Success When Others Win: Volume II

What are you doing this for? Who are you doing this for? Why are you doing this? I tried going through the day intentionally questioning myself about everything I did. Is it for me? Is it for Wendy? Is it for God? Is it for others?

When we have someone else first in mind we can achieve more, be better and get more done. Help others get the win and you’ll see your business grow and you’ll grow personally. It’s a law. A law of the universe.

Fred Meijer was a retail billionaire and my bosses, bosses, boss. He and his dad, Hendrick pioneered the first “supercenter” shopping experience in the 1960’s. It became Meijer Thrifty Acres and today is known as Meijer. Although he was extremely wealthy, he lived his life humbly and modestly in my opinion.

It was a perfect summer day and some co-workers and I were eating our lunch outdoors in front of the Meijer office where I worked in corporate training. Connected to the office was a Meijer outlet store. In the distance we noticed a man get out of his car and walk towards us. “Oh, that’s just Fred,” someone said. Just Fred?

I put my hand up to my forehead to block the glare of the sun and watched him walk the whole way. He stopped for a moment to pick up some litter. When he got to the front of the office he asked with a smile if we were enjoying lunch. Then I said, “you sure parked a long way out there, Fred.” He had parked is older model Buick far from the building.  My mom would have referred his parking spot as “out on the back forty.” There were many parking spaces closer to the building. Much closer. “We should let our customers and vendors park there,” he said to me as he motioned to the closer parking spots. He gave a wave and went into the building.

My interpretation has always been that Fred Meijer wanted his customers to get the win. Even his parking spot mattered to him, at least where his customers were concerned. He was parking far away from “the good parking spaces” for someone he didn’t know, but who was a critical part of his business: his customers.

Simplify: When you’re getting ready to go out and you’re doing something as simple as putting product in your hair, who is that for? If I’m doing it for myself, I’ll do an “okay” job. If I’m doing it for Wendy, it’s much better. I’m doing it because I believe it helps me look my best. If I look my best, I’m presenting my best for my clients. If I’m presenting my best, I have more confidence, if I have more confidence I can be better for my clients. AH HA! There it is again! Success when others win! With my clients first in mind, I give my best. Better than I would if I were just doing it for me. Yeah, I’m going to get paid more, that’s the reward I get after putting others first. Selfish because I’m getting a return? Nope – keep reading. Let’s get back to billionaire Fred Meijer.

Fred had learned at age 14 that a clear direction for success was helping others get the win. When he and his father, Hendrik, opened their first store in 1934, a customer came in to return a box of cereal. But it was a brand the Meijer’s didn’t carry. When Fred started to tell the customer they didn’t carry that brand, Hendrick leaned over a said: “give the man his money, Fred, he’ll come back.” Give the customer the win.

Many years later Fred was sitting in my office. We were discussing customer service when he said with a grin “Steve, remember that the customer isn’t ‘always right.’ But we have to be sure we are doing right by the customer.” The customer had to be the focus of our decisions. He wanted his customers to win and became a billionaire building a business model that intended to serve people.                                         

Fred’s philosophy of giving the customer a great time at the store and his heart for giving to non-profits both afforded me many opportunities to host incredible people. That’s me at the end of the table ogling John Travolta at a Chicago Meijer location. I was in charge of his book signing. Can you tell I had a crush on him?  That’s me with the red jacket and childhood hero -Detroit Lions great, Lem Barney. I was at a Lions game to present a big Meijer check to Lions Charities. When I saw Mr.Barney on the sidelines, I started crying. He laughed and came over to me for a photo. Thanks, Fred.

Why are you doing what you’re doing right now? You’re reading a blog because it says “Character/Commitment/Growth.” You know if you improve yourself, you’re making a better presentation to the world and you’re more likely to impress your clients. They’ll win because you’re selling them something you sincerely believe in. It will make them or their business better. If your “clients” are your children, friends, co-workers, leaders, or family it works the same way.

Success starts with you wanting to help others win. If you have a great product and believe sincerely it will help my business, you’re more likely to sell it to me. If you do a mediocre job presenting yourself and your product because you didn’t do the research and you don’t know me or my business or my goals then please don’t waste my time because that’s telling me that you don’t care about me.

Fred parked far away from the building so others would have the luxury of parking closer. A small sacrifice for helping others win. Zig Ziglar, high performing salesman, author and the renowned motivational speaker said: “You can get what you want in life when you help enough other people get what they want.” Fred was all about helping his customers get what they want. He passed away November 25, 2011 – Black Friday. He was taken to the hospital that morning while he was in the middle of getting ready to visit some of his stores. A routine he’d been doing for decades. He was 91.

Fred Meijer, being with his employees and customers on Black Friday, the busiest shopping day of the year. Going to make sure everyone was getting a win. Hard to say whether he was putting product in his hair that morning, but you can bet he was gonna look his best. He had someone else in mind. Someone else being first meant he could achieve more, be better and get more done. Help others get the win and you’ll see your business grow and you’ll grow personally. It’s a law. A law of the universe.


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