Hello again my friend,
Let’s start today’s letter with a story.
The Old Woman and the Bank Teller
The was once an old woman. Her body was frail but her mind was razor sharp.
Early one morning she arrived at her local bank and filled out a withdraw slip as she had done for the past 50 years.
She presented the withdraw slip to the teller and said, “I’d like to withdraw $10 please.”
The teller quickly replied. “For withdraws less than $100 you’ll have to use the ATM outside.”
When the old woman asked why, the teller responded dismissively. “Those are just the rules mama. You’ll find the ATM out the front door and to your right.”
The old woman stood silently for a moment before responding.
“I’d like to withdraw all my money please.”
The teller quickly checked the account balance and discovered the old woman had nearly 1.3 million dollars spread across several accounts at the bank.
“I’m sorry mama but we don’t have enough money on hand to close out your account today. You’ll have to make an appointment and come back another time.”
Without skipping a beat the old woman snapped back, “What is the maximum amount I can withdraw today?”
“We have a $3000 daily limit.” the teller replied.
“Then I’d like to withdraw $3000”
The teller quickly counted out out the money, placed it in an envelop and handed to the old woman who then opened the envelope, removed 10 dollars and handed the remaining $2,990 back to the teller before informing her that she would like to deposit the balance back into her account.
A few days later the woman met with the bank manager where she received a cashiers check for the full amount of her deposits. The old woman left, presumably for another bank to open a new account.
Everybody in Your Organization Matters
When you’re first starting out in business anyone you hire works directly for you. They are typically invested in your business as much as you are. They’re taking a gamble on you, and in some cases staking their families future on your success.
As your company grows you’ll need another kind of employee. The clock punching kind. It’s unrealistic to expect those employees to have the same commitment level as your first round of hires.
But these employees are also the ones closest to your customers. They are the ones who welcome your customers as they walk into the store.
They are the ones who answer the phone, respond to emails and deal with customer support.
If you don’t train and manage these employees well they will kill your business.
Knowing this you start implementing some standard operating procedures to ensure everyone knows what to do and how to do it. You train them on how to treat customers, in some cases even giving them scripts to memorize.
But it’s important you not lose sight of the forest for the trees.
The “Letter of the Law” vs the “Spirit of the Law”
Polices and procedures are there for good reason but your employees need to understand that there is the “letter of the law” and there is the “spirit of the law”.
When I went through the police academy this was a subject that came up frequently. Police officers have a great deal of discretion when enforcing the laws our elected officials pass. We were always reminded to consider the spirit of the law and not just the actual words on the page.
For example, if you find a man walking home drunk you could arrest him for pubic intoxication. That’s what the law states. But why was the law passed? Presumably because we don’t want a bunch of drunk assholes stumbling around town causing problems.
Perhaps the man didn’t want to drive home and decided to walk. If so, he’s trying to act responsibly. Should he be arrested for that? Certainly not. To arrest him would violate the spirit of the law.
It would be far better to offer the man a ride home and reinforce your role as someone who protects and serves your community.
You get the idea.
Had the bank teller been taught this simple principle she would never have asked this old woman to step aside.
She would have known that the rule existed to ensure the bank didn’t get bogged down in small transactions that created long lines of angry customers. It was not a hard and fast rule to be enforced with every bank patron.
Never forget your most junior employees. They are just as important to your company as you are. If you neglect their training and oversight you are putting your entire company at risk.