Timeless Advice

I was in Los Angeles on business last week, and as I often do, stayed with friends rather than at a hotel.  One of the afternoons I was there it worked out that I had a couple of hours of time by myself.  I didn’t feel like working, so went to my friend Dennis’s bookshelf looking for something to read.

There I found a classic, one that I hadn’t read for several years.  I grabbed it and headed for the sunny patio to relax for awhile.  The masterpiece that caught my eye was Dale Carnegie’s How To Win Friends and Influence People.  I would bet that I’ve read this book at least ten times over the past thirty years, and every reading teaches me something important.

This time it was a short list in chapter six, “how to make people like you.”  Here’s what he says:

  1. Become genuinely interested in other people
  2. Smile
  3. Remember that the other person’s name is the sweetest and most important sound in any language
  4. Be a good listener; encourage others to talk about themselves
  5. Talk in terms of the other person’s interests
  6. Make the other person feel important; and do it sincerely

As I thought about these simple skills, several people that have been mentors in my career and personal growth came to mind.  Jack Driscoll, my first boss after grad school, who took my “book knowledge” and made it applicable in the real world.  Charlie Morton, with whom I traveled in the 2/3 world, who helped me become sensitive to other cultures.  Bob Fulton, a friend for 40 years who recognizes that I’m a workaholic and has tried to help me stay balanced.  All three of these men do each of these six communication skills routinely, with everyone they meet.

I also began thinking about how these traits are applicable to roofing industry professionals. We meet and interact with new people on a daily basis. It is true statement that people want to do business with someone they “know, like, and trust.” You won’t interest someone in hiring you to replace their roof if they don’t like you. And they certainly won’t grow to a place of trust until you’ve spent enough time with them to demonstrate that you are worthy of that trust.

Many times in our businesses we try to rush things. We want people to make a decision now, to recognize our value proposition and hire us. Successful roofing business owners understand how unrealistic this is. They are well acquainted with what Carnegie taught more than sixty years ago, and practice it with every new person they meet. Timeless advice.