More Than “Print Jobs”
A Personal Take on What We Do
A few months ago, Bill Leishear, our VP of Sales and Co-Owner of Printing Images, gave a speech on the true nature of our business being about building relationships. He shared his thoughts and perspective on what we as a company provide to our clients. This was unique to me because I had never heard it expressed quite that way before, and it literally changed my whole way of thinking about what we do and the role I play in building those relationships. It inspired me, to be more connected with the people that I work with, and to be more connected with the sum total of what we deliver.
In his speech, Bill painted a picture of what we do that I had never considered. He started by taking us beyond the walls of the shop, and placed us directly in front of our patrons. "As a salesperson", he said, "this is what we see. That job order that you guys are working on is a person to us." And with that opening statement, he began to talk about relationships and what it means to promise something to someone, and knowing that this person is counting on you. As a salesperson, fulfilling that promise often rests solely in the hands of the other people within your organization (production persons that you hope are just as equally invested in that relationship).
(I confess, I could hear violins start to play in the background as he went on):
"Imagine", he said, "that you have a client, and that client was like your best friend. And your best friend is asking you to help him/her do this job. It's your friend so, you're gonna look out for them and make sure that they're taken care of. So, when that doesn't happen — [because it got mischeduled, or because of a bindery error, or someone wasn't paying attention, or worse — someone felt that this particular day, this particular job simply was not worth his/her time to give it the attention it deserves] — you're gonna feel like shit, because it's your friend. What I'm trying to get you all to understand is that these are not 'some stupid jobs' to be mindlessly pushed through the shop. These are people who have decided to trust us with something that matters to them. It's about the relationship that we have with those people... not because we're better than anyone eise, not because we're cheaper than some other company, but because we're friends. So picture having to face your friend, and having to explain why we screwed up their job? This is what it's like for us. We're emotionally invested in the jobs we bring in, emotionally invested in our clients. [All of us play a role in building these relationships] and we're not going to keep them without you guys caring about what we do here. These are more than just print jobs."
whoa. I didn't see that coming. I LOVED the message, but this hit me hard. (needless to say, the violin music stopped.)
I was speechless, and so was everyone else in the room. Being on the receiving end, it was so easy to get angry and defensive, but… I didn't want to. I just listened and accepted Bill's remarks for what they were: an honest and sincere reality check. All this time, there was something that I should've been doing, but wasn't. Whenever we would receive a job order, I truly would give it my full attention (trust me on this, I'm like that), but my habit was to disengage when I had completed my part of the process. Anything that happened further down the line was not my problem. I had done *my* job, and I had done it well. Cocky, maybe. Pride in my work, definitely.
... but, my thinking was all wrong.
I had no idea that what Bill had just described is something that our sales team deals with everyday regardless of any excuses I might bring up. I didn't realize that I needed to buy into the concept of 'the entire process as product' being our deliverable. And that, if we fail at any point in the process, it's not simply a matter of reprinting the job, but it means that someone on our team (a salesperson) has to face the client and try to salvage what's left of his or her credibility (our reputation) and hopefully rebuild that relationship back to where it once was. His story was a hard pill to swallow, but it just crystalized my role in a way that I could not have imagined. At this point (well, after picking up my banana-bruised ego from off the floor) I started to refocus, and tear down the illusions of what I thought constitutes 'doing a good job.' I humbled myself and tried being more accessible to my colleagues, no matter where they needed me. It's a different way of thinking (and a little slow going), but I could see the big picture now. And it was worth it.
(cue the victory music!)
Bill was speaking from a place that very few sales persons get a chance to convey (or even want to — for fear of revealing a crack in their armored confidence.) He let us know that he was vulnerable, that his confidence is supported on the shoulders of our attitudes about what we do. And when we fail, he falls (and often falls hard.)
I'm quite sure we all have stories of being under-appreciated for the work we do, and plenty of axes to grind, but today was Bill's turn. Let's hear him out.
I'm just sayin...