Friday, July 31, 2009

Vaya con Dios Amigos

Hey ya’ll, it’s the ARM Dude here. I am writing to you with a very heavy heart because today marks the end for Audry’s Mexican Restaurant. They are shutting their doors after being in business for 60 years. I understand and support the owner’s decision to close the business his mother started so many years ago. It saddens me though because Audry’s has been my special place for more than 20 years. I believe this story is relevant to my mission with this blog because it is a perfect illustration of a business doing all of the right things to create a loyal customer.

It would take several pages to communicate all of the personal significance that Audry’s represents in my life. That being the case I will endeavor to keep this blog focused on how they converted me from an occasional patron into the loyal customer that is writing to you today with tears welling in my eyes as I tell about their demise. I believe there are lessons that we can all learn from by following their example.

First and foremost, Audrey Cantu, the matriarch for which it is named, created a business that understood its identity and the role it played in the community. Tony, her son, grew up with the business and kept these traditions in place when he assumed responsibility for the daily operations many years ago. The business model was quite simple. It was to be a business focused on providing great food at a fair price for the lunch time crowds in downtown San Antonio. They would not be open in the evenings or weekends because to do so would have impacted their family time. The staff would be friendly and tasked with making everyone, regardless of race or social status, feel special when he or she walked through the doors. It was their flawless execution of this business plan that led me to become a loyal customer.

How do I define a loyal customer? Well, I haven’t worked in the downtown area since 1991 yet I have consistently made Audry’s a part of my lunch time plans at least twice each week. Some weeks I went more often even though to do so meant making a round trip drive of at least 25 miles. There have been some days when the food didn’t taste as good as other days. There have been some days where parking was a major problem. There have also been some days when the service was running a little slow because of the size of the crowd. There was even a problem with their sign having the name Audrey misspelled. Some people might have seen these to be reasons enough to find another eating establishment. I did not because everyone at Audry’s had worked hard to earn my loyalty over the years. They had earned my trust by not taking me for granted. They did this every single time I visited so it was easy to overlook the hiccups on the rare occasions when they occurred.

I can not pinpoint the day or time frame but at some point over the years Audry’s became a part of my being. It was no longer about me frequenting an establishment. It became a place where I was a foot taller with shoulders more than wide enough for any troubles. It had become a part of my identity to the point where friends and former co-workers expect to see me there if they visit. This occurred twice just last week. It had become a place where I cared about the staff members just as they have so dutifully cared for me.

I hope each of you reading this blog gets the opportunity to participate in a client-vendor relationship like I have had with Audry’s Mexican Restaurant. All business owners should strive to reach the standard set by Tony and his team. You can do it by employing great staff like Opie, Cindy, and the many others that have worked there over the years. It will require you to have a client centric business plan with a focus on executing your plan to perfection. It won’t be easy but it can be done. The reward will be loyal customers that are lifetime fans. These fans will provide you with an immeasurable amount of word of mouth advertising that will be instrumental in the growth or sustainment of your business.

I am not sure what Monday will bring but I do know that I will miss hearing Opie say “Hey Tommy Boy, are you going to have your usual today?” even though I knew she had placed my order when she saw me walk through the door. I believe in everyone there and trust they will each have new and exciting opportunities come their way that would not be possible without this business closing. To all of them I say, “Vaya con dios amigos. I will miss ya’ll dearly.”

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Would you rather fish or catch?

Hey Ya’ll, it’s the ARM Dude here. I just got back from a trip to the coast where I got to spend some quality time catching redfish in the shallow flats. My favorite place to go fishing is a little town called Port O’Connor, TX. It is not a tourist destination because there is very little to do there other than fish. In fact, a favorite past time for the local residents is to venture up to the boat docks late in the day to watch the boats come in for the day. Part of the entertainment is to watch some of the funny things that happen when the boats are being loaded onto their trailers. The other reason they go is to see the fish brought in by each boat. The locals will tell you that “90% of the fish brought in are caught by 10% of the fishermen.” I believe there is a lot of truth to this statement.

As an avid fisherman I have spent literally hundreds of days on the water during my lifetime. As a kid, I believed that luck played a huge role in fishing. This view began to change as I got older and had more fishing experience. It really changed for me when I began trying to determine why 10% of the fishermen were catching most all of the fish. I would walk around the docks in the morning looking to see what type of boats they had, the equipment they were using, and the tackle being used. I even paid attention to the clothes they were wearing. This lesson taught me that it was virtually impossible to determine the successful fishermen by their looks or the equipment they used. Everyone looked pretty much the same. Yet I knew that later on in the day when the boats came back in that most of them would have little to show for their efforts. This set me off on the next phase of my study to determine why the same guys were catching all of the fish.

While I had already began drawing many parallels between my business career and my fishing experiences it really didn’t sink in until I developed a friendship with a co-worker that also loved to fish. Through this friendship I got exposure to a couple of guys that were very successful at catching fish on a consistent basis. I also got exposure to a lot of people that couldn’t seem to catch a fish if their life depended on it. This is when I finally learned the secret behind the 90/10 rule. What was the secret? Commitment. That’s right, I had spent all of this time trying to determine the secret behind their success and it came down to one word. The weird thing was that I had also been studying various people that I have met during my business career trying to determine why some were more successful than others. What was their secret? Commitment. This is when the parallels between work and play became clearer for me. Some of the observations that led to this conclusion are as follows.

The less successful fishermen knew very little about their prey other than it lived in the water. This lack of knowledge made it impossible for them to recognize the difference between a good keeper fish and a bad time wasting one that should be avoided or thrown back if caught. They didn’t know much about the tackle they were using. They would get frustrated easily as time passed without them catching anything. They were constantly changing lures and baits before blindly casting their lines out. They were very quick to give up when conditions were less than ideal. They also began to doubt their luck and/or abilities when they saw others catching fish in the same area using similar tackle. These traits are very similar to ones that I have found in some of the less successful people that I worked with during my career. They want to be successful but they are counting on luck or others to make it happen.

The successful fishermen spent more time preparing at home then they did fishing on the water. They were constantly studying the traits of the various fish they were targeting. They spent the time required to learn how to get the maximum return from their investments in equipment and tackle. They studied the weather and tide patterns. They reviewed past fishing trips to see what they could learn from those experiences. They would then take all of this information to map out their strategy for their next trip. The focus of this preparation was to increase their odds of catching fish by maximizing the use of their time on the water. This level of commitment resulted in a strong belief in their ability to catch fish. This belief system was critical because it provided the discipline needed to stick with their strategy even when the fishing was going slow. They believed that all the preparation was going to pay off for them as long as they didn’t give up. These are traits that I believe most successful individuals, regardless of their trade, possess. They are so committed to being successful that they are going to put in the extra effort to insure that their ability to do so is not left to chance.

This leads me to my closing question. Which would you rather do, fish or catch?

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

We have a ballgame on our hands!

Hey Ya’ll, it’s the ARM Dude here. Welcome to the inaugural edition of my new blog. I hope you will find the content to be relative, thought provoking, and useful to you in some way.

Sports and the outdoors have always been a part of my life. My favorite sports are team sports like baseball, basketball and football. I enjoy watching a team of athletes work together as one unit to accomplish a common goal. The games I remember the most either as a fan or participant were those games where one team must do something memorable in order to snatch victory from the hands of their competitor. As a kid, my friends and I would recreate these memorable moments as we played. One day I would be Hank Aaron batting in the bottom of the ninth inning with a runner on base while down by one run. Another day I would be Moses Malone or Kareem Abdul Jabbar taking the last second shot to win the basketball game. There are many other examples but they always involved doing something memorable when faced with a difficult situation.

I participated in many organized sports growing up as well. The majority of my time spent playing organized sports involved lots of practicing versus actually playing in a real game. A big part of each practice was spent addressing the various scenarios that we might face during a game. Most of these situations were not in our favor. For example, in baseball we might practice our defense and what we would do if the other team had the bases loaded with no outs. All of these lessons would eventually prepare us for the game itself. You hoped that you didn’t to have to face that situation but if you did you knew that the time spent practicing had prepared you for it. Early in my playing career I was fortunate to play on some very good teams that consistently overcame such occasions to win the game. It happened so frequently that I developed a habit of smiling whenever my teams were in difficult spots. I was smiling because it was much more fun to be in a real competitive game and because I believed my team was on the verge of doing something memorable. The joy that would come along with it when we did made business as usual type games very boring. The coaches on these good teams loved it when they saw me smiling on the field because they believed as well. Later on in my playing days I played for some coaches that did not appreciate my smiling when the chips were down. In their mind there was no room to smile when you were losing or in other words they felt like the situation should dictate your attitude. Not surprisingly these teams were not very good and we would crumble when faced with difficult situations.

It has been several years since I have played competitive sports but I have found that the business world provides many of the same thrills I experienced while playing as a kid. The current business and economic climate has put many businesses and individuals in a position where we are behind in the score. This has me smiling bigger than ever. It has me smiling because it has let us all know that we have a real competitive game on our hands. It has me smiling because I trust that all of the lessons we have collectively learned throughout our careers have us properly prepared. It has me smiling because we are all provided with the opportunity to raise the level of our game in order to overcome the odds. It has me smiling because we have the ability to let our attitude dictate our situation. I am smiling because we have an opportunity to do something memorable. I can’t wait for the after game celebration. I’ll see you there!