starting out he made a list of some of the most successful people he knew and called to make an appointment to meet with them. I believe he offered them $100.00 for an hour of their time. He showed up with a pad of paper and some questions written out, and when he left those meetings he had learned much he could apply to his own life.

I like being recognized as a life-long learner because it recognizes that I care enough about what I am doing and the ones for whom I’m doing it to want to constantly improve. I hope you do, too.

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Auction challenges

A lady who sold some items at my last auction called last week wanting to bring me more to sell. I asked if these items were similar to what she had brought me previously. When she said they were I told her I was not interested. I could tell she was hurt when she asked why, and I explained that neither she nor I were making any money on those types of items. She had not received her check yet from the last sale so I explained what her items brought. She was a little upset that one piece of pottery had brought so little. I explained that 4-5 years ago it would have brought around $25.00; today it brings $2-3.00. Even much better pottery pieces have declined in recent years. As I talk to other auctioneers in the area they are seeing the same thing in their auctions. We still draw good crowds, but they are not spending money on the things they used to buy.

The owner of one of the largest auction companies in our state recently said in an article that antiques are down about 75% in our state. A flat of costume jewelry today will often bring more than an antique dresser. The owner of an antique store told me last week a man came in wanting to sell him an antique dresser for $100.00. He told the man he wasn’t interested as he had three he couldn’t sell for $20.00.

In the past 2-3 weeks I have refused three people who asked me to sell for them. What they had was yard sale material. Neither of us would have made any money, and they would have probably became upset if I sold their items for what they would have brought. It’s better to be honest upfront than have to explain to them later that people are not interested in buying that kind of stuff at auction.

In business one must stay flexible. Just because I like certain things, and like selling certain things, doesn’t mean my buyers are going to want to buy them. I have to provide them with what they want and are willing to spend their money to purchase. Right now, in this area that would include tools, knives, guns, coins, items of local interest, certain types of pottery, stoneware, gold, silver, costume jewelry, primitives, and a few other things.

Are you offering your customers what they want or are you trying to make them buy the services or products you want to sell? I made that mistake when I owned a heating and air conditioning business. I offered one brand and would not price other brands of equipment even if asked. For years we offered no credit options to our customers. In short, we made it hard for people to do business with us, and it wasn’t long until they didn’t. That was one mistake I don’t intend to make again. In my auction business I am looking for items I know our buyers want, and I’m not going to offer them a lot of stuff I know they don’t want just to have an auction. I just wish I had learned that lesson in my previous business.

I discuss that mistake, and several more I made when I owned that business in an e-book called Mistakes: Avoiding the Wrong Decisions That Will Close Your Small Business. The book is only $4.99, and if it helps you avoid even one of the mistakes I made it will save you much more than that.

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Innocent until proven guilty

For years our justice system in America has operated under the premise that everyone is innocent until proven guilty in a court of law. Police shows on television begin with that disclaimer. A jury of your peers must find you guilty beyond a reasonable doubt before a guilty sentence is passed and punishment handed down.

For the past few weeks we have seen that fundamental legal principle ignored by people elected to some of the highest positions of government. Their hatred of President Trump and everything he does overwhelms any sense they may have had about right and wrong. As the Judicial Committee was nearing a vote an eleventh-hour letter was released claiming Judge Kavanaugh had sexually attacked a young woman while they were in high school. The vote was postponed until the accuser could address the Judicial Committee and Kavanaugh could respond. Not one shred of evidence could be produced to verify the claim, but that did not stop his opponents from insisting that even the very claim was enough to make him unsuitable. The FBI was asked to investigate and could find no supporting witnesses or other evidence. This made the seventh background check the FBI had conducted on Kavanaugh, and nothing resembling these types of allegations had ever come up.

After Kavanaugh was sworn in as a Justice a writer for a late night show tweeted that he was glad they had at least ruined his life. He apologized for that tweet after the backlash that followed, but it demonstrated the mindset of Kavanaugh’s attackers, including those who sit on one side of the Senate Judiciary Committee. They cared nothing about what this did to his reputation nor how it impacted his family. Furthermore, they didn’t care how it impacted the accuser, a woman who originally wanted the letter kept confidential, but we now see how well that works when you’re dealing with our current Senate.

When the final vote was taken Kavanaugh was confirmed by a two vote margin. While you might say that he won by two votes, I look at it as our rule of law of being innocent until proven guilty only won by two votes. With all the attorneys in the Senate one would think they would look at the evidence, recognize that there was nothing supporting a conviction, and then vote to confirm or reject based on Kavanaugh’s record and ability as a judge. But, they didn’t. Party line voting took precedence over evidence.  That should frighten every American.

Now, some are already looking into impeaching Kavanaugh because they just KNOW he must be guilty. After all, he was accused. Some are saying the entire SCOTUS is illegitimate with Kavanaugh sitting on it. Some Democrat leaders are saying if they win back the House they will begin impeachment proceedings.

Our nation is in serious trouble with many issues Congress should be addressing, but nothing is more important to many of them than attacking President Trump and everything he does. Recent events prove some will do anything to discredit and destroy him no matter who it might hurt in the process or even if it destroys our nation.

Eliminate the rule of law, eliminate the legal mandate of innocent until proven guilty, govern by hatred and ignoring an individual’s right to be treated fairly and honestly and you will have gone a long way to destroying this nation.


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Extraordinary service

This past weekend our daughter’s van was totaled in a wreck while they were driving to Florida for a vacation. Fortunately, no one was hurt in the accident. Hundreds of miles from home on a holiday weekend they were in trouble. By the time the police arrived to fill out their reports, there was no rental car agency open and no motel options available in the small communities nearby the accident scene.

Their insurance company made arrangements for them to get a rental car, but with the closest office already closed my daughter, her husband and three children were stranded. The tow truck driver driver dropped off their vehicle and offered to drive them to the next airport  to the rental car agency. Once there they were told that the company at the airport did not do insurance rentals. They also did not accept debit cards but required a credit card to rent cards. Fearing this in advance, I told my daughter to have the agency call me and I would give them my credit card information, but they refused to do that saying they had to physically swipe the card. There was an rental office open the following day, Sunday, that would accept the insurance rental. The tow truck driver offered to drive them to a motel near that agency. This turned out to be on the other side of the city, but he drove them there and waited until they checked into the motel before returning home to his family.

I’ve do not know his name, but what an act of kindness and extraordinary service he provided. The insurance company appears to have provided limited assistance, and that rental car office was less than helpful to a family in a difficult situation. However, the tow truck driver was a blessing.  He was willing to haul my family and everything they had in their van for vacation many miles out of his way to ensure their safety and well-being. They offered him a nice tip which he refused further earning my respect and appreciation.

The following day the rental car office near their hotel was extremely helpful. They accepted the debit car for the deposit and provided them with a great vehicle so they could continue their journey. Again, excellent service.

What a better world we would live in if every business owner and worker provided this type of service to their customers! I do not know if this driver was the owner of the company or just the person on call over the weekend, but I suspect if he wasn’t the owner he knew his actions would have been approved by the owner. Actually caring about going the extra mile to provide excellent service is not found every day in every business. That’s why it’s so extraordinary when it does happen.

This driver did not have to do any of the things he did. My daughter’s family is unlikely to ever live in that community so it’s not like he did anything to earn their repeat business. In fact, I hope they never need the services of this tow truck company again! But what he did was the right thing to do, and when a business does the right thing they will prosper.

If your company makes extraordinary service the standard operating principle it too will prosper because the word will get out. People talk about the bad service they receive, and they tell others when they are treated extraordinarily well by those who serve them. Those who provide bad service may prosper in the short-term, but those will provide excellent service will be the companies who prosper in the long-term.

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Serving others

For the past few days I’ve been preparing for an auction tonight, 9/25. Seven consignors have brought me items to sell ranging from gold and silver jewelry to primitives to tools to furniture to household items. This will be the largest consignment auction I’ve had this year.

Preparing for this auction has been challenging. My grandson, who usually helps me set up and works the ring, is in Florida for their annual two-month getaway. My daughter also works my auctions so I’ve had to get two people to fill in. The lady who handles food for my auctions has had shoulder surgery and is unable to be there. My wife has helped me set up the auction on her day off. With more furniture than usual and lots of heavy boxes to haul to the auction site, set up wore us both out.

But, it’s all ready to go. The advertising has been sent out, and now we pray that a good crowd will show up ready to buy the items we’re selling. Most of the consignors for this auction were trying to downsize, and this auction will help them get rid of items they no longer need. Some need the payout they’ll receive for personal reasons. Regardless of the reason, this auction will help each consignor reach goals they’ve set for themselves. My ability to serve them in this regard makes the hard work worthwhile.

Regardless of what you do for a living, you need to have a purpose beyond earning a paycheck. Yes, we all need money to survive in this world, but if that is the only reason you are in the career you are in, you’re in it for the wrong reason. A far better purpose for doing what you do is to serve others.

A few years ago I read a marvelous book by Rabbi Daniel Lapin. In Thou Shall Prosper: Ten Commandments for Making Money he explained that when your clients give you money they are giving you certificates of appreciation for serving them well. What a marvelous way of looking at one’s career! Whether you own your business or work for someone else you are given certificates of appreciation for serving. In theory, the better you serve the more certificates you’ll receive.

That’s why I don’t apologize when I tell people my fees for conducting an auction. I can’t promise anyone they will get the most money when they sell at my auctions. No honest auctioneer can promise that. I can promise them that no one will work harder to serve them and help them achieve their goals.

In an earlier business I owned I kept a sign in the lobby that read “We offer the best products in town, the best service available, and the lowest prices. You can now pick two of the three.” When you offer a good product and excellent service you never have to be ashamed when they reward you for that.

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The power of attitudes

There are few things more important to one seeking success than one’s attitude. Attitude is simply the way we choose to see things. Two people can look at the same thing and form two completely different pictures in their minds about what they’ve seen. One may see all the negative aspects of the scene. Zig Ziglar used to call that “stinkin thinkin.” The other person may see only opportunity and beauty. Which do you think will be more successful in their approach to life?

Victor Frankl survived the Nazi concentration camp and wrote a  powerful book about what he learned in that experience, Man’s Search for Meaning. One of the things he learned was about the power of attitudes. He wrote, “We who lived in concentration camps can remember the men who walked through the huts comforting others, giving away their last piece of bread. They may have been few in number, but they offer sufficient proof that everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms – to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.”

There are many things in life which we cannot control, but we can control our attitude in every situation. We can choose to see the glass half-full or half-empty or better yet, choose to fill the glass. We can look at setbacks as obstacles or opportunities. We can choose to see failure as the end of a dream or a stepping stone to achieving our dream.

Some people naturally have a positive attitude about nearly everything. For others, we have to train ourselves to have a positive attitude. I’m in the latter camp. My temperament tends to be on the melancholic side which means I tend to want things to be a certain way, and when they are not I can easily get distressed and upset. Melancholics hold themselves and others to very high standards, and when we fail to meet those standards we can get down on ourselves and others. In the 1980s I battled clinical depression for a year which was due in part to this temperament.

However, the good news is that people can grow and learn to develop a better attitude. We can learn to be more forgiving of ourselves and others. We can learn to be more patient when things do not go exactly as we wish. We can learn to see failure in a more positive light. In short, there are many things anyone can do to develop a more positive attitude.

The most important thing to remember is what Frankl pointed out: we can choose our attitudes in any given circumstance. I can think of nothing more brutal than living in a concentration camp never knowing when it might be your turn to be taken to the gas chamber. Yet, even there people chose to live above their circumstances. They chose to look for opportunities to serve others.

Most of us will never have to endure such conditions so it should be easier for us to develop the right attitudes. The next time you try something and fail ask yourself what you can learn from that failure. The next time a sales call doesn’t result in a sale, don’t get upset but review what might have gone wrong and how you can do it differently next time. The next time your flight gets cancelled look for a constructive way you can use that extra time before your next flight. When we develop a more positive attitude it will have a positive effect on every aspect of our lives.

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