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17. Deliver Results. | Marc’s message

Marc’s message:

Imagine you are rooting for your favorite sports team.  You are loyal, care about them deeply (your school or city, etc.) and always hope for a great outcome of every game.  But what if they continue to end up on the losing end of every competition?  How long would you pay your hard earned money to go see them, or how much of your valuable time would you continue to invest to watch them on TV?  Out of loyalty, maybe for a while.  A season or two, maybe longer.  However, over time, your desire to support them may falter some or even entirely.  There comes a point where you expect progress and success.

This analogy may sound a little harsh, but in today’s society, it is more and more about results.  I’m sure you would like and admire the hardworking players, just as Famous would appreciate the efforts of a hardworking associate.  But our fans (our customers) want wins as well.  This means they rightfully expect us to produce for them.  For some, it’s doing it right the first time, every time.  For others, it’s delivering memorable service and being a fanatic about response time.  Our customers expect us to deliver results because they need to deliver results.  They are running a business and have to produce to earn their livelihood.

In order to produce consistent results as a team, it’s so important that each of us produce consistent individual results.  It starts with taking personal pride in wanting to be the best and helping your peers become better as well.  This is a worthy goal and one worth working for.

So many people at Famous are goal oriented and deliver results.  When I think of all the roles at Famous, sales people are often easier to measure.  I thought a while about our entire sales force, which makes up approximately 40% of our company.  Mike Scott is the individual who stands out from the crowd for many reasons.  He has been in the industry a long time, and he never ceases to amaze me with his desire to set goals, improve and deliver outstanding results.  He cares deeply about his customers and about his performance.  Every time I bump into Mike, he tells me about his strides to his current goals and his future vision for additional goals.  He measures his customer activity, sales, and gross profit, and is always raising the bar.  I’m also very proud of Mike for actually taking many of his accounts and transferring them to other sales associates, so they can build relationships, and build more business in the decades to come.  He is doing this to help Famous and then creates more time for him to go build more accounts and increase his results.

I’m proud of the direction we are moving in as an organization when it comes to delivering stronger results.  I’m confident we have the right strategy and talent to achieve our goals.  I do appreciate your efforts and I (like our customers) appreciate your desire to produce an even better performance each and every year.

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16. Practice Blameless Problem-Solving. | Marc’s message

Marc’s message:

This fundamental, when done incorrectly, is not just a business problem, it’s a cultural problem throughout society.  How does this change and get solved?  I would venture to say, one person at a time.  We have the opportunity to control our own actions and behavior.  Remember the quote I highlighted on the conference call in March In the word, “Responsibility”, it means, “you have the ability” to choose your response.

I thought long and hard about whom at Famous best exemplifies practicing blameless problem solving.  I could come up with a long list as we have so many associates at Famous that are positive and implement creative solutions to get things done.

However, as I think back over my entire career, a person I believe who would rise to the top and is right up there with the best of the best, year after year, is Vicki Feola.

Vicki is the type of person who is extremely smart, resourceful, and thoughtful.  She chooses her words carefully, realizing that once they leave one’s lips, they can never get them back.  I never hear Vicki complain.  She’s all about identifying issues and initiating creative solutions.  She works diligently with her marketing team to put together focused plans.  She prioritizes her responsibilities, and once given a task, she doesn’t make excuses.  She makes sure things are done not only on time, but with professional, high quality standards.

I’m also very proud to say that Vicki learns from trial and error, and puts proven and sound processes in place to make sure we can leverage our resources and take advantage of scaling big projects.  For Vicki, it’s all about problem solving.  She is cool under pressure, and this mindset allows her to improve every aspect of our business that she and her team touch.

The #1 reason, in my humble opinion, that Vicki is a true success in this important fundamental, is that she will not allow herself to go rogue (negative).  She stays above the line.  We can all learn from her skill sets and help us become an even stronger team in this critical area, as we practice blameless problem solving.

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15. Walk In Others’ Shoes. | Marc’s message

Marc’s message:

When I think of this fundamental, I think of the word, “Empathy”.

To me, empathy is more than caring.  It’s going much deeper to truly understand how another person really feels.  It’s hard to do.  But when mastered, I feel that it can become one of the most fulfilling parts of business or in one’s personal life.  Why do I say that?  Because if you walk in others’ shoes, you can transform yourself into living it from their perspective, and that’s powerful.

When you have a situation with a good friend, an acquaintance, a stranger, a business associate, a customer, or a family member, walking in their shoes allows you to think about them from an emotional level and setting your emotions aside.

At Famous, we have so many associates who consistently display empathy in exceptional ways.  Two people that come to mind to me are Bob Blackburn and Tom Krejci.  They are either hard wired or have worked on and developed this important character trait.  They get it.  They get life.

As an example, if a branch needs help on a warehouse project at 5:00 am every day for a month, Bob will volunteer to come in and help before he gets on the phones to help customers in his inside sales role.  He does this not only because he’s a great guy, but because he knows the work it takes to get things done, and he wants to help his coworkers.  He understands how the other person would feel with too much to get done and not enough time in the day to accomplish the objective.  Moreover, he helps joyfully and with a positive attitude.  His good natured way lifts people up.

Tom Krejci is also a master at empathy.  He has a unique ability to almost transform himself into an empathetic state.  You can see it in his eyes and feel it in his soul.  When I ask Tom for his opinion, which I’ve done hundreds, if not thousands, of times over the past 30 years, you can see his empathy exude itself in his body language.  It’s real, it’s personal, and it’s authentic.

Bob and Tom are perfect examples of displaying empathy, because they are simply good people.  When it comes down to empathy, maybe that’s the answer.  Be a good person, care deeply about others, and do the right thing by really walking in others’ shoes.  It makes sense, common sense Š right?  Not only do these guys get it and do it, but they do it the Famous way and with authenticity.

Let’s all learn from the best so we can do an exceptional job walking in others’ shoes!

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14. Be Humble. | Marc’s message

Marc’s message:

About five years ago, we were hosting a leadership meeting for about 75 associates at our Famous University training room at our CDC in Sebring.  During my presentation, I vividly remember the slide where I asked the magic question Š “What is the #1 most important trait of a leader?”  Prior to that meeting I was reading a great article that asked that question, so I thought it was a terrific opportunity to ask our group what they thought.

We had amazing answers.  We were all brainstorming and must have written down 25+ attributes that were very connected to great leaders and great associates alike.  If I recall correctly (and it’s pretty ironic, because he exemplifies the word), Mike Palermo said Š HUMILITY!

I was so pleased that he believed being humble was the most important characteristic of a great leader.  To take it a step further today, in my humble opinion, I believe humility is the perfect character trait for any associate, not only at Famous, but for any human being in general.

In fact, this is so important, that during next month’s conference call, I plan to highlight (8) principles for being a more genuine and authentic person.  When I read the article I plan to share with you, I immediately thought about this week’s fundamental Š #14 Š “Be Humble”.  Then I thought about Mike Palermo, a man that is genuine, authentic, caring, honest, and so much more.

Our challenge is dynamic in nature, to work toward becoming even more humble, no matter where we are today.  What can we all do to display even more humility?

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13. Have Each Others’ Backs. | Marc’s message

Marc’s message:

You have probably heard the battle term Š”If I had to be in a fox hole with someone, that is the type of person I would want to be with.”  That sentence quickly and succinctly gets to the core of what having each other’s backs really means.  Simply, it’s someone you can count on through thick and thin, during good times and tough times.

One could argue that the main attribute you would look for in this type of person is someone you could trust 100% and unequivocally.  That individual may not be perfect.  After all, nobody is, but they are caring, reliable, supportive and honest.  Communication may or may not be their strong point.  Even if it’s not, you just know though that this person is absolutely willing to help and be there for you, and in our case, the company as well, regardless of what they say or might not say.  Their actions always speak louder than words.  They are loyal and put you, others, customers, and the company and their families before themselves.  They are truly servant leaders.

We could all probably think of many associates who fit this description.  One that comes to my mind is Tim Laird, our warehouse lead in Bedford.  Before we ever created our 40 Fundamentals, Tim was always vocal to his team that we must “have each other’s backs”, and more importantly, he lived it, and continues to do so. If the branch is shorthanded or the workload is particularly heavy on a given day, Tim never hesitates to do what needs to get done to make sure internal and external customers are served.

Imagine for a moment the service we could provide to one another and our valued customers if we all had each other’s backs each and every day.  That would be a powerful combination that would help us win our daily battles.  Thanks for your support!

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12. Go Above And Beyond. | Marc’s message

Marc’s message:

In life we often meet special people who have made a positive impact with their families, in their business and in their communities.  I had the good fortune recently to meet with Joe Kanfer, the CEO of Akron, Ohio based company, GOJO Industries.  You may know of them by their #1 leading brand, Purell hand sanitizer.

What struck me about Joe and their company is how they are absolutely committed to go “Above and Beyond” for their associates and their customers.  They have grown immensely from their humble beginnings into a large leading world-class, multi-national organization by figuring out innovative ways to sell more and help their customers (distributors) in the process.

It starts with the mindset of being fundamentally different.  In fact, you can feel the passion and personal pride that Joe believes in to permeate an “Above and Beyond Attitude” throughout their organization.   Instead of being a “me too” supplier, their approach is asking Š “What can we do differently to help our customers and pull business through our existing distribution channel?”  They spend a lot of time answering this question by coming up with effective solutions.

They make unique investments with process, systems, technology and information to help sell more of their branded products, which allows their customers to buy more from them.  Whether it’s utilizing the internet or other direct marketing activities, they invest the resources required to make a difference in the eyes of their customers.  And their efforts are genuinely appreciated.

At Famous, we must always look for new ways to go above and beyond.  Whether it’s the small things (like popping over to a job site to drop off an emergency item) or the big things / a major initiative (like FLS, where collaboration is needed to implement it effectively).  We must also invest the time, energy, and resources to solve our customers’ issues.  After all, these are really just opportunities.  Let’s take advantage of them.

One “above and beyond” story I would like to share from Famous is the following.  Tim Sloan had a company cell phone that fell and shattered, and the screen was not usable.

Josh Vernon from IT was out of town, but took the initiative to get a new replacement ordered immediately (instead of waiting to return to the office), and it arrived the following day.  Graham Ford saw when it came in, took the phone to Tim without Tim’s inquisition, and talked with him about what needed to be done to get it up and running appropriately.  Tim was going into a 1 1Ž2 hour meeting that morning and told Graham he wasn’t sure he knew how to complete the requirements for setup.  When Tim was done with his meeting, his phone was completely set up, synchronized with his computer, all data was transferred, and he was fully operational without ever asking Graham to do it for him.

At first blush, this may seem like a trivial task, but to Tim, it definitely was not.  His daily activities with our internal customers and others rely on immediate and effective communication.  Josh and Graham’s skillful work, care, and initiative was a difference maker, and truly above and beyond.  We love that sense of urgency and willingness to help a fellow associate (internal customer) without being asked.

Our challenge is to make it happen every moment of the day.  GOJO and Famous, although in different industries, have a similar mindset Š which is the willingness and desire to serve.  I’m proud of you and the things we are doing consistently to go above and beyond for each other and our customers.

Thank you again,

Marc

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11. Speak Straight. | Marc’s message

Marc’s message:

Why is it that speaking straight is often so difficult?  I believe there are many reasons, but one I sense more often than others is the following:  People worry how they will be perceived if what they say is not what the other person wants to hear.

We can all make big strides in this area if we focus on several things.  First, it’s all in the delivery.  In other words, it’s not as much about what we say, as how we say it.  So we must be thoughtful when we speak.  Remember, once the words leave your mouth, you can never take them back.  The time to edit what you say and how you say it is beforehand.

When you are going to embark on an important conversation, make the time to think through how you want to express yourself.  It’s important that you have the courage to be honest and directŠ speak straight.  But do it in a way where the other party feels respected.  I believe we all, as hidden leaders, actually have an obligation to speak straight.  Doing so shows people we care about them, because we are being honest with them.  We can’t make the grave mistake by not speaking straight and then getting caught up in gossip and talking to others about another person.  In society this happens a lot, but it shouldn’t.  We can all do our part to reduce and / or eliminate this poor habit by making a commitment to being honest directly with the people that we should.

Just a few days after we rolled out our new fundamentals, I had an incredible experience in learning more about the impact of speaking straight.  I was talking with an individual, and I asked him a question.  As he tried to give me his honest answer, he stumbled a bit, looked away, and had several “um”’s.  His body language showed me that he was uncomfortable with the subject.  He had just gone through our culture meetings, and I looked at him and said, “Please just speak straight with me.”  Well, that broke the ice, because he looked me in the eye and gave me his honest opinion, which is what I wanted.  I agreed with his thoughts, and immediately told him so.  I then put into practice exactly what he said to do.  He really helped me and our company.  I was very appreciative that he spoke straight.

We must also never forget that speaking straight must “move the action forward”. Unloading our thoughts / feelings to make a point is simply negative energy. If something isn’t right, we need to ask questions, discuss facts, and work to make a change.

So even though it can be tough, we need to all practice speaking straight, the right way, done respectfully, and with kindness.  This is especially important if it’s a sensitive matter, as it allows people to live and work with dignity.  When you do this properly, you help that person, the company, and yourself, because you become an even better person and are a coach, mentor and friend or role model for others as well.

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10. Listen Generously And With Patience. | Marc’s message

Marc’s message:

In September we held our annual National Accounts meeting.  Over 30 associates spent 1-1/2 days in meetings discussing various ways we could make even further strides in this important segment of our business.  One of the highlights of our time together was the sharing of best practices, including process improvement enhancements.

Toward the end of our session on day two, we went around the room and everyone had a chance to talk about their focus in order to provide superior customer service and / or operation excellence.

I am a firm believer that we all (including me) can learn from anyone, regardless of their age, role, title, or years of experience within the industry or at Famous.  That morning was no exception, as I heard great wisdom from the youngest person in the room.  The associate, Jaclyn Boyert, whose role is administrative assistant, was one of the first people to speak.

She very thoughtfully and eloquently described how she takes great pride in “listening patiently” when a customer or internal associate calls in with questions, concerns, or any other issue.  Jaclyn forces herself to really focus, by eliminating distractions, not multi-tasking, and not trying to think of a response while the person on the phone is talking.  She stays relaxed and truly tries to internalize the feedback.  This allows her to learn more as she lets the other person express themselves fully.  She does this by not interrupting.  The inevitable pauses provide additional opportunities for the callers to continue on and in even more detail.  Only after she has been fully engaged and has captured the essence of what is on the person’s mind, does she respond with clarifying and probing questions.  This process enables her to gather all pertinent information and make the proper responses.  By taking this patient approach, Jaclyn is not only more and best prepared to solve the caller’s issue, but I’m sure she does so in a way that leaves the other party feeling good and satisfied. Her approach shows that Famous has associates who care about them.

Jaclyn’s comments really made an impact on me that day, so much so that I wanted to share them with all of you, as this is a fundamental that has a huge impact on our performance. Studies show that the human brain is not designed to do multiple things at once ­ as good as we think we are at multi-tasking, we’re better when focused on one thing at a time. So let’s use this week to practice putting aside the phones/iPads in meetings and being totally engaged on the task at hand!

Have a great week.  Listen well, and listen patiently!

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9. Get Clear On Expectations. | Marc’s message

Marc’s message:

When I look at all 40 of our fundamentals, if I had to make a list of three or four that are more difficult for me and that I need to improve on personally, I believe getting clear on expectations would be in that group.  I say this for a couple reasons.  Sometimes in my excitement for our business, I make the incorrect assumption that what I understand in my mind and what I try to communicate is clearly understood by all others.  I need to do a better job of creating clarity so there are not misunderstandings, especially as it relates to the objectives and expectations.  Everybody perceives the world a little differently and sees and hears things in slightly different ways.  We are all inherently different in how we think about, process, and interpret information.  Therefore, it’s important to step back, slow down, and confirm through crystal clear communication that both parties are on the same page.  When this communication occurs, it must be a two-way street.  It can’t just be a manager telling one of their direct reports what to do.  There must be a respectful conversation that clearly spells out exactly what the expectations or timelines or action items are for a specific project or commitment.

SLOW DOWN TO SPEED UP

As an example, one of our objectives is to insure that our express will call is set up and running efficiently and effectively in every location.  We must accomplish this task, so that our customers can get in and get out quickly with the products they need.  This gets them to their job sites more quickly, which means saving time and money.  This increases our profitability and theirs as well.  So if we put a project team together to implement this initiative, and a manager just said to his or her direct reports that we need to set up our express will call, and there was no two-way dialogue with specific planning, objectives, timelines, and clarity from the start about what we are trying to achieve by when, and specifically how, the end result of this initiative could be more time consuming, costly, and not even meet our customers’ expectations.

I challenge you as individuals and teams to step back from our day-to-day fast pace and get clear on the expectations before we react to an issue, take advantage of an opportunity, or embark on an important project. This will allow everyone the opportunity to be crystal clear on the expectations.

Thank you!

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8. Honor Commitments. | Marc’s message

Marc’s message:

All of our fundamentals are very important to our success.  But if I had to choose just a few of our fundamentals that are “critically” important to our “ultimate” success, #8, Honor Commitments would certainly be on that short list.  The reason I say this is because it speaks directly to our core value Š TRUST.  As the first sentence says, there is no better way to earn people’s trust than to be true to your word.  I’m reminded of this fact every time I think about our largest customer.

CUSTOMERS KNOW BEST

The leader of this company, Keith, continually pushes Famous to be the best business partner and supplier that we can be by driving this point home.  He constantly (and rightfully so) reminds us, “Do what you say you are going to do, and when you say you are going to do it.”  In other words, if we commit to something, we must unequivocally do everything in our individual and collective power to make that happen.  This is as much about character and integrity as anything.  Keith is a strong leader with courage who is not afraid to speak the truth and say exactly what is on his mind.  I respect his honesty.  This directness helps make Famous better and is a good lesson for all of us as we deal internally with each other and externally with our customers and suppliers as well.  Honoring our commitments must be more than a priority; it must be a way of life for all of us.

OSU in 1983

This fundamental also states that part of honoring commitments is simply being on time and meeting your promises.  As I reflect back on my time at The Ohio State University in the winter quarter of 1983, this fundamental was a precursor to something very meaningful for me.  One of my favorite classes I ever attended was taught by a professor, Mr. Dixon.  It was a case studies marketing course where a smaller group of students spent quality time comparing various companies in the same industry, some of whom were successful, and some who were not.  We were able to have great discussions about these organizations, what they did well, and how it impacted their growth and success or lack thereof.  Mr. Dixon was a very cool teacher.  Some students even went to his home to talk about various case studies we were learning in class.  I was very passionate about doing well because it was such an enjoyable and intriguing class.  I wasn’t a perfect student, but in this course, I did receive all A’s on my work.  However, at the end of the quarter, when I received my grade, it was an A-.  I thought it had to be a mistake, so I went to talk with Mr. Dixon about it.  This class took place on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 8 am to 10 am.  I had approximately a 25-minute walk, often through the snow.  He asked me what time the class started and I said 8 am.  He asked me what time I usually arrived.  I said, “Mostly by 8 am, but occasionally, I would be 10 ­ 15 minutes late.”  He looked at me and said, “Marc when you get out in the business world and make a commitment and promise, you must honor that commitment.  This means simply being on time.  This sets the example and tone not only for the people you will be with, but for how you are perceived by those individuals as well.”  I never forgot his words of wisdom.  It’s helped me over the years.  In the business world today, many things can come up (like meeting with someone internally or talking with a customer) that can set us back a few minutes.  If this occurs, simply calling or texting to the next person you will be meeting and letting them know you may be running a few minutes late is more than a common courtesy.  It shows you care about them personally.

By sharing these stories, I genuinely hope it will remind all of us what Keith and Mr. Dixon knows to be true.  We must honor all our commitments; do what we say we are going to do, and when we say we’re going to do it.  By doing this consistently, we earn one another’s trust.  Thanks.

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