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The Customer is always right, part two.

Hi Everyone,

We all experience customer service every day of our life in some form. It could be the receptionist at a doctor’s office, the clerk at the coffee shop, the cashier at the grocery store, or the service manager at a garage.

Last week during our water crisis I watched the people in our water office handle the phone calls. They were polite, pleasant, and showed a deep concern for our water users. After about 3 days of these calls, I was back in the office, and once again I noticed the same concern.

I am always looking for great customer service, but once in awhile I see people acting badly when they deal with the public. I remember when I was at Walmart, and one of our associates treated someone badly, I would always get an answer like this, “I was having a bad day.” My answer was always the same. “When you walk through those doors you have to leave everything at the door.” Of course, I knew they didn’t like that response, so I always had a follow up. “Would you want to be treated the way you treated that customer?” The answer was always NO.
Then we had those associates that would just go above and beyond for their customers. I am happy to say that we always had great customer service scores, and we had happy customers!

In our daily meetings I would also talk about customer service and I would ask. “Do you want to create a happy customer or a raving fan customer?” A raving fan customer is one that you went overboard to help. We would encourage our associates to create raving fan customers, and then we would ask them to talk about the experience they had with that customer in our meetings. So what happened was we had a little competition on making everyone happy. Pretty unique right?

I remember reading a great story about Herman Cain, who was a presidential candidate, but at one time he was a regional vice president of Burger King. He told the story of how when he first started with the company he would go into a Burger King and watch the counter. He noticed that most of the clerks had a smile on their faces, but there were always those that didn’t. Not surprised the smiling people were very courteous, and the non smiling people were rude. He also noticed that in the kitchen there was the same thing, some were smiling and some were not, so he switched them out so all the smiling faces were at the front end, and he instructed all his stores to do the same. Immediately their sales went up.

Many years ago we had a video store on Main Street where Moments to Remember is now called Poppy’s. I’m sure that some of you will remember it, and one thing that you should remember was everyone in there had a smile on their face and they were always happy. One day I asked the owner, “How did you manage to hire so many happy people?” His answer was very simple, “If they didn’t smile in the interview, they didn’t get hired.”

Finally, and this is the best advice I can give you, if you deal with the public, look them in the eye, smile, and say good morning or good afternoon, and I know that you will make that person happy, and they will remember you!

I hope you all have a great week, and it does look like it’s going to get warmer, so that should make everyone smile. See you next Friday!


It takes a village.

Hi Everyone,

This has been one of those weeks that Bradfordians will not forget for a long time. I really wanted to share some of the outpouring of help that we received this week. For those that don’t know this, besides being the Executive Director of the Chamber, I am also the Chairman of the Bradford City Water Authority. Also, if you aren’t from Bradford, we had a 24″ water main break on Monday afternoon that is the main artery into our town, and by Tuesday 18,000 people were without water. To make matters worse, the repair had to be done in below zero weather, and we had to go through two feet of cement. The break was on Campus Drive near the entrance of the University of Pittsburgh at Bradford.

So let’s start with the Bradford City Water Department crew. They are my heroes, and they truly went above and beyond for their job, standing in water with -20 degree weather all night long. We are so fortunate to have them on our team, and as Kim Benjamin texted me on Tuesday morning, “There is nobody I would rather see tackling this job than the crew I have.” Kim, I agree! I also have to commend Kim for his dedication and for staying up 36 hours before finally getting some rest. I also want to thank our Board of Directors, Tom Arrowsmith, Bob Douglas, Terry Lopus and Richard Luther for being in the office to support Kim!

As for UPB, they were great! They provided shelter for our men, food, water and coffee, and any equipment that we needed was available to us. Two male students went to Tim Horton’s and bought 40 cups of coffee for the men. The next morning workers from the Bradford Sanitary Department came in to relieve our men so they could get some rest. American Refining Group provided a crane and operator to help with getting the damaged pipe out of the ground. Cummins Construction helped with getting the hole filled back in. Verizon offered their warming tents to our men. Rob Huber came out with gloves for the men, and the next day a woman with her daughter brought more gloves.

Mayor Riel contacted Governor Wolf, and within minutes Governor Wolf called the Mayor and said they would have people in Bradford in the next few hours, and they arrived that same day from his office and FEMA. Police Chief Chris Lucco took over as head of the Command Center along with Fire Chief Richard Zmuda. All the local fire departments helped with getting bottled water to our residents. Bruce Manning and his staff from McKean County Emergency Management came and stayed at the command center and have been a big help. I should also mention that when Chief Lucco was finally able to go home, and everyone on his street had water, he found out his service line was frozen. Mayor Riel and City Administrator Teri Cannon also have been at the Command Center over these past five days, and have made sure that we had everything that we need. In our office Roger Pais, Katie Vecellio and Troy Coppella have taken all the calls, and made sure that someone answered those calls. I also want to thank all the supervisors from Lewis Run, Bradford Township and Foster Township for their help!

FEMA helped with getting water and water tanks to Bradford, and they are still at our Command Center. Both the Olean and Bradford Walmart provided tractor trailers of water to our residents, and many more businesses, organizations, agencies, and churches have contributed as well with donating water as well as distributing it. Kudos to all of these great people.

We are making progress, and hopefully by Monday we will be back to full capacity. Then we will start testing the water so that we can lift the boil water order.

I could go on and on with what has happened over the past five days, and with what I have written. I know I haven’t come close to mentioning everyone that helped us, but once again Bradford people stepped up and took care of each other.

I am so proud to be a member of this community, and I wouldn’t want to live anywhere else!

See you next Friday!


The Customer is always right!

Hi Everyone,

I thought that title would get your attention, and I’m sure you have heard that before.  I have two stories that I have told over the years about great customer service and I want to share those stories with you.

Many years ago I met Stew Leonard, who owns farm dairy stores in Connecticut.  He told the story of a customer who brought back a container of egg nog and told Stew that it was sour.  Stew said he immediately became very defensive and said, “that is impossible, our egg nog is fresh every day!”  he said he went home and told his wife Mary Ann what happened.  After he told the story, Mary Ann said, “Why would you do that, the customer is always right, do you know what we as customers do when we are treated that way?, we quit shopping at your store!”  That was a wake up call for Stew, and he had a large stone engraved in front of his store that said, “Rule 1, the customer is always right.  Rule 2, if the customer is ever wrong, reread rule 2.”  He said several weeks later at Thanksgiving time, another customer brought back the carcass of a turkey and said, “This turkey wasn’t any good”  Stew replied, “no problem I can give you another turkey or your money back” The next story is from Sam Walton, founder of Walmart.   A couple of years after I had been with Walmart, I found a video with a message from Mr. Walton.  In the video Mr. Walton said, “I don’t  think we are doing enough for our customers, so today if a customer comes in and buys a fishing rod, and he goes fishing, and he falls and breaks that rod on a rock and brings it back, I want you to give him a new fishing rod.”  So when I joined  Walmart in Olean, New York, we had a terrible customer service score, so the store manager turned the issue over to me.  I told him about Stew’s story, and his response was, “Do whatever you have to do to get that score up.”  So I met with our Service Desk associates, and I told them my job was to help them get a better score, and we would no longer question any returns.  Now you can imagine their reaction, especially coming from the new guy, and yes they did ask to talk to the store manager, and his response was, “Ron is in charge of the Service Desk.”  After they calmed down, I asked them, “What percentage of returns do you think are people taking advantage of us?”  The answer was one percent, so I told them, “Why would we risk antagonizing 99% of our customers because of that 1%.”  I also told them the story from Stew Leonard. The next month our customer service numbers were excellent, and there was less stress at the service desk.   I should also mention that our sales went up! Customer service is the most important thing in a business, if you customer service is bad, you will fail.  Also, remember customer service isn’t just for retail, it is for all businesses Have a great week, and we will see you next Friday!

General Patton on Leadership, Part Two.

Hi Everyone,

Last week we talked about General Patton’s and leadership, and this week we will continue with two of his leadership skills.

First up is, “Acceptance of responsibility:  Be boldly accountable”  Back in February 2001 the nuclear attack submarine USS Greenville surfaced and collided with a Japanese fishing trawler.  It sank quickly and nine people died.  The captain of the Greenville stood before a military court and said, “I accept full responsibility  and accountability for the actions of the crew”  At this point is sounded like the captain was taking full responsibility, but later he went on to blame the officer of the deck for inadequate precautions during the surfacing maneuver.  He went on to say, “I did not micromanage my crew.  I empowered them to do their jobs.”

But delegate does not mean abdicate.  Although a leader empowers others to get the job done, the leader is still fully responsible and accountable for the results.

I remember when I was with Walmart, we had many rules for selling guns.  One of those was proper inventory of the guns, and if one came up missing the store manager was held responsible.  I couldn’t blame my managers, because it was my responsibility.  I also seen many times when my managers tried to blame their subordinates for something that they were responsible for, and we would have a talk about responsibilities, and I would remind them as leaders that is our job to take full responsibility when something went bad.

Next up is, “Energy: Be boldly vigorous”  It is not enough to be mentally, morally, and spiritually committed to your bold course of action.  You must also commit every ounce of energy to ensuring that your course of action succeeds.

If you remember in previous blogs, I mentioned how you should enter your building, always be positive and smiling.  Well energy is contagious, if you live boldly, people around you will be emboldened. If you have confidence in yourself, people around you will be confident.  If you display energy and enthusiasm, you will inspire energy and enthusiasm in others.

Look at all the motivational speakers that are out there, look at how they come on the stage, smiling, full of energy.  I always look forward to the launch of Apple products, because the launch is always upbeat, lots of energy, and we all know that leads to great sales for Apple.

So next week, I want you all to be full of energy, enthusiasm, smiling, and giving words of encouragement to your team, and than let me know how you team reacts.  I know they will start doing the same thing!

Have a great week, and we will see you next Friday!!


General Patton on Leadership

Hi Everyone,

Last week I watched the movie on General Patton, and it brought back memories of reading about his views on leadership. The amazing thing about his thoughts on leadership was that he wrote them down when he was a cadet at West Point.  I’m going to cover some of  them over the next two weeks.

Let’s start with “Strength of Character”.  Leadership is not about winning.  It’s about being right–morally, ethically, spirtually, and that means of course, that we must be leaders with bold, strong principles.

Sam Walton who founded Walmart was a bold leader who said that great leaders swim upstream, go the other way.  Ignore the conventional wisdom.  He went on to say that you can find your niche by going in exactly the opposite direction–but be prepared for a lot of folks to wave you down and tell you you’re headed the wrong way. That was what drove Sam Walton to build the largest retail store in the world.  He always went the opposite of his competition.  Sam Walton had strong principles, and he was a truly spiritual man.

Next up from the General, “Steadiness of purpose: Be boldly committed”  England Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, also know as the “Iron Lady” is a great example of this leadership feature.  She said, “Speak up! be bold and fearless about asserting your principles.  Use information, instinct, and intuition to foresee problems and crises before anyone else does.”

The reason I mention these three people, is that it doesn’t matter if you are a General, a Prime Minister or a retail giant, the rules are all the same for leadership.  Be committed to your goals and your team, don’t be afraid to step out of the box.

Are you going to make mistakes? probably, but you learn from your mistakes.  Sam Walton lost his first store because he didn’t have a long term lease, but he didn’t give up, and you all know what happened next, Walmart was born!

Finally, over the past several weeks, I have given you many ideas to be a great leader, and the other day, I examined by own leadership.  I did make many mistakes, but I always remembered what Mr. Walton taught us about stepping out of the box,and I really have to give credit to all the great teams that I had over the  years, who helped turn those mistakes into positives.  Always remember every great leader has a great team!

See you next Friday, and if your in Bradford, stop on down to 121 Main Street, have a cup of coffee with us, and share your ideas  with us.

Have a great week!


The One Minute Manager

Hi Everyone,

I’m sure some of you have read the book “One Minute Manager” coauthored by Ken Blanchard.  Blanchard is one of my favorite authors and I think I have read all of his books.  Today I thought I would talk about that book and the “One Minute Apology”.

Have you ever worked for someone who blew up over anything, and then spent the rest of the day being mad at the world because of a mistake you made.  I have, and it’s not fun to be in that environment.  I remember when I first read the “One Minute Manager” and the next day we had something go wrong at Wal-Mart.  I called my team into the office and I told them that this can’t happen again, and I made sure that I kept it to one minute.  Then we talked about how we could fix the problem, and then I remembered saying, “let’s go up to the snack bar and have a cup of coffee”.  I also remember that they all looked at me kind of funny, and then I told them about the book.  It really made a difference in our team, and I tried to follow the one minute rule from that point on.  If any of my former team is reading this, let me know if you remember that.

Now the “One Minute Apology” follows the same rule, but there is one thing that needs to be added.  If you screw up, don’t wait two weeks to apologize to your boss or your team.  I always told my team, that they wouldn’t be in trouble if they told me when something happened, and we would work together to fix it.  If I found out two weeks later from someone else, than they were on their own.

I can think of one other book title, and I don’t think Blanchard has written this yet, but my title would be “The 15 Second Celebration”  I have talked about this in previous blogs, but I thought it really fits into this blog.  When you have a successful project, month, year, etc., count to 15, and then say “OK we celebrated, now let’s move on to the next thing”.  Now I applied that rule to my management team, but when it came to thanking our associates, I threw that rule out.

I remember we had a fantastic inventory at the Bradford Walmart.  So I bought the CD “Queen”  Had my management team line up in two rows, and ask all our associates to come back to the lounge.  We played the song “We Are The Champions” and we high fived every associate as they walked through the two rows of managers.  It was a night that I will never forget, the looks on their faces was priceless, and when the song was done, I thanked them, and said tomorrow we start a new year, and I looked forward to playing this song again next year.

So I guess I am guilty for not sticking to the 15 second rule, but I think when it’s your employees, you need to take the time to thank them for their hard work!!

I hope you have enjoyed my blog, because it is a pleasure for me to share my past experience in the business world, and I look forward to Fridays.  I find myself writing notes all week to prepare for the Friday Blog.  If you would like to comment, and you are reading this from our email, click on the “Reply to Blog” box at the bottom of the page, and then when my blog opens click on the comment section.

Have a great week, and if you are downtown, stop in at 121 Main Street and have a cup of coffee with us, and share your ideas!

Are you a Visionary Leader?

Hi Everyone,
Do you all remember back in 1991 when President George H. Bush sent troops into Kuwait to drive out Saddam Hussien.  After completing that mission, his approval rating went up to 85%.  A year later his approval rating dropped and he lost his reelection bid to Bill Clinton.  Looking back on 1991, President Bush became a caretaker and not a visionary.   If he had said, I have a new vision for America, and campaigned on that vision he might have won.

Ronald Reagan had a great quote on vision, “Grasp and hold a vision is the very essence of leadership” I really don’t think that you can be a great leader without having a vision of what you and your team want to accomplish.  You need to look at the future and see what is best for your business.  Pat Williams in his book, “Paradox of Power” said, “A true vision is always good news; it is always optimistic”

Think about Walt Disney, he spent his whole life seeing what was not there–and turning his vision into reality.  After completing Disney Land in California, he had another vision in Florida.  He died in 1966, almost five years before Disney World opened in Orlando.  On the day the new park opened, a visitor commented to Mike Vance, Creative Director of Walt Disney Studios, “Isn’t it too bad Walt Disney didn’t live to see this?”  Oh. but he did see it,”  Vance Replied.  “That’s why it’s here.”  Walt Disney truly defined the word “vision”

I really believe that as a leader if you have vision, those around you can do the impossible.  Everyone loves a challenge and your team will be excited to help you accomplish your vision.

As I have been saying over the last 11 weeks, the greatest reward for any leader is to create new leaders.  I truly believe that if you are a visionary, and an optimistic person, your team will see that and they too will become better leaders.

So if you have enjoyed my blog, please send me your comments, or stop into our office at 121 Main Street, have a cup of coffee with us, and tell us your leadership story.


Heart of a Leader Part Four

Hi Everyone,

This will be the last blog on “Heart of a Leader” but not on Leadership.  Today let’s start with “Positive thinkers get positive results because they are not afraid of problems” When you hear the word “problem” you immediately think of negative thoughts, right?  But some don’t see it that way.

Someone ask Norman Vincent Peale, “Don’t you think life would be better if we had few problems?” Noman would answer by saying, “I’ll be happy to take you to Woodlawn Cemetery because the only people I know who don’t have problems are dead”

I thrive on fixing problems, and find it to be both challenging and rewarding.  Some people though think if they leave a problem alone it will fix itself.  Believe me that might work for a while, but eventually you’re going to create a bigger problem.  So my advice is to take on each problem one at time, and make it a challenge, and believe me you will feel great and the people around you will respect you for being a great leader and problem solver!

“Servant leadership is more about character than style” In his book, Servant Leadership, Robert Greenleaf defines two kinds of leaders.   Strong natural leaders are those who try to take control, make the decisions, and give the orders in any situation in which they find themselves.  They have a need to be in charge.   Strong natural servants, on the other hand, will assume leadership only if they see it as a way in which they can serve.

I always tried to be a natural servant leader, and would help my team whenever I could. Plus, sometimes it’s a good idea to get out their and work with your team to see what is going on.

Now with that said sometimes leaders try to do too much and the results aren’t good.  I had a manager who did everything, and never delegated, somehow he always got the job done and then he got promoted, but I told him he had to start delegating the work.  I left that store shortly after he was promoted and  unfortunately his leadership style caught up to him, and he got behind on his projects and he was demoted.  If you are one of those people that can’t delegate, you will fail, you can’t do it all yourself!

The best example of a servant leader in  is a shepherd, because the flock is not there for the sake of the shepherd; the shepherd is there for the sake of the flock.

Today I’m going to close with a quote that was sent to me by a friend on Joan Rivers.  Like my friend I wasn’t a big fan of Joan Rivers, but she did have some great quotes, and it’s probably why she was so successful.  There are several, but I really like this one: “I succeeded by saying what everyone else is thinking,” Be a thought leader! Don’t be afraid to say what’s on your mind.  In fact, the reason we remember LEADERS is because they LEAD…not because they have the best ideas or are the best speakers.  Just speak and others follow.

Sometimes I probably say too much, but like Joan I am a thought leader.  I thought this was a great quote to end today’s blog, please let me know what you think.  If you are reading this through email just click on the icon at the bottom of the page which will take you to my blog, and you can hit the comment at the top of the page to reply.

See you next Friday!


Heart of a Leader Part Three

Hi Everyone,This week I am going to continue to review the book “Heart of a Leader.”

Purpose has to do with one’s calling–deciding what business you are in as a person”  This is one of my favorite sayings in Heart of a Leader, and it ties in with a story about Alfred Nobel, originator of the Nobel Peace Prize.  Alfred’s brother had died and the next morning Alfred purchased a newspaper to see what they said about his brother.  Surprisingly the paper made a mistake and gave an obituary on Alfred..  As a young man Alfred was involved in the invention of dynamite, and his premature obituary told of the terrible death and destruction that dynamite had caused.  Nobel was devastated, he wanted to be known as a man of “peace”. and I think you know the rest of the story.

This story was on the last page of Heart of a Leader, and I have to tell you it has had the most impact on me over the last 17 years.  Like Alfred, I  to wanted to leave a great legacy.  I believe that God made us to be the best we can be.  I am often asked why I am involved in so many things, the only answer I can give is that this story really changed my life.  It’s hard to believe that one book made such a difference.

Taking this one step further, “Purpose can never be about achievement, it is much bigger”  Have you ever thought about your own obituary, sounds kind of morbid right?, but it could serve as a dream–a big picture of what you want your life to be. Put aside youy  lesser self and go with your best self.  I can guarantee that if you get involved in any project, rather it is for your church, your community, your children’s school, sports team or a non profit, once you do it, the rewards of completing a project or mission is very rewarding.

One of the things that we are most proud of at the chamber, is organizations are now coming to us asking for advise in promoting their projects, and I have to tell you that are staff gets excited to help folks with their mission.

A great example of a project we did last year was in November our staff decided to decorate the Gazebo for Christmas, we did it on a day when it was 12 degrees, but we had a ball, and the results were  overwhelming.  We did it for our town, we did it to bring a little joy to our community, we did it because we all love Bradford!

As you begin, remember that every journey begins with a single step, and moves along one step at a time.  Enjoy the trip!

Next week will be the last review of “Heart of a Leader” and then I am going to cover my next favorite subject, “Customer Service”

Have a great week, and we will see you next Friday!


Make a Difference!

Hi Everyone,

Since this is being posted on January 2nd, I decided to combine “Heart of a Leader” and “Making a Difference”  for this weeks blog.

Happy New Year everyone, and here is a great New Year resolution, “Don’t work harder–work smarter”  There seems to be a  misconception that you have to work long hours and harder to be successful, but I have learned over my career in retail, that is not always the case.  At the chamber there are four of us, we are all part-time, and we get a lot done.  Why, because when we are there, we take care of business.  I plan out my day before I even get to work.  When I get up in the morning, I start to think about what I want to accomplish.  When I get to work the first thing I do is write down what I want to complete that day, and I usually get that done.  If you don’t take time out to think, strategize, and prioritize, you will work a whole lot harder, without enjoying the benefits of a job smartly done.

“Go to people” have you ever heard that term, in my retail and non profit career I have always had “go to people,” those people that I could always go to when I needed to get the job done.  They didn’t need any supervision, they just jumped in and completed the job.  When it came time for raises, they were are always at the top of my list, because in most cases their evaluations were outstanding.

The problem though with some leaders, is that they take advantage of “go to people” and instead of rewarding them, they hold them back because they don’t want to lose them.

For me, the greatest reward for a job well done, was seeing our people move on to higher positions.  I am happy to say that the “go to people”  that I had at Walmart have been promoted, and in some cases two and three times, and they are doing a great job.  At the chamber, we had the same thing, those that have left have gone on to better positions!  I am so proud of all of them!

I’m going to close today with some reflective thoughts that I want to share with you as we start a New Year.  We all have the opportunity to make a difference in our life, and our community.  People ask me why I am involved in so many things, and my answer is  this.   I want Bradfordians to be  proud of their community, and I think we are slowly making that happen and we are making a difference!

We have more work to do, and our chamber team  is  committed to giving everything that we have to completing that mission.  Next week we will sat down and plan 2015, and hopefully we will come up with some great ideas that will once again put us on the front page of the Bradford Era.

Yes, I love Bradford, my family, and all the wonderful people in our community, I hope I can count on all of you to step up, and help us to make 2015 a great year!

Let me know if you want to be part of this planning, we need lots of volunteers, and ideas.   Do you want to make a difference?

See you next Friday!




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