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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.


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.


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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7. Collaborate. | Marc’s message

Marc’s message:

As you know, we have five core values:  Family, Trust, Communication, Teamwork, and Continuous Improvement. These will all stand the test of time.  The fourth, teamwork, is all about collaboration.  I’m sure you would agree that conceptually, teamwork is a pretty easy philosophy to grasp.  We all understand it and can see the benefits when collaboration works, and the issues that crop up when it doesn’t.  But in reality, where the rubber meets the road, teamwork and collaboration is hard for a lot of people and companies.  Why is it so tough?  Well, it has been studied and analyzed, and there is no shortage of ideas on this subject.  But in my humble opinion, if I boiled it down to one basic reason, I would say ego and politics.  Simply, we cannot and will not allow any of our people to play political games and have their role be about them or their ego.  It’s team first.  It’s team second.  It’s team third.  There is no room at Famous for associates who want it to be about them or for anyone who plays political games to benefit them in their career.  It just doesn’t work that way at Famous.  Our culture is about the team and working as one to serve our internal and external customers.  We are about giving credit and recognition to others, especially those in support roles who are our unsung heroes.

One of my all-time favorite football coaches, Bill Walsh had a pretty good quarterback named Joe Montana.  You know how many game balls he received during his career?  Very few.  It wasn’t about Joe.  It was about the team.  In fact, at the quarterback position, his role was to help build the team and make it better.  Not to get or take credit for a win.  That was his job.  Yes, at special times, he was recognized by his coach or organization for a job well done, but those accolades were few and far between, and usually were connected to achieving big goals, like winning championship games.  It was all about the team and getting everyone on the same page and in alignment so they could collaborate and execute their game plan.  Those that focused on those objectives and had those values were able to stay with the team.  They understood their team oriented, ego-less, political-less, core values and culture.  Those who were focused on the wrong values and philosophies were not allowed to stay with the team.

I truly believe there is great beauty and comfort in working for a company that genuinely values the entire team over any one individual, including the coach, a star quarterback, or any other member of the organization.  I genuinely hope it’s everyone’s desire to collaborate and work together as one team.  Not only is the potential outcome always better, but the journey is more rewarding and enjoyable as well.

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6. See It, Own It, Solve It, Do It. | Marc’s message

Marc’s message:

Several years ago, my son Kevin and I were invited to participate in a 2 12 day leadership conference as guests of one of our key suppliers.  Many speakers presented their materials.  However, there was one who caught our eye and intrigued us the most.  He delivered the “See it, Own it, Solve it, Do it” concept.  We came back to Famous and introduced it to our associates.  As you can see, it was so meaningful and so powerful, it became fundamental #6.  However, before focusing on why it’s so important for our success to be positive and stay “Above The Line”, we need to fully understand why we cannot, individually, or as an organization, get trapped into falling below the line.  As a reminder, going “Below” the line means A) Wait & see,  B)  Cover your tail,   C)  Finger pointing,   D)  Ignore / Deny,   E)  It’s not my job, and F)  Confusion / Tell me what to do.

The magic question is, would you want to work with peers or in an organization that consistently operates below the line?  I’ll bet not.  Conversely, who wouldn’t relish in the opportunity to work with colleagues or be with friends or live in a home with family members who are dedicated to staying above the line?  It’s easy to sometimes stumble and dip below the line, and it’s hard to always stay up above the line.  Moreover, one of the keys behind each associate’s commitment to stay above the line is a gentle reminder by coworkers whenever we see or are part of falling below the line.  We have hundreds of associates that See it, Own it, Solve it, Do it every day.  In fact, when Kevin and I returned from our meetings, people like Bruce Raff and Alexis Elliott immediately started talking about it during their Eclipse training classes.

A great example of an associate who did See it, Own it, Solve it, and Do it, is Dave Lynch with Stream33.  He clearly saw the need, and understood the opportunity to put together a plumbing package with the key products our customers needed.  He took the initiative to contact key suppliers, set up meetings, hold negotiations, and finalize agreements that will be instrumental to building this segment of our business for years to come.  Obviously what Dave accomplished was a big initiative.  However, we all can do this on a daily basis in our day to day responsibilities.  We just need to be aware of the opportunities and take action.

I challenge all of us (including me) to this See it, Own it, Solve it, Do it concept, and make it part of who we are and how we act.  And remember, if a coworker or you slip up occasionally (until we have this perfected) speak straight and bring it to their attention.  Do it respectfully, even with a little humor.  This approach shows you care and want to help them and Famous.  Thanks!

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5. Be A Fanatic About Response Time | Marc’s message

Marc’s message:

When I think about this important fundamental, one word pops into my mind Š RESPECT.  I say this because in business or one’s personal life, people value their time.  And when we take the initiative to respond swiftly and according to one’s expectations, whether it’s our customers, internal customers (associates), suppliers, your friends, family members, or others, I believe you are showing those individuals respect.  It reveals your character and that you care about them and value their time, so they don’t have to follow up with you or wonder if you are working on what they need.  As society and business evolves, I also believe the demands and requirements for responding on time and with lightning speed will continue to increase.  Therefore, we must condition ourselves to have this mindset every moment of the day.  Those that have achieved this level of excellence are committed to it as a way of life.

In order to respond effectively, first we must prioritize.  We most often also rely on others.  This is why responding internally is so critical to our ultimate success.  Your organization and attention to detail and your handoff of information to a fellow associate allows them to most effectively pass it along to others and our customers.  As we do this more consistently, our customers will see that everyone at Famous is a fanatic about response time.  They will inevitably provide us more opportunities to serve them because they are not only confident they can count on you / us, but they know we respect them and their time.  Think for a moment who you would want to deal with if the shoe was on the other foot:  Someone who shows a lack of respect, concern, and response time, or someone who lives and breathes being a fanatic about response time?  I’ll bet we would all choose the latter for sure.

I’ve had the good fortune of working very closely with Julie Wright and Michelle Morgan for many, many years.  I’ve seen firsthand the personal pride they both display when it comes to being absolute fanatics about response time.  It’s fun to hear and see them in action.  They are both shining examples of living with a sense of urgency and always taking those extra few precious seconds to show others how much they care about them, as they follow up on their priorities and all their daily tasks.  There are so many others at Famous who are quick to follow up. Your peers like Judy Noll, Tammy Brothers, Don Short, Cindy Herrington, Laura Caughey, and Dale Kosco, to name a few, are some of the best when it comes to response time.  The medium of communication isn’t always critical.  In response to an email, you can simply reply to that email, or as Dale often does, pick up the phone and make personal contact.  What matters is WHY you respond – because you care, it is important and respectful.

Thank you in advance for your commitment to making Famous the very best distributor when it comes to being a fanatic about response time!

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4. Deliver Memorable Service The Famous Way | Marc’s message

Marc’s message:

I read a quote recently that said Š “Those who are happiest do the most for others”.  To take it a step further, shouldn’t we find our happiness in the success of others?  Great teams / companies win because their associates are willing to sacrifice to make others happy.  They set aside personal goals and value team success over everything else. I firmly believe that¹s true at Famous.  We have countless associates that live and breathe this way of life.  It’s in the fabric of who we are as individuals and the type of people that are attracted to our organization.  When we exemplify this attitude of giving with our customers, they notice it, and they feel it.  When we consistently focus on what we can give, rather than what we can receive, and our competitors don’t, it provides Famous a unique opportunity to create an even bigger gap in the way customers think about us as their #1 preferred supplier.

However, we cannot just talk about providing memorable service the Famous way.  We have to do it.  That means being on top of every detail that is critical to the customer experience.  Think about a customer coming into our express will call to pick up their order(s).  When we see them arriving, greeting them by name, with a smile and enthusiasm sets the right / perfect tone.  When their product is in the right shelf location with proper shipping label data (company name, account, PO#, etc.), those accurate details allows both parties the  speed / productivity and the experience they want, need, and demand from their suppliers.  And time permitted (assuming other customers aren¹t waiting at will call or our counter) helping them to their vehicle with their order and providing an authentic and sincere thank you further solidifies delivering memorable service the Famous Way.  So let’s not skip over what we may think are minor points.  Conversely, let’s pay even closer attention to our customers as opportunities to give more of our focus and attention that differentiate us from a lesser experience they may get elsewhere.

Always remember that the lowest performance or experience we tolerate is our performance and / or customer experience standard.  Therefore, we must continually raise the bar and our standards so that customers will not only tell others about us, but so that they become our best, greatest and loyal fans of Famous.  As you do more for others, the happier you and our customers will be.  And you both deserve to be happy.

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3. Personalize Our Purpose. | Marc’s message

Marc’s message:

Ronald Reagan said Š All great change in America begins at the dinner table.  I love that quote because life and progress really boils down to communication, relationships and building trust.  It’s about the basics and keeping things simple. We need to learn more about each other’s needs, challenges, families, interests, dreams, and aspirations.  If we are going to continue to change Famous for the better, then we must all be committed to building meaningful relationships for life.  Sometimes that¹s hard if we’ve had difficult situations with certain individuals. But we cannot allow that history to get in the way of moving forward.  We need to see the good in everyone and be the bigger person.  Gandhi said, The weak can never forgive; forgiveness is the attribute of the strong.  Every relationship is so important to our ultimate success.  In addition to having a philosophy to build associate relationships at Famous, we also need this mentality with our customers.  In fact, I am convinced we can be fundamentally different by taking customer relationships to an entirely new level.  Imagine what Famous would be like, and how incredible our lives would be if we could meet that challenge.  As an example, what if every inside sales person made personal visits (with outside sales or management) to all their key accounts.  Think of the impact of meeting them at their dinner table versus over the phone or via email.  That would be powerful.  I challenge everyone to get out and see our customers on their turf.  Thank them for their business.  Better understand their needs.  Build meaningful relationships for life.  In fact, getting additional inside people to the same accounts is important as well, so customers have a team to go to when their primary contact is on the phone, vacation or unavailable.

I will conclude with a crazy story that has always been a powerful reminder to me about the importance of face to face communication and relationships.  About 15 years ago I received a call from a customer who had a legitimate issue with Famous.  He was very direct and started raising his voice.  He was extremely upset. What are the odds of a truck hitting a telephone poll just outside the castle and us losing service during our conversation?  You guessed it.  That happened.  Unfortunately my cell phone was in my car, so I ran out to get it and called the customer back.  When I asked for him (the owner), the receptionist said he was on the phone.  I said, “I think he is on the phone with me.”  She was confused, and stated, “No, he is on the phone with someone else.”  I asked if he was yelling and screaming.  She said yes, and asked how I knew that.  I reiterated, I believe he thinks he is yelling at me.  I then asked if she would knock on his door and let him know that Marc Blaushild is holding for him.  She did, and she put the call through.  I immediately apologized and told him what happened to our phones.  There was a long pause, he laughed, and said, I am so glad that your phones went out, because I lost my temper, and I am so glad you didn’t hear everything I said.  We both laughed about it.  I said, “Instead of talking on the phone, how about I come out to see you face to face?”  He said, “That would be great.”  I went out the following day.  We met for an hour, talking openly and honestly about issues and opportunities.  They were about a $100,000 account at the time.  Our Director of Sales, DSM, Product Specialist, and Outside Sales Person then became personally involved in this account.  Through their hard work and a team effort, they took this relationship to the next level. 

This owner became a personal friend to our team, and Famous built this into approximately a $500,000 account on an annual basis over the next 10 years.  When I think back to this situation, it was sheer luck that the phones went out. But by simply talking, we were able to turn a lemon into lemonade.  I can’t express enough how important it is to spend quality time with our customers.  We must be pro-active and plan this time and not have to wait for a circumstance to bring people and a team together.  This customer and I both laughed about this over the next decade.  He was a great guy, had integrity, was loyal to Famous, and ran an excellent business.  Unfortunately, he became ill and is longer with us.  This is a further reminder how important it is to build meaningful relationships, because life is too short.  Let¹s get to the dinner table at work and at home and build those special bonds.

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2. Execute The Perfect Order. | Marc’s message

Marc’s message:

I’ll never forget the day I had lunch with a business associate who I respect immensely, not only for his knowledge and experience, but more importantly, because of the person that he is and the values that he portrays.  During our time together, he turned to me and asked a question that I’d never heard before: Does Famous have a make or break?  I asked him exactly what he meant by that.  He went on to say that a couple years ago he attended a meeting with a speaker who was making a presentation and was incredibly passionate about this make or break subject.  He said that every company has to figure out the one thing that is their absolute make or break.  This means that if a company had to choose just one thing, and only one thing, to do extraordinarily well, and that if they did it well all the time, this would truly make the biggest difference in their success.  Conversely, if they didn’t do this one thing well, it would hurt their company tremendously, and could even break their company.  He suggested that I really think about what our make or break is for Famous. 

I spent the next couple of months talking to management and associates around the company, and there was a common theme that kept rising to the top.  Time and time again, dozens and dozens of people were talking about execution.  In fact, Del Landin helped coin the phrase, The Perfect Order during these initial strategic discussions.  We eventually expanded it and further defined our #1 make or break as Š Execute The Perfect Order From Start To Finish.  This sentence embodies not only who we want to be as a company, but more importantly, what our internal and external customers need and require from us every moment of every day.  If Famous is going to achieve our vision, which is to become A Great Company, we must master the execution of the perfect order.  For us to deliver on this promise with every order that we touch and support, we all need to take personal pride and responsibility to ensure that we do everything in our power to strive for perfection 100% of the time.  Here is another way to think about execution.  If you are not the best at it individually, or we are not the best at it collectively, then someone else, meaning one of our competitors, is.  Therefore, to ensure that Famous is the best at execution; we must all eat and breathe our #1 Make or Break to achieve our goals.  I am confident that each of you will work hard to make this fundamental a priority not only in every situation each day, but over your entire career.  

And lastly, it is so important that we figure out and continue to fine tune how we accurately measure this make or break.  We must measure what’s important, not what’s easy.  Here’s an interesting example to ponder.  Years ago, I read a statistic that showed FedEx had a goal of 100% accuracy, and their average performance each day was 99.99937%.  However, since they ship so many packages daily, they actually made 10,842 shipping errors per day.  So was it better to have a goal of 100% accuracy or a goal of zero mistakes?  In our customers’ minds, do they care more about our accuracy percentage or how many mistakes applied directly to them?  Sometimes we can over complicate our business.  We need to simplify it.  Our customers want to know, do we have it (inventory accuracy), how much is it (accurate pricing), and when can I get it (accurate delivery times / damage free) every time. I am confident that we will continue to strive for perfection as a company and build on our continuous improvement mindset when it comes to execution.

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1. Do the Right Thing, Always. | Marc’s message

Marc’s message:

Our first fundamental, Do the right thing, always, is the foundation of our ŒFamous 40′ as it sets the tone for how we operate individually and as a company.  Achieving excellence in this first fundamental will help all of us build and earn more trust with everyone with whom we live and work, both personally and professionally.

I want to share with you one of my favorite stories that happened approximately 25 years ago, and I did not even learn of it until 10 years later.  John Palermo, our Vice President of Sales and Branch Operations, was an assistant manager of our Akron branch at the time this situation occurred.  He, along with other sales people at the branch, attended a Builder’s Exchange meeting one evening.  The following morning, he came into work, walked into the branch office, and handed our administrative assistant $500 in cash to be deposited into our Famous account.  She looked at him kind of bewildered, and asked why he was giving her this money.  He told her that he won the grand prize the previous night in a raffle at the Builder’s Exchange meeting.  She asked, Wasn’t it your money, since you won the raffle?  He told her the following: If I would have bought a ticket with my own money to go to an event, then I would have been the winner and recipient of that money.  But since the company paid for my ticket to attend the business dinner and festivities, I consider it a company function, and therefore, it’s the company’s money, and all of our associates who are part of our profit sharing.  I think I can speak for all of us in saying we’re proud of the way John handled that situation; he did so in a way that was in the best interest of not only the company, but of John, his family, and how he strives to lead his life.   

I believe this story is a great reminder for all of us as we make it a priority in our lives to always do the right thing.  It is not uncommon for people in society to not do the right thing from time to time.   The magic question is, are you in the group who doesn’t always do the right thing, or are you in the other group that either does the right thing or is determined to become a person who does the right thing, always.  I hope it’s the latter.   

So here’s another magic question, when is the best time to start doing the right thing, always?  You are correct.  The answer is now.  Right now.  Starting today, let’s all make every effort to do the right thing each and every day.  If you are ever unsure about a situation, talk to a friend or coworker, or anyone in management at Famous, and ask the question, should I be doing this or not?

At our Culture meetings with David Friedman and Rob Wolff, they both had some analogies that help describe a great way to look at this fundamental.  I really liked when David said, If you went home at night, and were having dinner with your family, and you were describing a situation, and what you did or did not do, how would you feel about it?  If you would be proud to tell them about what you did, then you probably did the right thing.  If you were apprehensive about telling them, then you probably were not doing the right thing.  And if you would not want to tell them, then you were definitely not doing the right thing. This is a great and simple way to think about our first fundamental. 

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