Success Often Begins at Ground Zero

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Last week, I left you with a challenge. Did you accept it?  Why or why not?

A few years ago, I accepted a challenging assignment as an investment representative inside a community bank…only I didn’t realize how difficult a task it was going to be when I showed up for work that first day.

I was the fifth representative in as many years to occupy that desk.  Ironically, management saw the office as a “five year old business” when it fact, it was only a collection of pieces of “five, one-year businesses”.  Collectively, there was $2.9 million in assets and from looking at the client files, it was impossible to tell which accounts were still open, which were long ago closed, or how any decisions had been made for each client.  My charge was to turn it around.

My first day was just before Independence Day 2001.  The financial markets were still uncertain following the investment bubble which had popped only 15 months earlier, clients were skittish, and to make it worse, the world as we knew it (financial or otherwise) completely introduced a “new normal” that fateful day in September—only 90 days into my new assignment.

It would have been easy to throw my hands in the air, declaring the task impossible, and not many people would have blamed me.  Not having many other options of where I might take my talents (financial firms were in “protection mode”), I decided to dig in and make it work.

Three years later, almost to the day, the book of business I’d inherited was now $12.5 million in asssets and produced a more predictable and stable annual revenue than ever before.  The markets had been against me.  For 18 months, my co-workers didn’t believe I’d actually stay (no other representative ever had). Management refused to offer more support or strategic direction than to tell me simply to “just keep doing what you’re doing and don’t worry about the rest of the department”.   The success (and the rocky road I traveled to find it) can almost completely be attributed to my own deliberate focus on relationships with clients and co-workers.

In the midst of significant roadblocks, true leaders will emerge and success will shine, if they continue to focus on the relationships with everyone around them.

Until the next blog posting, I challenge you this week to complete this phrase OUT LOUD at least once per day:

“Today, I will focus on customer / client/ co-worker relationships by __________________________”.

Be deliberate.  Be honest.  Let others hear about what you notice in the comments below.

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