Russell’s Ramblings

Those who do not hear the music might think the dancer mad

As you go about your job today – ask yourself what kind of business are you in?

Dorothy Hamill and Bill Russell at the 1992 Healthy American Fitness Leaders Conference

A few weeks ago, Hilary Broadway, our Public Policy Chairman and a local realtor with Allen Tate Realty was sharing a book she really enjoyed – “Positively Outrageous Service” by Scott Gross.  Hilary stated that one of the great take aways of the book is that real “POS” is random and unexpected.  The element of surprise is part of its power.     Listening to Hilary share some of the branding and customer service tips from the book, I could not help but reflect on an incident in my life that made an indelible impression on me.

In 1992, I was serving as President of the United States Junior Chamber (Jaycees) and had been asked to co-emcee the Healthy American Fitness Leadership Conference in Atlanta, Georgia with Dorothy Hamill, 1976 Olympic Champion.  Our Keynote Speaker for the event was Arnold  Schwarzenegger.    It was a real delight to be on the stage with Dorothy and another  thrill was working out with Armold the next morning.

My wife Melissa & I with Arnold

Only problem was Arnold and the hundred or so fitness leaders in the room were a great deal more commited than I was.  I dressed in my sweats, thanked the people in the room for the difference they were making in their communities and went to breakfast.  Leaving Arnold with all the fitness zealots, I told him, “Unlike you – I won’t be back….”  Nearly twenty years later, my exercise routine still lacks commitment, always taking a backseat to a warm Krispey Kreme donut and a cup of coffee. 

I was flying in from a speaking engagement in Minnesota and our staff at the Junior Chamber had me booked on the last available flight leaving Minnesota that would get me into Atlanta just in time to change and then attend the banquet.   This particular flight out of Minnesota was delayed because of heavy inclement weather, delaying our flight and in the process impairing my ability to catch my connection.     The moment we touched down, I was running full throttle through the terminal, dashing madly to my gate, only to find the flight attendant shutting the door.  Out of breath, I managed to state I needed to get on the flight.  The attendant shot back that I could hardly expect to get there at boarding time and catch my flight.

I explained the situation, indicating who I was, and what I was going to be doing, and then emphasized that was the very last flight that would get me where I needed to go.    The attendant merely looked at me and told me she was sorry.   The flight was already departing and she would get me on the next available flight.  To say I was upset would be putting it mildly.

 In the meantime, a young man had been standing behind   the counter listening to our exchange.  He asked for my ticket, looked me dead in the eye, and said, “Mr. Russell, I heard your situation.  We’re gonna’ get you on that plane.” I watched as the plane backed back up to the gate and they had me take the first available seat.    To this day, I remember taking a seat by the window.  Looking out, I could see back to the terminal gate and in the window I saw the gentleman that helped me.  Dressed in his blue suit, the tiny lock of black hair dangling gently on his forehead, the red cape flowing in the breeze, and the big yellow “S” on his chest.

Well, maybe he wasn’t really Superman.  But he saved my day and what I thought about that airline and whether I would ever fly them again might have depended on his actions that day.    But one thing was for sure – the flight attendant – she was in the airlines business.  The gentleman that got me on that plane, he was in the “people business”.  He knew about Positively Outrageous Service before there was a term for it.

As you go about your day at the lake, working to grow your business, you need to ask yourself  one question – what business are you in?

November 4, 2010 Posted by | Chamber of Commerce | , , , , , | Leave a comment