What Brings Success?

One of the nicest things about life is the friends you make.

The other day an old friend of mine, Tom O’Reilly, dropped into my Chicago office for a chat and it was a thoroughly enjoyable hour.

Tom is the #1 typewriter salesman in the world. He has more fun selling typewriters to his dealers than you could imagine in what at first sounds like a rather uninteresting endeavor. The fact that he earns in the neighborhood of $50,000 a year (roughly $474,000 in 2019) isn’t too important to Tom (although he has nothing against money). The important thing to him is working with and helping his dealers become successful. He has taken people who would normally sell no more than a dozen typewriters in a year and has shown them how to sell five hundred.

Tom has made a really thorough study of what makes one business succeed where another one will fail, or just barely scrape along. He studies cases where there are two people in business in the same town, both selling the same product to the same population group. Both have exactly equal opportunities. But one of the businesses is an outstanding, roaring success — while the other one is tottering on the verge of bankruptcy. Tom knows what the difference is between them.

And do you know what it is? It’s attitude!

Each of these businesses is receiving in return exactly what it’s putting out. The successful businessman expects success; he’s cheerful and friendly with everyone who comes near, and he goes out of his way to be of service, to give extra service, all in a warm and willing manner. He runs a business that people enjoy running to, again and again.

The other man is sour on the world. He’s concentrating on the wrong end of his enterprise — he’s concentrating on his problems, not on his customers. He’s trying to figure out ways of cutting his overhead. For instance, a small sign: because it costs less, he uses smaller light bulbs, figuring that will cut his electricity bill. He keeps his employees to a minimum in order to save on his overhead. He lets his painting and decorating go for another year, because painting costs money. He’s so busy looking for ways of cutting corners on his costs, he finally cuts himself right out of business.

He’s thinking about everything but the important thing – the customer, and ways of serving him better.

Since he thinks in negative rather than positive terms, he looks the part and he acts and talks the part. A visit to his place of business can be one of the most depressing times of the day for he who makes the mistake of dropping in — and you can bet he won’t do it again.

A business reflects the attitude of the man who runs it. You don’t raise the morale of your employees; it filters down from the top. If the boss’s morale is consistently high, so is the morale of the employees. This boss knows that a new paint job, brighter lights, a bigger sign, the extra costs of keeping the place impeccably clean, are not debits on the ledger. They’re credits. They bring in more business and they keep the old customers coming back. He treats his customers as important people because he knows they are important. Without them, he would fail as his so-called competitor is failing.

In either case, it’s all just a matter of attitude: one good, one bad.

One man succeeds, and the other man fails. Each of them gets back exactly what he’s putting out in the form of attitude. And the same thing happens to all of us.

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