How I became a raving fan of a septic tank company

Having your septic tank pumped is a miserable experience. You know you need to do it, but then you don’t want to do it because you don’t know who to trust. A quick google search for septic tank companies yields a lot of results, but choosing a septic tank company is like choosing a car mechanic, there is no way to be sure they are shooting straight with you.

The last time I had a septic tank company come out to my house I was quoted a price around $150. Then, once they were here, the cost kept going up. My tank was larger than they quoted for. There was more to pump (nice mental image, huh) than they had quoted for. Oh, and my baffle valve (I’m still not sure that’s a real thing) needs to be replaced immediately. About $4,000 later and with only a few hours of work we were all set and I was on a payment plan.

So, this time, when I needed my septic tank pumped I started the process skeptically. Who could I trust? How do I find them? Of course, I went online and read reviews and looked at prices. Most septic tank companies were offering pumping services starting at $150, but I’m no fool and didn’t believe that price this time.

One company stood out and had a ton of great reviews. I checked out their website, which validated that I wasn’t afraid to call them, and so I did. They didn’t answer, so I left a voicemail, but I got a call back 15 minutes later.

The call was short. The sales pitch was short, but it was perfect. The call went something like this:

Me: I need to get my septic tank pumped.
Pumpco: What part of town are you in?
Me: Lilburn
Pumpco: We serve Lilburn, no problem.
Me: How much will it cost?
Pumpco: $300, no tricks, no gimmicks, that’s the flat rate. And, if you need repairs, we’ll shoot straight with you but won’t pressure you.
Me: Sold, when can you come out!

I called on a Monday; they said they could come out Tuesday. I was only available in the morning, so they said they could make that work and would be there at 8am. Of course, I assumed that 8am really meant 10am like most services that come to your house, but the Pumpco truck was at my house at 7:50am! They were early!

They did what they came to do, told me everything looked great, charged me $300 as promised and were done by 8:30am. The entire experience from finding their reviews online, to checking out their website, to talking with their owner, to having them show up early, to finishing the job quickly and with a great attitude was impressive. So impressive that I’m now blogging about it! So impressive that I had a call with my team just to tell them about the experience and how I want to make sure our clients have the same type of experience. So impressive that I am driven to impress my clients in this same way.

People love a straight shooter and great customer service. I hope I can model that in my business, nonprofit and life.

If you want to produce something creative, produce a lot!

If you want to produce something creative, produce a lot!

In his book, Originals, Adam Grant talks about how most original works are produced within the context of producing a large volume of material. This is because when you are producing a large volume of work, you have to reach further and further away from what is conventional to produce new work since you have already produced all the conventional stuff anyway.

I think sometimes we fall into the trap of thinking that if we want to be creative, we will create one, super creative thing. But the problem with that is that all of our first ideas, and usually even our tenth ideas, are still super ordinary. It’s only through pushing yourself to create more and more that you will be pushed to get truly creative, and that is when your best work will happen!

Reduce the stress of others around you

Reduce the stress of others around you

Mark Cuban said, “If you want to be successful, reduce the stress of others around you.” He said that is the best thing you can do if you work for an entrepreneur or really for anyone if you want to get ahead. I have to agree. I want to reduce the stress of those around me because in doing so I make their lives better. And, I want the people I work with to reduce my stress and make my life better.

There is always a temptation to push tasks and responsibilities off to someone else rather than trudging through them and figuring it out. We must resist that temptation. Instead, we must look for tasks and responsibilities we can shoulder for our coworkers, helping one another and reducing each other’s stress.

HT: The quote above was from a video posted here.

Give context for good communication please

Give context for good communication please

Communication centers around context. If I say to my wife, “how much did you spend?” as she is bringing in grocery bags from the car, the context and question are clear. But, if I ask my wife, “how much did you spend?” at the end of the day while sitting on the sofa, the question is odd and confusing.

I am finding that as communication technology gets easier, people get so excited to communicate their thought (after all, it’s just a quick text) that they completely forget to give the context around their communication. As a result, I get emails like, “Adam can we resolve today?” To which I respond, “Can we resolve what?” (that was a real email from last week).

When someone communicates without context I believe they are making the following mistakes:

  • The sender is assuming the recipient has first-hand knowledge that they may or may not have.
  • The sender is assuming the recipient has the issue being addressed top of mind just like they do (this is almost always not the case).
  • The sender is too busy (frantic) and working too quickly (frantically) to think through their communication. So the sender pushes off the work of thinking to the recipient, making the recipient either dig around to figure out what is going on, or making the recipient respond with clarifying questions.

As a result, people send off communications with a question that might mean five different things based on the context of the question.

I confess that I have often been guilty of this often and have made all of the assumptions above. I have seen how this has frustrated my co-workers and wasted time. So, I have come up with the following little checklist to consider in sending communication:

  • Am I sure the recipient will know exactly what I’m referring to?
  • Am I sure the recipient has the necessary knowledge to help me or answer my question?

If the answer to both of those questions is yes, then I’m good to send the communication. But, if one of those answers is no, I need to provide more context.

Weird traditions create great culture (a family story)

Weird traditions create great culture (a family story)

Last year on vacation at Gulf Shores I stood on the balcony and noticed a cool pier down the beach. So, for one of our family activities, I suggested that we walk to it. My wife and I set out with our five kids in tow and headed to the pier. After about an hour of walking, we still weren’t at the pier, and I began to realize my mistake. Apparently when standing on a 13th-floor balcony looking down a clear beach the pier looks close, but in reality, that pier wasn’t close at all. But, when this epiphany struck it was too late, and we needed to push on to make it to the pier.

When we finally got there another realization dawned on me. There we were with five kids, on a walk that took much longer than expected, and it was now nearing lunch time! Not only were the kids tired from a long walk, but now they were hungry too. The pier did not have a lunch venue, but it did have a little concession stand, and that concession stand did have candy bars! You can guess what I did next. Yep, we ate candy bars for lunch, full-size ones! The kids loved it. After sugar overload, we walked back to the condo. I think the walk was about 5 miles in all, and their little legs were tired, but their hearts were happy.

We came back to the beach this year. Can you guess what tradition the kids were talking about on the way down? Sure enough, we headed out yesterday morning to the pier, battling a cold wind that blew sand to sting our legs. We made it there, got our candy bars and headed back. And, the kids loved it!

I tell this story to point out one thing. In building a family culture or company culture, it is important to have weird traditions with unexpected fun. These are the traditions that people will talk about and remember. These are the traditions that bind us together. These are the traditions we anticipate and tell other people about.

Here are a few photos from our adventure:

How certain do you need to be to jump?

How certain do you need to be to jump?

How certain do you need to be to take a risk? Do you need absolute certainty, say 95% chance that it will succeed? Do you need minimal certainty, say 25% chance that it will succeed? Or, do you need something in the middle?

This is a question that has fascinated me for years and helped me make some big decisions. I think the idea was originally something Andy Stanley said or some other teacher, I can’t recall. But, this premise that absolute certainty is impossible, so we must make decisions based on the risk we are willing to tolerate is interesting.

I find that I need about 50% to 70% certainty depending on what decision I’m making. For big decisions like, “should I take this job?” 70% lets me take the leap. For smaller decisions like, “should we hire someone now?” 50% lets me move forward.

I’m not very risk averse. Sometimes 30% will even do if the failure won’t be too large. Knowing this about myself has let me step out into the unknown many times. It has also allowed me to fail and to bounce back with optimism that the next time will work out better.

How sure do you need to be of something before you step off the cliff? Knowing the answer to that question is surprisingly freeing and helpful when making big decisions. There is no sure thing, it’s just a question of how much risk you are willing to tolerate. I suggest you decide ahead of time.