The courage to ask for these meetings has resulted in amazing wisdom, stories, and profound relationships. One such meeting was with Bill Morrow from La Quinta, California. Bill owned The Quarry, an ultra-private high-end golf club. He had recently sold 26 Red Robin restaurants, each worth about 10 million apiece. His story was fascinating. He started in college by purchasing a defunct Howard Johnson’s restaurant and leveraging that into becoming the largest franchise owner of Howard Johnson’s in the world. Noting a shift in trends, he flipped them into Red Robins.
My simple first question for Bill was, what was his number one rule for success in business? His answer surprised me, borderline shocked me for its impracticality. He said, “Return every phone call.” Now, Bill didn’t build his business in the era of cell phones, telephone cold calling, email blasts, and the non-stop barrage of LinkedIn prospectors that only want you and I to get on a 15-minute call this week….no problem. He built in a simpler time. But after drilling down with him on the Law, I got clear what Bill was saying was all about:
He was referring to honoring the spirit of the relationships of his employees, customers, prospects, suppliers, consultants, competitors, and anyone with whom he had or might want to have a relationship with. He was speaking about respect, professionalism, even being curious, and, of course, building relationships. How? By returning every phone call, his era’s form of communication.
Today, Bill would be burdened with email, texting, FB and IG messaging, WhatsApp, and phone calls. He would have to discern who he was in or wanted to be in a relationship with and ……. “Return their call.”
My first response to Bill’s Law was that, “I can’t do that”. “I don’t have time.” “People are calling me all the time. I don’t know who they are. I didn’t ask them to call me. I can’t do this.”
And then I compared my success ratio…the percentage of my ambitions I had accomplished compared to Bill’s ratio. He had done pretty much everything he set out to do. I was flailing.
So, I added it to my Laws. I cannot say with perfection, but I made a conscious and effective effort. The results were mind-blowing. Especially in the fringe areas of returning calls and emails to people I did not know. The surprise, delights, new connections, knowledge, and gifts from those seemingly random calls were profound. And continues to be to this day.
Bill passed away a few years ago, but his legacy lives on in me, and I am sure thousands of others were influenced by his example.
Of course, one must filter the spam and barrage of unsolicited sales calls on this day. We must manage our inboxes, but let this not be an excuse for missing out on Bill’s Law in your career.
And add to it this one other simple Law. “Do what you say you will do” or initiate a renegotiation of the promise. This is Warren’s law.
If you say you will follow up, do so. If you say you will set the meeting, do so. If you say you will send the report, do so. And the million other things you may be responsible for doing because of your role and relationships, DO IT.
If “Stuff Happens” to you, which it does, Renegotiate the Promise. Acknowledge that you will miss your obligation and make a new offer.
This is the essence of being responsible, being a productive teammate, and honoring relationships.
If you find yourself incapable of being honorable in your role, incapable of being professional and respectful, you need to fix your role. You are “too busy”. If you find yourself always using the excuse, I am too busy, then you are. Shed some roles and responsibilities, get some support, or find a job you can do. You will find ushering this integrity into your life will save your health, family, and your career.
So many of us are flailing, out of control, over our skis on the verge of crashing. Yet we hang on lest we be seen as a failure or incapable of handling the pressure. The costs to our team, our projects, and our relationships may be insidious, but just like cancer, it will kill us.
I am currently working with a team that suffers from a partial lack of awareness of Bill’s and Warren’s Laws. They are a billion-dollar company. The costs must be staggering. I know how they impact me as a partner. They push me to disengage. And they inspired me to write about it.
Who in your life and career are you pushing away, letting down, and disrespecting? Who have you left sitting wondering if they matter at all to you? Who have you promised something to that you showed you really didn’t mean it at all?
Bill’s Law. Start there.