Personal Design

How do you set yourself apart from other people in your field?

When I was in high school, and again after college, I had the opportunity to work for a family friend in his landscaping company. This man had found a way to set himself and his company apart…to rise head and shoulders above others in his field. His market was very wealthy clients with large houses that wanted their landscaping to be immaculate. As a high school kid I worked a couple doors down from “Sugar” Ray Leonard’s house! He also handled some corporate properties, usually owned by some of the home owners. How did he do it? How did he set himself apart? Here are just a few examples from my observation over the years:

  • “Work and talk.” He held his crew to this standard. Pass the time however you needed to. Talk all you want. But never stop working. Never slow the pace. Work. And talk.
  • Good old fashioned manners. He always called his clients “sir” and “ma’am” unless otherwise directed. He dealt in a clear, up front fashion with everyone. His “yes” was as good as done and his “no” was final.
  • Perception is fact so presentation is everything. I never heard him say this, but it permeated what he did. He never wanted his crew to be seen sitting. Ever. Kneel, crawl, squat…but your bottom never touched the curb while you were weeding. Why? A crew that sits must not be working hard.
  • “Keep your shirt on.” If the homeowners were home or if we were at a corporate park, your shirt stayed on. Why? More professional. His clients were “high end” so we needed to look as presentable as possible while getting the job done.

So what? Why am I thinking of this? I recently heard that this friend and his family were realizing a dream. He sold the business and they are all moving to Colorado. I’ve been analyzing in my head how he did what he did. I am left with not only a fantastic example of an owner, a boss, a supervisor, a husband, a father, and a man…but I am also left with a fantastic list of questions to help me analyze my own business and conduct. Since it’s easier for you to read about me, I’ll phrase them as such. However, I encourage you to examine these questions as they apply to you. To your company, your job, your family… your life.

  1. Is my work ethic consistently focused on work? It is WORK…and talk…or work…and TALK?
  2. To put it simply, am I polite? Do I exercise common courtesy and overall good manners? How often am I annoyed when others don’t? If being impolite annoys me, how much more will it annoy potential partners, customers, family members, etc? As I often remind my children as I teach them…”use your manners”.
  3. Perception is fact so presentation is everything. This phrase actually became internalized with my when I was selling used rental vehicles in a previous life. Am I aware of the perception I create by the presentation I am giving? What facts does that presentation create?
  4. Is my “shirt on”? Am I showing respect? Is my physical presentation sending the correct message?

I’m excited for my friend and his family! It’s also been exciting to revisit a consistent example of how to correctly conduct business. You may have your own examples. I encourage you to examine them. I encourage you to reflect on them. I encourage you to reflect on the lessons I’m learning too. I wish you success and I believe that one avenue to that is to distinguish yourself. Set yourself apart from others doing what you do. It really may make a difference.


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