Monday, 18 May 2015

The Non-Electronic Man

I wanted to post this so I never forget it.  This is an article about my dad written by his friend.

“The human spirit must prevail over technology.”  ~ Albert Einstein

Do you ever wonder if something is missing in this electronic world?  What did we do before now?  Actually, I grew up during a time when it was very different. Today, changes are rapid; we see a new world every few years. Even the speed of change is becoming faster.  

I have a friend, Sammy Wilder, who works in sales and does not use the internet.  You can email something to his office where an administrative employee will print it out for him. The way he performs his job is different from how most of us get our work accomplished.  And yet, he is very successful. He also is one of the most-admired members in his church community. 

I find it a little bit ironic that this edition of my newsletter, with a focus on Sammy’s approach to work, will not be received on his computer (he does not own one) or smart phone. Likely, his wife Mary Jo, will print it out for him. 

Very few of us would survive in our current jobs if we could not use all of the electronics that now are considered essential. Sammy has made it work without some of the basic tools available in 2015.  I am curious about how he succeeds – wondering if there is something to learn from a person who does it so differently, yet who still thrives.  I decide to find out. 

We agree to meet at a local Mobile restaurant for lunch.  After a few customary catch-up comments about our families, I charge into why I have asked him to meet with me. I begin, “Sammy, I notice that you do not use emails like the majority of business people.   How do you succeed in an electronic world?  Your customers must have questioned you on this?  How do you make it work? Do you have any advantages?  Is this not a major disadvantage?!”  Rapidly I fire off these and other questions with the typical precision I use in writing an email on my computer.  

Sammy responds, “I came up in a time when there were pay phones, and eventually pagers.  I have some concern about the electronic world because of all the bad stuff out there. There are temptations in this automated universe that I want to avoid in my own life.” His thoughts mirror mine in concern for all of my grandchildren.  It is so easy to access the Internet to see and read all the evil, immoral, and in some cases even dangerous, stuff that is instantly available. 

I counter his remarks with, “I understand why you do not use the Internet, but it still does not answer the question of how you succeed.  Your customers must go nuts about you not using email?” 

With complete confidence, Sammy replies with just two words:  “Personal relationships. After allowing me time to absorb his short reply, he continues: “Life is all about personal relationships.  I make it work because I always go the extra mile.”  (I refuse to blindly accept this simple strategy). “How?” I ask him.  He responds with an invaluable insight that would have been reflective of my grandparents a long time ago.  He simply explains, “I call my customers. I visit my customers. And I write, in my own handwriting, thank-you notes.  

Are you kidding me!? This is how you succeed!? Go the extra mile by calling, visiting and writing thank-you notes?  I must be missing something.  I ask additional questions, trying to penetrate his armor, but Sammy’s answers are still simple and short.  My grandmother could have written this strategy for all of us decades ago. 

And then, I recall my own life.  From the beginning of my career to right now, every-time I have experienced success at any level of my life, the main factor was . . .  personal relationships.  No computer helped me in making the most important decisions I have faced.  It was, and still is . . .  people.    

In my new career in writing and speaking, I started doing something a few months ago:  calling past contacts, sharing my dreams, and asking for support.  The result of these conversations has been magical – more than I expected.  I feel a sense of what my friend knows by heart.  I will succeed in my new career because of one simple, but powerful concept: I will do it because of my interaction with the people in my life.  

How does Sammy do it?  He picks up an old-fashioned, first-generation technological device – a telephone – and calls the customer!  He actually gets into a real conversation.  He also personally visits his customers, face-to-face.  As a result, he knows his clients at a deeper level.  

Here is a news blast:  Some of us may use very little of these old-fashioned tactics, because we depend so much on smart phones and computers.  We thrive on text and email messaging.  We may have, in some cases, unintentionally built a wall between customers and ourselves. 

Sammy goes the extra mile.  He describes it as giving the customer, “a pink elephant with a green tail.”  If they call him on weekends, when his time with family is important, he knows they have a crisis.  And he responds. They never forget him for taking care of them when times are tough. 

His final step is completely old-fashioned.  He writes by hand “thank-you” notes to customers on a random basis, sometimes after a personal visit and other times after they order products. 

I know that he could be enjoying retirement at this stage of his life. Past success would allow him to do this with some comfort.  But, he chooses to work.  I ask him why. At this point, our conversation becomes more personal.  “I continue to work today because I love the relationships. I have a chance to do something good in this world.  I want to be a good example to others – to impact their lives.” 

I probably do not need to tell you anything more.  This guy is special and happens to be my friend.  A blessing for me – there is a lot to learn from him. 

He calls it is his ‘spiritual response to a world that is hungry for something different.’  My friend has very little when it comes to electronics.  But he has a lot more in those areas that really matter.  On the outside, he may appear to work for some extra money, but I know he works for a lot more.   How about that for the non-electronic man?

I know the question you are thinking:  The answer is no!  I am not going to give up my electronics.  My approach is deeply rooted in our modern technological world.  In my current career, I really do not see another option. But, all of us can learn something from my friend.  Do you agree? 

Life is really about relationships.  Any digital device I use should help me in developing my associations.  When electronics get in the way of these relationships, Sammy’s advice becomes more than just important.  It is essential. 

Build personal relationships. 
Go the extra mile. 
Call. Visit. Write.

Professional Speaker &
Author of “There Are No Small Moments”  ||@robhackbarth


Donna said...

That is just amazing! What a wonderful business model your father has! I think most of us today try to text to avoid having to really communicate to people. I am sure his way treats people with the dignity they deserve.