I’m not sure if they do this in grade school any more or not with the advent of cellphones, but I remember “back in the day” a certain lesson on Alexander Graham Bell. During the lesson there was an activity where we used to coffee cans attached by a string. We were supposed to talk into the can and the other student at the other end was supposed to listen. It’s a good lesson in communication.
There was a “field” application of this lesson outside the hallway of the classroom. When it was time for Sam (my partner) and me to try, we anxiously marched out to the hallway. We stepped off 20 paces, put the cans up to our face and…nothing.
Then the teacher explained that the string needed to be taut. So naturally, as the two strapping young lads we were, we held up the coffee cans to our face and pulled the string tight. The pure strength of Sam and I overcame the teacher’s (obviously) poorly tied knot and we both whacked ourselves in the face with our coffee cans. That’s also a good lesson in communication.
Based on these two lessons, I believe we can take childhood classroom experience and morph it into a business best practice. I’m talking about business connections, personal connections, work experiences and life experiences. Topics which are always taken advantage of and never fully appreciated. How many times have you sat through a presentation half-engaged only to be asked two weeks later about that very topic? Or even worse, meet someone for the first time and then forget their name 10 seconds later.
As a young man I never fully appreciated many of the great experiences provided to me. Like any good life lesson, the experiences I do remember are those that provided pain and/or a bit of humiliation. As I’ve grown I’ve found how, if you pay attention, you will find yourself telling someone a story that usually starts, “You are not going to believe what happened…”
There are so many life experiences that can be parlayed into others. There are so many stories and experiences that are useful to others. Where it starts to get fun is when you start relating your experience and stories to establish a full business connection full of meaning and understanding.
Very few people do business with people who they do not like. Sometimes folks may do business with someone who they do not know or appreciate, but are often left wanting. In short, people want to know what you stand for before they do business with you.
Take the time to share some stories with your customers and suppliers to get to know each other well. In other words, make sure you have a good knot tied between your tin cans so you don’t get whacked in the face.