Hey! What's YOUR Problem?

My favorite types of problems are OTHER people’s problems!

Coming home from work today, I could not help but notice an enormous air conditioning unit sitting on my driveway. This was not a window-type air conditioner like the kind you can buy for $200 at Home Depot or Target! This was a big "whole house" central air conditioning unit probably weighing 1000 pounds, sitting on a 4 x 4 pallet!


I texted my fiancée: “Did you order an air conditioner?” I thought I knew the answer, but in this house….you’re never really sure!


Standing there on my driveway looking at the unit, I immediately started to get pissed. I suspect we are all in that same mental place when we get home: The “I’m done solving other people’s problems!” place. I looked at this unit and just knew: This was going to be multiple calls over multiple days with lots of time on hold to get this thousand pound box off my driveway!


Unhappiness came quickly.


Across the street my neighbor Betty was wondering around her front yard looking behind the bushes and seeming frazzled. Even after working all day, I’m a good neighbor so I asked, “Betty, everything ok?”


Turns out that everything was NOT ok for Betty. She had been expecting a very important delivery. And the trucking company had ASSURED here the delivery had been made!


You guessed it….an air conditioner!


I shared the good and bad news: I’ve got your air conditioner Betty! What I don’t have is a forklift!


I left Betty and her husband Fred standing on my driveway shaking their heads and staring at their 1,000 pound upgrade that was delivered 100 feet too far west for their taste.

“Well….you two have a nice night!” I said as I opened the garage door.

They’re good neighbors, so I hope they didn’t hear me snicker!


A break for the good guys! If this logistical SNAFU had occurred at an hour earlier while at work, it most definitely would have been MY problem.


At 6:45 this morning my phone rang: It was my coworker, Kenny. A customer needed 15 kits of epoxy and he needed it now!


I lied to Kenny and said, “Let me make a call.” The truth was that I needed to get out of bed before I could focus my brain on a solution.


Nothing is off the table to me when I'm trying to solve a problem for a customer. This guy got his epoxy but if “plan A” hadn’t worked, I’d have come up with plans B, C and D! Why would I have been willing to work all day to solve someone else's problem? Because I promise you that if I don’t have plans A-Z to solve a customer’s problem, they have someone else they can call when I strike out: and THAT person WILL have a plan.


And that’s exactly what I want to avoid. To me the easiest way to keep a customer is to never give them a reason to call their “plan B”.


About 6 months ago, a Sherwin Williams opened up a few feet up the street from one of my stores. Earlier today, a (different) customer explained to me that the manager there had been calling him and told him that on this job he was working on he would sell them their exterior flat white for $50 per FIVE! That's probably around half my cost! I assure you that if he was willing to lose money to make a sale, he was DEFINITELY willing to send a truck around from store-to-store to get the 15 gallons of grey epoxy for my other customer!


So solve your customer’s problems if you want to keep them! And if you want new customers, start solving problems for other people too!


If a problem exists, so does a solution!


As my stores are getting busier I have had less time for some of the other things I like to get done. One of the things that got pushed to the side was a podcast episode! I'm happy to say that your wait is almost over! About this time tomorrow, I'm going to post a new episode of "Mark, My Words", this one featuring Mike Beaudoin. Mike is the EVP of AllPro, the member-owned cooperative of independent paint dealers.


If you're a paint dealer, you want to listen. Mike shares what AllPro is all about and what they do to support dealers both individually and as a whole. If you're a vendor who wants to grow their volume, Mike gives a roadmap on exactly what their group is looking for from you and how to make that sale!


No matter your role, if you're in the independent retailer channel, you'll want to tune in. Keep an eye on your inbox for the notification.