A Pillar of Great Customer Service: Don’t Manufacture a Need, Create a Want

A few years ago I walked into the chiropractor for a routine visit and walked out having experienced an insightful exercise in “customer relation management.”

A Pillar of Great Customer Service

In the past, I’ve visited chiropractors who treat their business like a marathon, trying to schedule and race through as many appointments as time will allow.  But this visit was different.  This chiropractor made some recommendations, we spent a good portion of our time discussing the “why” behind healthy living and we talked about some of the things that I’m involved in that are contributing to good health like Cross Fit.  He went so far as to tell me that if I continued to live a healthy life, I wouldn’t need him for more than occasional maintenance adjustments.

It was evident that he was more interested in empowering me to make healthy life decisions, even if it meant fewer visits for him to bill.  The moment I learned that he was in it for me, and that he was not trying to manufacture an urgency and dependency around his business, I was sold.

Customer commitment is priceless.  

A Big Dumb Company tries to manufacture a need for their products or services.  A great company recognizes that customers don’t need it and tries to create an experience that causes their customers to want to do business with it.  There’s a big difference in how employees approach customer service, from “acquisition” to “customer relationship management,” and it’s an important paradigm shift to make. Continue Reading…

The Difference Between a Leader and a Manager

Here’s an update of one of my most popular posts, The Difference Between a Leader and a Manager.

Recently, on Twitter, I got into a disagreement with someone on the difference between the role of a manager and the role of a leader.  Those who know me, know that I believe disagreement sharpens people, ideas and organizations.  Agreeable disagreement causes us to examine our beliefs and it challenges us to make sure that we’re practicing what we preach.

I believe that there are very distinct differences between the role of a manager and the role of a leader.  But the roles should not be in conflict with each other.  Sustainable, high-performance organizations recognize that there is a symbiotic relationship between managers and leaders and they ensure that both are being utilized effectively.

I believe that we manage things (processes, procedures and outcomes) and we lead people (employees, customers and others).

Here are examples of differences that I’ve identified (I’d love to hear yours in the comment section below):

A manager focuses on process and procedure, a leader focuses on people.

A manager administrates.  A leader envisions. Continue Reading…

Your Focus Determines Your Future

“One reason so few of us achieve what we truly want is that we never direct or focus; we never concentrate our power.  Most people dabble their way through life, never deciding to master anything in particular.” –Tony Robbins


Our brains have become attuned to the beeps, chirps and buzzes of a world that competes for our attention and it can be difficult to find focus.  But it’s increasingly imperative that we learn to recalibrate our focus if we want to live purposefully.

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We move by line of sight.  Where our eyes focus, our body will follow.  And where we focus our time and energy, our lives will follow.

What’s in your line of sight?

If you’d like to catch a glimpse of what your future will look like, just open your calendar.  Where is your line of sight today, this week, this month and this quarter?  Have you filled it with purposeful events?  Does it tell your story?

Continue Reading…

Is Your Team Speaking the Same Language?

In the 1803 Battle of Maida, an army of 6,200 Napoleonic French prepared for battle against 5,200 allied British and Italian soldiers.

At the beginning of the battle, a commander for the allied army sent orders to “advance when the drums sound.”  By the time the order reached the front lines, it had been interpreted as “advance, sounding the drums.”

Despite such a colossal miscommunication, the allies were able to fight their way to victory.  But misinterpretations and miscues are often one of the greatest hindrances within teams.

Are Your Employees Speaking the Same Language?

Crystal clear communication is an essential ingredient of success for any organization, and in order to communicate well, there must be a shared language; with words and phrases which become the daily building blocks of an organization’s culture.

At SEI, we guard our culture vigilantly.  Part of The SEI Way of doing business is not only ensuring that we share the same core values, but also that our language reinforces those values.

What kind of culture does the following terminology evoke in your mind?  And more importantly, what kind of action do the following words inspire?

  • It’s not what we do, it’s how we do it.
  • Plan your work and work your plan.
  • Just do something. Continue Reading…

How Leaders Approach Development

This post is by SEI’s Chief Operating Officer, Dwight Strayer.  If you’d like to guest post on this blog please contact me.

As a leader, how do you handle an employee who is not meeting your expectations?

In my experience, I’ve found that the problem does not always begin with the employee.

Often, leaders fail to communicate one of the most important messages to their employees, the what.

Not “what I expect from you,” but rather “what I expect from your role in the organization.”

It’s an important paradigm shift that has the power to remove defenses and change behavior.

Continue Reading…

The Best Leaders Accept Failure and Embrace Vulnerability [Video]

Great leaders don’t allow failure to leave a permanent mark on their life.  They accept it as an opportunity to learn- a necessary part of their personal growth.  And the best leaders tend to be the most vulnerable; sharing their failures with others and owning the role that they played in it.


Find out in this brief video, the first in a series on servant leadership, recorded during a day of leadership training at Service Express.

If the video does not display, you can view it here

My Top Business Books

Warren Buffett’s business partner Charlie Munger once said, “In my whole life, I have known no wise people (over a broad subject matter area) who didn’t read all the time — none, zero. You’d be amazed at how much Warren reads — at how much I read. My children laugh at me. They think I’m a book with a couple of legs sticking out.”


Professional development has played a fundamental and a critical role in my development and in the success of Service Express.

I have a teaching degree from Central Michigan University (fire up, Chips!) but I often tell people that my MBA comes from reading books and then applying the principles I learn to my business.  I’ve surrounded myself with like-minded leaders at Service Express and that has made all the difference.

The right book, at the right time, can have a transformational effect on a person and on a business.

As with any habit, the habit of reading takes discipline to build and to maintain, but not all that much.  The smallest daily investment compounds and produces great returns. For example, if you commit to reading 10 pages a day, you’ll have read 300 pages in a month.  The average business book happens to be… about 300 pages.  Make this small commitment and you’ll read approximately 12 books in a years time!

Here are a few habits I’ve built that have helped me:

  • I highlight and take notes.  The value of highlighting is not more apparent than when you’ve completed a book and want to look back at the concepts that stood out to you in order to organize your thoughts and create action plans.
  • I write a book summary.  Books are timeless and I’ve found myself reviewing my book summaries years after I’ve written them.  This allows me to revisit the ideas and concepts that stood our without having to keep or reread the book.
  • I share what I’ve learned.  The best way to retain knowledge is to teach it.  And, if I’ve read a book that was particularly applicable to our business, I have my leadership team read the book as well and then I schedule time on the calendar to discuss the book.

Here are some of the top books that I’ve read and would highly recommend:

1.) Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap… And Other’s Don’t – Jim Collins

Built of exhaustive research, Jim Collins writes about characteristics that separate average companies from great ones.  He also recounts how average companies made the leap to becoming great companies.

Honorable Mentions: Built to Last, How the Mighty Fall, Great by Choice

Continue Reading…

How LifeWay Christian Resources is Innovating for Success [Video]

At SEI, we celebrate success.  Whether it’s our employees success or our customers, we know that in sharing our stories, we can create communities that inspire others to think bigger and empower others to solve problems more quickly.



Today, I’m proud to share LifeWay Christian Resources Customer Success Story.  LifeWay is an organization that is employing new technologies and new ways of thinking to meet the challenges of their changing business.

SEI is proud to be a partner with this innovative company and we hope their story will inspire you!

Do you have a success story to share?  Share it on social media with the hashtag #shareyoursuccess!


Be Careful. If You’re Chasing The Competition, You May Just Catch Them.

A few weeks ago, I wrote about an acceptance speech that Matthew McConaughey gave at the Academy Awards. In it, he recognizes that his competition doesn’t come from what others are doing, it comes from what he is doing. He isn’t chasing what others are doing today, he’s chasing the person he should be in 10 years.


Too often, people get caught up worrying about what others are doing around them; their accomplishments, their failures, how they reinvent themselves, their strengths, their weaknesses, their ability or their inability to bounce after a failure and they benchmark their own success on it.

Such an outward looking singular focus can be damaging, because:

  1. When we measure our success against others, it is a constant moving target and it shapes, and then reshapes, our activities, our behavior and our self worth. When we cannot surpass someone, the effects can weigh us down and can minimize the impact that we are actually having.
  2. We look at the larger accomplishments of others and we don’t see the challenges they had to overcome in order to achieve them. We forget to look at the smaller successes that we accomplish everyday. The smaller successes that, if we consistently and methodically accomplish on a regular basis, compound and over the course of time lead to much larger successes.
  3. Our success should not be measured on the same scale others use to measure their own success. Every person is unique, with unique skill sets and strengths. The strengths that one person leverages in order to accomplish something great are most likely not the strengths that we must leverage in order to accomplish something great. Continue Reading…

What We Can Learn from Felix Baumgartner’s Supersonic Jump from Space [Part II]

What We can Learn from Felix Baumgartner’s Supersonic Jump from Space: This is the second post in a two-part series.  You can view Part I here.

On October14 of 2012, millions around the world watched as Felix Baumgartner ascended 24 miles into space in a hot air balloon, then jumped from it in a free fall that would break records as well as the speed of sound.

But it wasn’t his accomplishment that intrigued me.  It was the story behind it.

This is the second part in my series “What we can learn from Felix Baumgartner’s Supersonic Jump from Space.”  If you haven’t read Part I, you can read it here first.

4. Know your Vision

“I’m coming home.”  Those were the last words that Baumgartner spoke before he stepped from the small platform jetting out from his balloon and began his free fall descent.

Continue Reading…

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