On Women’s Equality Day, The Blue Collar World Is Looking Good

On Women’s Equality Day, The Blue Collar World Is Looking Good

From the outside looking in, it’s easy to make generalizations and assumptions about what it’s like to be a woman in a fairly male-dominated industry. But in honor of Women’s Equality Day, we thought we’d ask women in some of our favorite blue collar industries what it’s really like

Their answers and experiences might surprise you…

Was there ever a time when you felt intimidated because you were a “woman in a man’s world” or when you felt you really had to prove yourself more than a man would have had to in that situation?

Renee Brigman and Ingrid Prior both shared examples of times they were discriminated against or had to work extra hard to prove themselves when they worked in the white collar business world… 

“Going into banking, which is a very male-oriented [industry], as an assistant manager? You know, there were some great guys, but then there were the ones, you know, that just would want me to go off and get them a cup of coffee or something. And back then, we’re talking late 60s early 70s, it was like, it was very hard, you know, to say ‘No’,” Ingrid recalls. 

During her time in the white collar world, Renee was denied a promotion because of her gender. But in her case, it wasn’t that the man putting limits on her didn’t respect her because she was a woman… 

She explains that her superior was a sweet man and a true gentleman, but because of that, he attempted to protect her from the verbal abuse she would experience if she was given the county assessor position she wanted.

She says, “He in his heart of hearts did not think women should be exposed to that. And so he would not consider me for that job…It’s just his way of thinking did not allow me to go anywhere.”

You don’t need to watch Mad Men’ to know that gender discrimination in the white collar world is, or at least was, a thing. But is the same true for the blue collar world? 

Ingrid says of going from the corporate world to the chimney sweeping world, “It was like night and day.”

Renee adds,  “Women in this industry…they’re not looked at differently. I feel a higher level of respect…” 

The two of them partially attributed the difference to the type of men in each industry.

“There’s nothing phony [in the chimney sweeping industry],” Ingrid says. “In the banking industry, there may be some characters that…you’d have to work with where, you know, it was just a facade. And, you know, you just got that vibe that, ‘Okay, I gotta be careful with you because…you’re not real, you’re not being truthful with me’…there’s no trust…” 

She adds, “The guys [in the chimney industry] did not want to go into that corporate mode…so their mindset was entirely different.”

Renee agreed saying, “They didn’t like to be told what to do, ordered around, or dominated, so they tended not to do that to ‘their women.’ Everybody was equal.” 

She went on to say, “A lot of the men that we worked with were from the 60s and 70s generation, hippie-type people. Women tended to just hold their own more, [there was] more equality, [they were] more looked at as individuals and not as ‘women’.” 

Ingrid echoes this equal playing ground, saying, “I didn’t have to prove myself or my abilities.” 

Judy shares similar sentiments about being a woman in a blue collar industry, but partially attributes the support and equal treatment she’s received to her attitude. 

“I never went in with a chip on my shoulder as I see so many women do nowadays. Feeling like they have to be on the defensive out of the gate. In reality, I went in meek, needing help, and it was given to me with open arms…Yes, it is a fairly male-dominated industry, but I never for one minute felt less because I was a woman. In fact, the very opposite! I came into the propane business really knowing very little and the industry embraced me immediately.”

Stacey, a female chimney sweep, echoes the importance of attitude. 

“It’s never been an intimidation factor, but a — for myself internally — a prove yourself worthy in this industry, because I am a female in a male-dominant work environment. I just wanted to show them, just because I’m a girl, you don’t have to carry my buckets for me or move my ladder for me. Teach me how you do it, because I want to learn. Because I want to be able to do my job fully, without depending on other people. I’m here to work equally to anybody else that’s expected to do the jobs that I do.”

Judy adds, “I realize I work in a small town and a relatively small industry, but I have a very different opinion of women in a man’s world. I really think we have moved beyond that stigma, as well as the racial bias.”

Sounds like women in the chimney sweeping and propane industries are judged on who they are and what they’re capable of, not what gender they are — which is something worth celebrating. 

But we wondered, do customers and their preconceived ideas of man’s work vs. woman’s work lead to discrimination or unequal treatment for females in these industries?

Debbie Wiedwald says, “There were times when…I had to prove myself with customers.” 

She goes on to say that sometimes her customers didn’t trust her knowledge or the information she was sharing with them because she was a woman doing work that they traditionally saw as “man’s work.”

Renee echoed that, saying, “The discriminatory conduct that we endure comes from the customers, not from within the industry.”.

In Diane Pilger’s experience, the discrimination from customers was rare, and she let it roll off her back. 

“I called it in the beginning the ‘little lady’ syndrome, where when I would pull up, especially if there was a male and it was me and my daughter, they would wanna carry the bucket or help with the vacuum or help with the ladder. And we had systems in place to handle all that, so we would kindly say ‘No, no, we can deal with it’.” 

Stacey shares a similar experience, 

“I’ve approached customers houses and introduced myself, and they’ll be looking behind me going, ‘You have another helper with you right?’ 

“‘Oh no, it’s just me.’ 

“And they’re like, ‘But the lady on the phone said you guys were gonna get up on the roof and check everything out.’…

“‘Yes ma’am, I’ve got ladders.’

“‘You’re gonna move those ladders all by yourself?’ 

“‘Yes ma’am, I do it every day.’ 

“And so you know, they watch me while I’m doing my job, and by the end of the day or the service…every customer’s very impressed that I’m able to do my job fully…I’m very thorough and detailed and they take that with very high respect.”

Diane had a somewhat similar experience, but the customer didn’t allow her the chance to prove her abilities.

 “…only once, a man opened the door and as we were getting ready to go in he goes, ‘You do know you have to go on the roof?’ 

“And my daughter was probably one of the best ladder climbers — she was like cats on a hot tin roof. And we said, ‘Yes, we know we have to go on the roof.’ 

“And he looked at us and said, ‘Well, I decline your services.’

“So, we got back in the truck, and I looked at my daughter and she was kinda upset, and I said, ‘This has never happened before and it’s bound to happen. But we’re just gonna move on.’ 

“That was the only time since I’ve been in the business —  since 1996 — that I actually had somebody who you could tell rejected services because we were females.”

She went on to say, “A lot of times you just gotta let it roll off your back and not take it [personally]. It’s just the way it is. Things are said and, you know, sometimes they’re not meant as personal.”

Are there any ways in which you think being a female in this industry is actually an advantage? What traits and skills do you think women have that make them uniquely equipped to succeed in the blue collar world?

We weren’t just curious about disadvantages and discrimination. We also wanted to know if there were any advantages to being a woman in a traditionally male-dominated industry or any innately female traits that set women up to succeed. 

Stacey shares, “I would have to say, definitely, when it comes to interacting with the customer, more so for the female side of my customers…A lot of times I deal with a lot of women. And when I come up to the door, they’re expecting this big burly man to come do this job, and a woman shows up. It immediately puts them at a sense of relaxation and comfort, because they don’t have to worry about a ‘strange man’…as they refer to them, in their home…So I think that it allows a little different comfort level there that maybe a male technician wouldn’t get with a female customer.”

Debbie agrees, adding, “I can relate more to our customers because a lot of times, I’m talking to another female homeowner. I’m able to put the repairs more in layman’s terms, as opposed to as technical as perhaps our guys would.” 

Diane shares similar feelings, saying, “We have a different perspective than men have when it comes to working with men and women who run a household. I think it puts a sense of relief that somebody’s there, especially for women, that might understand their position.”

Linda says, “Like our male counterparts, we bring leadership, intuition, and our business sense.” She goes on to say, “We bring more empathy and a different perspective that benefits the [female] consumer.”

She adds, “We also have that ‘special skill’ to get information and understand other points of view…Women are more patient, good listeners, and much more intuitive. [We] pay attention to the details and are more personable.”

Ingrid and Renee have similar thoughts about women’s qualifications and what women bring to the blue collar world. 

Renee says, “I think women can actually be better salespeople a lot of times, because we’re more intuitive. We actually can read body language better than…most men can. And so we know, kind of intuitively, whether somebody’s getting what we say….You can see their eyes glaze over. They’re nodding their head and they don’t wanna look stupid, so they’re acting like they understand, but there’s an expression on their face that you know they’re not getting it. And the technician can’t always tell that because he’s busy thinking about giving the information…”

She goes on to talk about the conversational and communication skills of women and how those skills help build trust with customers — pointing out that their female CSRs are more conversationally savvy and often pre-sell for the techs.

She says, “Most of the time, they [the customer] will buy from you because they appreciate that you don’t make them feel stupid. You make illustrations with things that they understand. You don’t talk too technical.”

Diane agrees that women’s intuition and communication skills are beneficial in the chimney sweeping industry, saying, “I think females have a better intuition when somebody’s upset or they feel uncomfortable…And probably men do have this knack too, but you can tell when you’re explaining something very technical, especially to women, sometimes to men, and they get a deer in the headlights look, like you’re talking, but they don’t hear what you’re saying ‘cause they don’t understand. So I try to do it in plain English, especially for women….something they’ll understand.”

Debbie adds that the conversational skills of women actually help with problem-solving as well and getting past the surface with customers. 

She says, “You know, everybody says women talk more and have better conversations. Perhaps women could help more with trying to get to the bottom of what the concerns are, oftentimes, with the homeowners…”

Judy points out that “Women tend to be very detail oriented” and that “that makes them very desirable in any capacity of the industry.”

Similarly, Stacey shares that, “Women were born to be multi-tankers and most women seem to be a lot more organized, just for the simple fact that we are made to be mothers, and a lot of times, that takes on a bigger responsibility than a man’s role in parenting. I think that plays over and plays a big part in the actual work environment world. And for myself, it has actually helped me be a better technician, having those skills.”

But what each woman we interviewed also emphasized is the importance of having both women and men in the company. 

Deborah says that, “having both male and female points of view balance[s] out a company.” 

Renee agrees, saying that when you’ve got a team of one man and one woman, “you’ve got a superior team than you would have if you have two men, or even two women, because you’ve got both perspectives.”

Like yin and yang, women and men bring different elements together to create a better, more balanced business that provides better service to the customers it serves. Now, there’s a good reason to consider the diversity of your business!

How do you connect with other women in the industry? Do you feel there’s a tighter sense of community among the women in your industry because you’re in the minority?

Diane says, “I connect with a lot of women in the industry because it’s something we have in common…I wouldn’t say it’s like a clique or anything. It’s kind of an understanding of where we’ve been and where we’re going…”

Judy actually avoids women’s organizations within the propane industry, and her reasoning might surprise you: “I believe women vs. men is what causes the divide and I don’t really want to go in that direction,” she says.

The belief that focusing on our differences or segregating ourselves can actually be harmful is a valid one. So, we do have to be careful not to work against ourselves as we connect and seek support from those we share commonalities with.

Stacey says, “I have not gotten the opportunity to meet any other female sweeps in this industry at this point. I think it would be really awesome just to talk to them and see their outlook on it, see how they got into it, and see where their heart is with it. As far as interacting with females that work for the company, they’re wonderful. Everybody, male and female, they’re open arms, fully welcoming, and I really appreciate all the support I get from everybody all around.”

Linda agrees that it’s not just the women who are welcoming and supportive, saying, “The chimney industry is very small compared to other industries,” and that, “no matter your gender, you are welcomed [with] open arms.”

What would you say to women coming into the workforce who may not have considered blue collar business as a career goal or even an option?

Although there are clearly women in the chimney sweeping industry and propane industry and there have been for decades, we think there’s room for more. So, we were curious, what would women in these industries say to other women who might not have considered the blue collar world a viable option because of their gender?

Linda says, “Welcome! Women over the years have been entering the blue collar business [world] and seem to fit in fine. Women bring a uniqueness and different problem solving skills to any workforce they enter.”

Here’s what Debbie had to say, “I’d say go for it…you know, the skills that are needed, it doesn’t matter if somebody is male or female. I mean, certainly females can be great business owners in the blue collar field, good technicians…there’s really no reason to be limited in thinking that there’s closed doors. Just keep going at it.”

Renee’s advice? “I find that there are no walls in this industry. You can actually do whatever you want to do….There is always something new and exciting to stimulate your mind…”

Ingrid adds that no matter what industry you’re in, if you see something you want to do, “Go for it…don’t give yourself those boundaries!”

Diane shares that, “If you want to come into this industry, you can’t be intimidated by it. You just come into it with your eyes wide open and thick skin.” She adds “It’s not as dirty work as you think it is, and it can be very rewarding at times.”

Deborah echoed that advice, saying, “Besides learning how to work as a team for a common goal…you better have thick skin.”

Stacey adds, “I believe that everybody has the ability to do anything they put their mind to. And I don’t think that anybody should limit themselves just because of any demographic, whether it be a male or a female demographic, or a race demographic…everybody should just go for whatever their heart desires…Because smarts aren’t limited by whether you’re a male or a female…If you’re interested, try it out. If you don’t know where you’re going, try a new thing. I’ve noticed throughout my life that the biggest opportunities in my life have come when I’ve just went with the flow of life and taken things as they come, and I’ve done the best with what has been provided into my life. Just again, don’t limit yourself.”

Judy finishes us off with some solid advice, “Don’t ever be the last one into work or the first one to leave. If you want to be recognized for your merit and not just [for] being a woman, this will get the job done. Work hard and be proud of who you are and who you work for. This will get you ahead faster than anything else.” 

She adds, “Always take the high road, the view is much better, and everyone can see your work and reward you for it!”

Finally, what do you think we can do to lessen the gender gap in the blue collar world?

The women we interviewed are amazing examples of females not just surviving, but thriving, in blue collar industries. But how do we get more females through the door so we can have those better, more balanced companies we spoke of? 

Deborah says, “Marketing ideas have to continue to change with no stereotypes; and parents and role models have to pay attention to treating children the same.”

Renee says it’s largely up to women: “I think a lot of women compartmentalize themselves…it requires somebody who can think outside the box, and I think a lot of people stay in the box.” 

Linda adds that we should “continue to encourage women to seek roles in the blue collar field.” And that “business owners can expand their applicant pool” and “have standards in place so that all employees have the same opportunities for growth and advancement.”

To business owners, Stacey says, “I would say maybe reach out to middle schools and high schools and make it a point in their presentation of their company that this isn’t just limited to one gender…Offer shadowing to different groups…maybe reach out to Girl Scouts or anything that might be a bigger female-oriented community. Reach out to them and open those industries up. Bring it to their attention, because a lot of women just may not know. They may not ever even think about it. So just put it out there and stress that it’s not limited.”

Parents, she says, need to lead by example. “Being a mother with children, they look at me as an idol, and they see what I do. So, it’s just continuously instilling in them to reach for the stars.”

Judy’s excited about the possibility of having more women in the propane industry as well, and hopes to hire a female tech or driver. So if you’re in Proctor, VT, hop to it!

Big thank you to all of the women who shared their insights and experiences. What an amazing group of women the chimney sweeping and propane industries have — and lucky us, we get to work with them day in and day out!

Don’t Leave Business Success To Willpower — Rely On Automation

Don’t Leave Business Success To Willpower — Rely On Automation

Your phone lights up with an alert. It’s a big new lead from your website! This is always an exciting moment, and gives you a nice little afternoon buzz, not unlike that third cup of coffee.

You immediately call the lead and kick off the next steps to turn that lead into another happy customer. But somewhere along the way — usually right after you provide that customer with an estimate and they tell you they need time to think it over — your enthusiasm runs out.

It was so easy and exciting when the lead was brand new. Why is so hard now to follow up and chase after that opportunity? You tell yourself for the 15th time that you should get on the phone  and call them, but hey…another new lead just came in from your website.

Sound familiar? Are you gung-ho when it comes to chasing new leads, but reluctant when it comes to following up with customers? Even when time allows, do you feel resistance towards following up? Well, you’re certainly not the only one.

Many business owners only follow up once, follow up inconsistently, or never follow up at all. But chasing down leads and ignoring customers after the estimate is provided is a big mistake. It’s a waste of marketing dollars and it’s a waste of your time and energy.

After all, you’ve already paid to bring in the leads and spent time and energy providing the estimates. Why leave it at that when as many as eight out of 10 sales are closed after the fourth contact, and your customers may need as many as seven touches before they’re ready to say “Yes?”

You’ve already paid marketing dollars and spent time providing estimates, and you know customers need nurturing (especially when it comes to high dollar decisions). Why don’t you follow up?

Maybe you feel like you’re bothering your customers. Maybe you’re too busy. Maybe you just assume if they’re interested, they’ll reach out to you. Maybe you don’t like hearing the word “No,” or feeling a twinge of rejection. Whatever the reason, it’s time to set yourself up for success and claim the fortune you’re leaving on the table.

Making The Right Action The Easy Action

Following up is kind of like eating healthy: we know it’s good for us, but we tend to avoid or resist it. We start out the new year with the very best intentions, but by February, we’re already back to our old ways and eating whatever’s easiest, not whatever’s healthiest.

We may think, “Well, I’m just not a health nut, so it’s harder for me.” But do people who succeed in maintaining a healthy lifestyle just have greater willpower than the rest of the world? No. They don’t leave success up to willpower.

Willpower is a muscle, and like any muscle it can have moments of weakness. It can get tired and fail us. You can’t rely on willpower alone when you’re making a big lifestyle shift or making a decision to choose the hard, but good thing. If you do, you’ll never permanently make the shift; you’ll revert to whatever’s easiest. Instead, you have to set yourself up for success by making the good action the easier, less painful thing to do.

With health and diet, that means only buying foods that align with your health plan so there aren’t any processed foods or junk foods in your house when your willpower is weak.

It means planning and cooking healthy meals ahead of time, so that meal prep and cleanup is done for the week. When healthy alternatives are easy to grab and ready to go, you’re less likely to let the day’s events and time crunches send you to McDonald’s for a quick bite.

It means taking healthy alternatives with you when you go to an event where you know only hot dogs, chips, nacho cheese, and pizza will be served.

And it means finding new, healthier ways to satisfy cravings. If you crave salt, keep some nuts in your truck. If you have a sweet tooth, keep single serving dark chocolate squares around or stock up on your favorite fruit.

It’s the same with follow-ups and other business tasks that you tend to resist. The trick is to make doing the right thing easy and mindless, so you don’t even have to think about it. And the best way to do that in business is to automate the process.

With a little effort up front, you can create a semi-automatic system to make sure follow-ups are happening consistently in your business. Setting up a system should accomplish the following things:

  • Eliminate the resistance you feel
  • Set the positive action in motion
  • Ensure the tough stuff’s getting done
  • Save you time
  • Increase your marketing ROI
  • Provide the nurturing your customers need to make a decision

If you’d rather not mess with designing the process, tools like Closing Commander™ can do the work for you. Either way, automating follow-ups means you’ll know they are happening, but you won’t have to make yourself do them. They’ll be happening in the background, and the only action you’ll have to take is to add the customer to the system if they don’t say “Yes” or “No” on the spot.

Effective automation of repetitive tasks wipes out the need for willpower and sets you up for success.

Have You Set Yourself Up For Success?

No matter what your goals are for your business or personal life this year, you need to make sure you’ve set yourself up for success. If you’ve stumbled all through the first few months of 2019 and you feel like you’re just not up to the challenge, give yourself a break. Your willpower hasn’t failed you, your systems have.

Following up is just one business task you can automate. Think about the tools and tactics out there that can make it easier for you to succeed, and put them into practice — after all, no one’s willpower is unending. The goal is to work smarter, not harder, and to make the right action, the easy action. Here’s to your success!

Books We’d Read Again & Again

Books We’d Read Again & Again

It’s no secret, Spark Marketer is made up of a bunch of nerds — so, naturally, we love reading. But life-changing, enjoyable books aren’t limited to the business section.

Here are some of our all-time favorite books and top book recommendations (fiction and non-fiction). Check ‘em out! (Get it? Because at the library, you can check out books…)thumbs-up-book-shelf-filled-with-books

Is Everyone On Your Team Equipped To Sell?

Is Everyone On Your Team Equipped To Sell?

Want to know a secret? Sales is not a position within your company — it’s every position within your company. The person answering the phones and serving as the initial contact point for your customers and the techs out in the field doing the work are just as responsible for selling the company as your designated sales person is. The question is: have you empowered and equipped your entire team to effectively sell?Sales-Tags-Hanging-From-A-Rope

Many business owners send their designated sales person to training and invest in their selling skills, but they leave the rest of the team high and dry. Here’s why that’s a big mistake:

The sell coming from your techs and office staff feels more organic and authentic. I’m sure your designated sales person can talk all day long about how great your company is and why your customers would be stupid to choose anyone else for the job, but they have a disadvantage that your office staff and techs in the field don’t: it feels like a sale. The interaction your office saff and field staff have with customers feels more organic and authentic, and gives your customers a better idea of what your company is really all about and how they can expect to be treated when they work with you.

Your sales person is not the one who will leave a lasting impression. Most of the interactions and experiences your customers will have will be with the women and men doing the work, scheduling appointments, and answering any questions the customer has. These are the touch points your customers will remember and the touch points that will determine what kind of lasting impression they have of your business. Two bad experiences here and they’ve already forgotten about how friendly and convincing your sales person was.

Your office staff and techs have more opportunities to sell. Being in front of the customer more also means more opportunities to sell. After all, the employees most frequently interacting with your customers have a direct pipeline to your customers; they likely hear the customers’ wants, needs, and complaints first and have the opportunity to swoop in and meet those wants and needs and solve problems for your customers. But if your team is unsure of how to do that or feels insecure in their selling abilities, they won’t have the confidence to take advantage of each opportunity. Instead, opportunities to upsell, identify needs, and solve customer problems will likely be wasted.

Seeing the direct correlation between one’s efforts and company revenue can be a boost to morale. Here’s the thing, everyone in every company wants to feel important and see the fruit of labor. But when you completely disconnect your office staff and techs from the selling process, you minimize their importance, limit their power, and obscure the direct impact they have on company success and customer satisfaction. By making it clear that everyone on your team has an equal responsibility and role in the selling process, you’re emphasizing the importance of each individual to the success of the whole.

So how can you make sure everyone on your team is equipped and empowered to sell?

  • Start by letting them know that it’s everyone’s responsibility and privilege to sell the company and to be that point person who conveys the mission, values, purpose, and culture of the company to the customer being served. If you don’t verbalize this, your employees may not think it’s their place to sell, because they’ll likely falsely think of sales as a position within the company.
  • Next, provide your employees with scripts and practice scenarios, and ask them to identify a couple of missed opportunities in the last month or so. Give them examples and practice this often so they begin to see sales opportunities easily when on the job.
  • Emphasize that selling is not just beneficial to the company, but to the customer. Many people are uncomfortable with selling because they associate it with being pushy or deceptive. Clear the discomfort your team has by assuring them you only want them to sell when they feel it provides value to the customer or meets a customer need, and by showing them how selling can directly benefit the customer. For example, if a team member goes to provide an estimate for a carpet install and, while the estimate is being performed, the employee notices that the customer’s dog is aging and there are a great deal of pet urine stains on the existing carpet, he or she could use this opportunity to educate the customer on a pet stain resistant carpet. Sure, it’s an upsell, but it’s something that will very clearly benefit the customer and her enjoyment of her home. There’s nothing greasy or deceptive about that!

Sales training and webinars are also worth thinking about. But no matter how you choose to empower your employees to sell, encourage them through any discomfort and insecurity as they learn new skills. Selling is not something that comes naturally to everyone, so be patient and supportive. It will be well worth it for you, your customers, and your employees!

Rekindling The Service Flame When You’re Burnt Out

Rekindling The Service Flame When You’re Burnt Out

Being in the service industry is hard. You’re not allowed to have bad days; you have to be on all the time and hold a smile when asked not-so-smart questions; and many days pass without so much as a thank you. When you’ve been in the industry for a long time, it’s even easier to forget why you started doing it in the first place, what you love about your job, and just how big of an impact your daily work really has. It’s easy to get burnt out and to lose perspective. Strip-of-matches-one-burnt-out

If you’re starting each day with a pessimistic, “why bother?” attitude, here are some tips to help you recharge and refresh.

Stop & Reflect.

First things first, when you’re burnt out and you’ve lost perspective, it’s easy to forget the good times — the moments when you felt truly satisfied in your work. STOP. Take a few moments, or maybe even an afternoon, to reflect on your time of service and remember the moments when you were thanked, when you felt fulfilled, and when you saw just how much your work mattered to your community. Reflecting on these moments can help recharge your service battery and keep you focused on the positive aspects of your job. In fact, to prevent future burn out, we highly recommend making reflection a regular thing. Make it a priority and put it on your calendar, just as you would an important meeting.

Ask Others.

Many people in the service industry don’t think much of the little things they do or little ways they go above and beyond, which is why it can be beneficial to ask others. Your friends, family, employees, coworkers, and customers may be able to shed some light on the ways your heart for service really made a difference and you went above and beyond what you were called to do. Plus, hearing others say positive things about you is always good for the spirit.

Connect.

Perhaps the most fulfilling part of life is the relationships we form. Are you taking the time to connect with your customers and form a bond? On each and every service call, make it a point to find some way to relate to your customer. Empathize with them. Care about them. It will make all the difference in the way your customer perceives you and in the way you perceive the customer and the service you bring. This may be easier to do with some customers than others, but even if it’s a stretch, find a way to do it with each and every one.

Recognize Your Value.

You have a heart for service, and not everyone does. But if you want to take care of others, you have to also take care of yourself. When you’re burnt out, take the time to refuel and reflect, even if you only have a few minutes in the truck on the way to the next job. Remind yourself of your worth and the value you bring to those you serve. Although it’s nice, what matters is not that each and every customer acknowledges the worth and value you bring — what matters is that you do.

Taylor & Carter’s Recommended Reads

Taylor & Carter’s Recommended Reads

One of the things you will hear from most leaders is, if you want to lead and win, you must read, or listen to, books. When you see their reading lists, they’re chock full of book titles, but we wanted to focus on just a few of the books we’d highly recommend. With this in mind, here is our list, with a short explanation of why we recommend each book.stack-of-books

Taylor’s Three

The one book that we’ve both read multiple times is Michael Gerber’s book, The E-Myth. It’s best to read this when you first start out, because most of us are moving from a technician type of job (actually doing all the work) and into a leadership role (where we lead others to do the work). While both of these positions are important, they are very different, and there are many steps that need to be mastered in the transition. Reading The E-Myth every few years gives you different perspectives along the spectrum as you go and grow from technician to leader, so be sure to revisit it.

Another book I recommend you read every two to four years is Dale Carnegie’s, How to Win Friends & Influence People. This is just a very practical and telling guide on winning people over and influencing their lives and decisions for the better. It’s a must-read for anyone in a sales or customer-facing position.

My third recommendation is a combo: Failing Forward and The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership by John C. Maxwell are both good reads to return to over time. Failing Forward is a good reminder that failure is a part of the process that moves you forward to success. It’s a book that reminds you to make sure you’re learning from your failures and not just failing. I don’t think any of us will ever reach perfection when it comes to The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership, however, we can continuously get better and better. This book is a great one to revisit to gauge your progress and see how you are doing, where you currently are, and how far you’ve come as a leader. It’s also a great tool for identifying the laws and determining which ones you already do well with and which ones you need to work on. Since becoming a better leader is an ongoing process, the book is an ongoing read you should return to again and again.

Carter’s Three

Thinking, Fast and Slow, by Daniel Kahneman provides a brilliant and revealing look at the two systems at work in our brains that take in information and process it to make judgements and decisions. It’s not a traditional business book, but it highlights the number one job of any entrepreneur or leader, and sheds light on why we think what we think and do what we do. Part psychology and neurology, part university course on logic and statistics, what emerges is a holistic look at the way the grey matter in our brains has evolved to ensure our survival, but at the same time severely handicaps us in an ever-increasingly fast-paced world — a world where life and death decisions get made based on larger and larger sets of complex, interrelated data. Does the lowly human brain, the same basic technology we’ve used for millennia, stand a chance at navigating this new world successfully?

You Are Not So Smart, by David McRaney is a humbling read, and has turned into a sort of “gut check” reference book for me. Like most people, I like to think of myself as intelligent, able to think rationally and believe things based on a diligent survey of all the facts. Turns out, none of us are nearly as good at that kind of thinking as we’d like to think, and the fact that we think we are anyway, well, that’s kind of the whole point of this book. It’s a well-organized encyclopedia of logical fallacies and neuro-benders that will probably make you want to call up someone you know and apologize to them for acting so sure of yourself so often. As with Kahneman’s book, it’s not straight-ahead business, but I guarantee it will help you get where you’re going by giving you a useful toolkit for challenging what you think and believe in any given circumstance.

The Dip, by Seth Godin is something I pull out now and then, when I’m needing to walk to the edge of the cliff and peer over the side. It’s all about knowing when to quit and when to keep going in business. I think Seth wrote it to help people feel okay with a decision to walk away from something in order to do something else. Sometimes we have a false sense of loyalty to our big ideas, when we should really be willing to move away from unprofitable ones much more quickly than we do. But just as important is to recognize “the dip,” or period of uncertainty that often comes right before the breakthrough moment arrives.

Well, that’s it for this list. What are some of your book recommendations? Let us know in the comments section below!