Coffee is for Closers: An Old Rule that Won’t Change in the New Year

ImageFrom Guest Blogger Eric Chester 

The phrase “Coffee is for Closers” resonates with anyone who’s seen the classic film, Glengarry Glen Ross. This 1992 movie stars six Hollywood A-list leading men as salesman who work for an unethical real estate outfit. The actors portray fast-talking hucksters who lie, exaggerate, and use a series of con games to goad unwitting prospects into signing on the dotted line for overpriced real estate.  (If you haven’t seen the movie, and you have a high tolerance for foul language, here’s the scene that made the “Coffee is for Closers” catchphrase famous and earned Alec Baldwin an Oscar nomination.)

For a summer job while in college, I sold lawn treatment plans (fertilizer) to home owners.  The office environment where I spent evening hours was strikingly similar to the high-pressure sales culture depicted in Glengarry Glen Ross.

My manager was an in-your-face bully who was every bit as intimidating, threatening, and foul-mouthed as Alec Baldwin’s character. I despised him and could not stand his ‘motivational’ techniques. However, I was pretty good at pitching the B.S. (fertilizer was not the only B.S. being pitched), and I made enough money to pay my tuition. So I put up with his degrading tactics for a few summer months.

Reflecting on this experience, I have to admit that it did cement within me the one fundamental principle  I now realize applies to every business in America: CIFC (Coffee is for Closers).  Although my manager never used those exact words, he burned into my brain that the company’s coffee (money) was reserved exclusively for closers (producers), and that if I wasn’t constantly producing a tangible value that was exponentially higher than the amount printed on my weekly paycheck, I would be terminated.

Commission-based salespeople may be the only ones who fully understand and wholeheartedly accept the CIFC principle, but they are not the only ones to whom it applies.  Unless you’re in a government job, work for a non-profit organization, or are protected by a labor union, the CIFC principle applies for you.  Even though I’m self employed, it very much applies to me.

The CIFC Principle Hasn’t Failed, We’ve Just Failed to Relay the Principle

Because the CIFC principle can come off as harsh and negative, today’s parents and educators have neglected to alert their children and/or students that it is still the core of every business.  They’ve instead chosen to advise them to “follow their dreams,” “find a job they love,” and “do only that which makes them happy.”

Thinking they’ve set young people on a journey towards career happiness, what these well-intending adults have actually done is send millions of young people into the workforce with the misguided perception that they are entitled to their “coffee” simply by virtue of getting hired and reporting to a job.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

What the emerging generation has not been told is that there ain’t no free lunch, and that includes free coffee.

Whether producing a sale, a product, a service, or some other kind of tangible result that has a measurable impact on bottom line profits, all workers are ultimately judged and compensated based on their production.  Sooner or later, if the value of the results they produce do not far exceed the amount printed on their paychecks, they will be replaced.

You Don’t Have to Be an A-Hole to Get the Message Through

If you have people on your payroll who exasperate you by acting entitled to free coffee from your operation, you don’t have to go Alec Baldwin on them to alert them to the CIFC principle.  There’s a better way.

1. Teach them your business. You know what it takes to make a profit and keep the lights on. But chances are most of your people don’t. They may understand how to make a widget, but that doesn’t mean they understand the complexities of a widget-making operation and what it takes from each person on the team to keep the business growing and the paychecks flowing. Educate them.  Make certain that everyone in your operation understands the CIFC principle (whatever you choose to label it) and why it is in effect in your business.

2. Provide clear, measurable expectations. What exactly is ‘the standard’ for each job? How do people in each position exceed those expectations? How/when will they know if they fall short? Is there a daily, weekly, monthly measurement of each individual’s progress toward their stated objectives to enable them to self-evaluate?  Metrics matter. Let them see how they are doing compared to what they are expected to be doing.

3. Make sure the coffee in the cups of your producers runneth over. Reserve the sweetest rewards for those who consistently produce above and beyond results. The quickest way to demotivate top producers is to give them the same rewards as those who produce less. Everyone should be treated fairly, but not everyone should be treated the same.

With massive changes in healthcare and labor policies, the workplace will continue to undergo an extreme makeover in the coming year. To survive, sustain, and to succeed in the midst of this turbulence, it’s imperative that you inform your emerging workforce (and remind those who may have forgotten) that throughout every phase of your organization — regardless of how harsh it may sound — one core principle remains intact: coffee is for closers.

Eric Chester is an award winning keynote speaker and the author of Reviving Work Ethic. He is also the Founder of The Center for Work Ethic Development. He can be contacted through www.RevivingWorkEthic.com or by calling 303-239-9999.

The Five Reason That Microsoft’s New “Surface” Tablet Will Fail

With the announcement yesterday of Microsoft’s new tablet device comes a flurry of speculation about whether it can compete with Apple’s celebrated iPad and Google’s Droid devises.  Here are the five reasons why the yet-to-be-released Microsoft devise is dead on arrival:

1.         It’s Not a Game-Changer – In a highly competitive marketplace, it’s not enough to produce products with high quality.  Microsoft has a bigger challenge than to convince people that their new tablet is great.  It probably is.  They have to convince us that the “Surface” is significantly better than the competition to persuade us to change our behavior and stop buying the other products and start buying theirs.  Not going to happen.

2.         It’s a Solution Looking for a Problem – Put simply, people look for solutions to problems and will part with their money to solve a problem.  Even if their problem is that they feel that they “need” a bigger flat screen TV or cooler looking cell phone, consumers won’t shell-out big money for new technology if the alternatives are perceived as just as strong or stronger. The current market leaders are very, very strong.

3.         The Cool Factor – Quite simply, (the Xbox not withstanding) Microsoft is not cool.  Functional? Yes. Ubiquitous? Yes. But cool? Not so much. Just as we cringed when our older relatives bought us off-brand Mp3 players that they insisted were “just like an iPod,” so too will be the reluctance to show-off the new Microsoft “Surface” while those around us at Starbucks are tapping away on the latest iPad or super-cool Google-powered device.

4.         Outside Their Wheelhouse – Once again, with the notable, other-category exception of the Xbox, Microsoft is simply not known as a computer hardware manufacturer.  It’s not to say that they lack the expertise to create physical devices, it’s more an issue of not fitting in our perception of their sweet-spot.  While we believe they can, we also believe that others can do it better.

5.         Waaaay Too Late to the Dance! – We can only speculate on the leadership log-jam that not only prevented Microsoft from jumping into the game within the crucial same-year period as the iPad, but the head-scratching decision to jump in after…, uh… everyone!  The market is saturated, others have already fallen by the wayside and the new device isn’t a significant leap above other market player.  The question really isn’t: “Why now?”  It’s: “Why at all?”

Marketing Expert David Avrin is the author of the top-selling: It’s Not Who You Know, It’s Who Knows YOU! (©John Wiley & Sons) Known internationally as the Visibility Coach, David Avrin speaks to business owners and entrepreneurs across America and around the world helping them to craft and promote a true competitive advantage.  See a preview video at www.visibilitycoach.com

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Beauty, Beast or Something In-Between?

The press coverage of Samantha Brick, the British woman who wrote an essay in the Daily Mail about how women hate her because she is so incredibly attractive, has been extensive.  There has been a subsequent round of coverage of the coverage, analyzing why this has been so “news-worthy” around the world.  What I find so fascinating is the reluctance of the U.S news media to call-out the real reason for the firestorm.

The press has tiptoed around the issue, talking about whether women should be able to acknowledge their beauty and the effect of the extensive coverage on Ms. Brick.  What they have failed to acknowledge is the real reason behind the controversy: The fact that Samantha Brick is only marginally attractive.  Be honest.  This is the thought that has gone through nearly everyone’s mind when they first saw her pictures.  The press, for their part won’t acknowledge it out loud fearing appearing sexist or judgmental.

How refreshing it would be if someone said that: “Yes, it’s true that beautiful women receive a backlash at times, but this woman is frankly not that attractive.”  Please understand, the only one I am judging here is the press for lacking the courage to cover the real reason the story has gone viral.

http://thelook.today.msnbc.msn.com/_news/2012/04/04/11018741-too-beautiful-british-writer-the-bile-proves-my-point

Business Marketing Speaker David Avrin is known internationally as The Visibility Coach.  An in-demand speaker, author and executive coach, David Avrin shows business owners, sales professionals and entrepreneurs how to craft and promote a true competitive advantage.  Watch a preview video at www.visibilitycoach.com

Your Expertise Is Boring!

I see your lips moving, but all I hear is “Blah, blah, blah, blah, blah.” I know it’s not what you want to hear, but quite simply, if you are a speaker, author, consultant or other “expert” I see being interviewed by the news media, your expertise just isn’t very interesting. Information is a dime-a-dozen and yours is no different.

So in this age of round-the-clock, on-demand, blue tooth, on line, high def., Wi-Fi, via satellite, news junky, at your fingertips world of information, what separates those messages that break through the clutter and the vast majority of expertise that goes un-tapped? The answer is very simple: It’s the delivery!

Information, delivered by experts in a straightforward fashion, is too often reminiscent of a classroom lecture – Boring! However that same content, deliver with passion, purpose, urgency, spirit and conviction can move people to action and move you to the top of the news media’s first call list.

The information stored in your brain is merely the entry fee. Your credentials to deliver that content is only the prerequisite. But your crusade is what truly makes you interesting. Your passion for the message is what makes you believable and its timely connection to some current or personal challenge is what makes it relevant.

Watch any national morning show, or cable news talk show and note who has the lion’s share of camera time. In television news, the one who most deftly steers the conversation, wins. But all too often, experts who are invited to sit on the television set to comment on a story of national interest, merely answer the questions posed to them and provide informed analysis. They are graciously thanked for their time, but rarely asked back. Why? Because most media opportunities are a test in disguise. And most experts unknowingly fail the test.

But think for a moment about the experts that have been featured time and time again in the national news – some even being rewarded with their own show. What is the common denominator? Above all else, it is that they are fiercely opinionated. They know what they want to say and aren’t afraid to say it. I’m not suggesting that you have to be a jerk to be newsworthy, only that you have to have the conviction that personifies a true thought leader.

Good radio talk show hosts, for example, don’t bring up a topic and ask for your opinions. Instead they tell you what they think and invite you to agree or disagree. Who among us is inspired to follow, or be moved to action by a credible, yet straightforward, or “dry” expert offering his or her expertise on a story of national or industry-specific interest?

To build your business, to attract clients or customer, to inspire others to hire you or buy your books or products, to engender loyalty and inspire true change, you must move beyond the realm of simply being smart and good at what you do. You must truly inspire.

And while we are all made up of the same composite materials, we are all wired a little differently. Being overly expressive and delivering content on the edge of your seat can be challenging for some, but it must be done. In working with the news media, we are playing in their sandbox and we must play by their rules, or we won’t be asked to play again.

For any kind of high-profile sustainability, you’ve got to provide what television journalists call “Good TV.” New, innovative, or provocative solutions to long-standing problems can be good TV. Either healthy exchanges or outright conflict among guests can both be good TV. Good TV means nothing more than being interesting and not blending in. Unfortunately, experts tend to be so immersed in their content that they believe it is the information that is interesting. In reality, it is the passion that brings about “Good TV.”

The biggest misperception in working with the press is the false notion that when a reporter asks a question, it’s because they want to know the answer. Unless it’s some sort of news investigation, the purpose of their questions is in most cases, simply to give you a launch pad for your ideas, your input and perspective. I’m not suggesting that you don’t answer the question, just use the answer as the springboard for your crusade.

Most reporters don’t know the subject nearly as well as the guest and you can easily move past the often irrelevant, or less important question by simply employing transitional phrases such as: “While I certainly agree, it’s also important to remember that…,” “That may be true, but the issue that really concerns me is…,” “While that issue is making headlines, we can’t forget that…,” “people sometimes fail to recognize that…,” “I find it fascinating that…” Then say what you came there to say, and do it with passion – regardless of the questions asked. Despite conventional wisdom, the reporter or interviewer will be very appreciative of your media savvy.

As most on-air interviews last no more than 90 seconds, I advised my clients to be crystal clear in their mind what they want to say, what they HAVE to say, what is crucial for them to impart to their audience for them to be successful in their business. Then they must make a solemn pledge to themselves (and to me) that they will not get out of that chair until they say it!

It’s the quid pro quo of working with the press: We help them fill up their newspapers and newscasts with content, and in return, we get a platform to relay our ideas. Use it. Don’t waste it. Don’t be boring. Be opinionated. Be passionate, relevant, provocative, believable, timely, different, memorable and news-worthy.

This article is more than just my opinion and my expertise – it is my crusade. If I had begun this article with a simple admonition to be more animated in your interviews, do you think you’d still be reading? Or would you have turned the page long ago? Remember, there are hundreds of millions of TV remote controls and page-turning fingers out there. Don’t be boring and they’ll likely stick with you, turn to you and hopefully come back to you.

David Avrin, the Visibility Coach, is a noted speaker, author, publicist, branding consultant and executive coach who shows professionals how to stand apart and raise their profile in a competitive marketplace. Visit http://www.visibilitycoach.com.

Published in: on March 20, 2012 at 8:17 pm  Leave a Comment  
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The Ultimate Personal Brand (a very timely excerpt from my book: The Gift in Every Day – Little Lessons on Living Big Life (©2006 Sourcebooks)

As much as we all want to believe that we make our own way in the world, we can never really escape where we came from—and I’m not referring to geographic origins. Genetically, of course, we are all equal parts Mom and Dad. But you have merely to look at the vast differences in siblings to realize that we come into this world with our own unique recipe.

While I inherited a measure of pragmatism (and a furry body) from my father, my spirit came from my mom, Barbara Avrin.

My mother, with her colorful tops and bright red lipstick, is big, bawdy, and loud. “If you can’t hide it, decorate it!” she says. And anyone who doesn’t like it can “kiss off!” she’ll say with a laugh. But the truth is, they do like it. She is the Molly Brown for the new millennium. Throughout my entire life people have always said to me, “I just love your mom. She’s outrageous.” That she is. And as we all come to realize as we get older that we are who we are, and my mom makes no apologies. She has lived her life on her own terms and plans to live out her final days the same way.

In fact, she informed me the other day that she wants to die on a cruise ship. Let me rephrase that. My mom wants to live on a cruise ship, until she dies. She’s got it all figured out.

She says that for the same price of a nursing-care facility, she could live on a cruise ship and see the world. “Think about it,” she says. “I’d never have to cook a meal; they clean your room and make your bed for you every day. If you need something in your room, they bring it to you, and there’s dancing every night!”

“What will you do with all your stuff?” I ask.

“What do I need stuff for?” she fires back. “They’ve got the fine china, the furniture, the linens, and any book you could ever want—what else do I need?”

She’s serious. And if there’s anyone that could do it, it’s my mom. Barbara Avrin can take over and light up a room faster than a SWAT team. (Think Liza Minnelli, but less shy.) An introvert she is not. She’ll sit down at dinner on the first night of the voyage and stand up an hour later with new best friends. And the next week, she’ll do it all over again.

Is her over-the-top approach to life distasteful to some? Sure. But even the quiet people are undesirable to somebody. The point is that I recognize that the greatest gift I received from my mother is the permission to be who I am. And while the “gifts” I’ve received from my parents don’t define me, just like the physical traits I’ve inherited, their spirit remains an integral part of what makes me, me.

Note: My Mom passed away very unexpectedly last week at the ripe young age of 69. The world is a less colorful…and much quieter place.

Published in: on September 23, 2009 at 4:10 pm  Comments (2)  

Walking the Talk

I just got my lunch handed to me by a business prospect and will be eating “humble pie” for months to come. It was a humiliating lesson, exacted upon a careless and overly-casual “professional” by an astute and thoughtful company leader. In recounting the experience I hope that, through my shortcoming and poor behavior, you may better consider the words you use and the actions you take to bolster and protect your professional brand. File this under: “Do as I say – not as I do.”

I arrived this afternoon for my third face-to-face meeting with a strong prospect for the Vistage CEO roundtable group that I lead in Denver. I’ll call him “Mike.” Assuming this was the final step of the evaluation process with an impressive company leader, I believed that Mike and I both had found a strong fit and would likely be progressing with a formal membership application.

After moving beyond the greetings and pleasantries, we sat in his office as Mike closed the door. As he sat by his desk, he began by explaining that he had been struggling with an internal dynamic at his company whereby his customer service staff and administration staff were badmouthing each other. Worst yet, they were doing it with customers of the company. He explained that when a customer called with a complaint about their bill or the service that had been provided, Admin would say that the Customer Service department had clearly dropped the ball, or Customer Service would throw Admin under the bus by blaming them for the problem. He was struggling with how best to confront the situation.

Mike continued: “Then I got this voice mail message last Friday,” and he turned to the phone on his desk, hit the button marked “Speakerphone” and began to dial. To my surprise, the voice on the recording was my own.

“Hi Mike,” I said. “This is David Avrin and yes, you are correct, the meeting place listed in the e-mail was wrong. Some ‘Bone-Head’ from the corporate office sent out the wrong location.” Then, without ever taking his gaze off of me, Mike pressed a button on the phone rewinding it slightly. “Some Bone-Head from the corporate office…” Click. “Some Bone-Head from the corporate office…” Click. “Some Bone-Head from the corporate office…” Click. “Some Bone-Head from the corporate office…”

I sat speechless as Mike leaned back in his chair and said: “So here’s my dilemma. I’m looking for an executive coach to help me become a better leader and deal with issues such as how to confront poor internal behavior, and this message is what I received from my leading candidate. What do I do with this?”

As he spoke, all I could do was nod knowingly, acknowledging that everything he was saying was true and the concern he expressed was richly-deserved. I had screwed-up – big time. Not just because my poorly-considered, off-hand comment had violated my covenant with a trusted and valued corporate partner, but because I had damaged my credibility with someone I respected. It was no one’s fault but my own.

In the moment, I knew the worst thing I could do was to make an excuse, or try to talk around the massive “elephant” clearly sitting in the middle of the room. Instead, I acknowledged what we both knew to be true. I screwed up. I offered my apology and told him that he was right to call me out on my poor behavior and that I knew it had damaged my credibility. I explained that in my effort to be overly casual in my correspondence and maybe even a little bit “cool,” I used a very poor choice of words. More likely, I offered, in casually dismissing or even denigrating someone else for what was just an honest mistake, I was basically implying that I wouldn’t be guilty of such an infraction. Of course we all make mistakes, and ascribing blame, regardless of the legitimacy, was clearly wrong.

As I tried to remember my feelings at the moment when I made the call following the errant e-mail blast, I realized that my response was a poorly-considered, knee-jerk reaction (emphasis on “jerk”) to a communication that I feared would damage his perception our organization. Instead, it was my actions that diminished the credibility of the organization. So once again, I apologized.

We went on to have a solid and meaningful discussion about the value of our leadership roundtable and his prospective involvement, but the reality of what had transpired hung over the conversation. What will happen from here on is unclear, but what is clear is that my professional reputation was tarnished – by my behavior. It is a bell that can’t be un-rung.

One of my favorite expressions states that: “Experience comes from bad decisions – and good decisions come from experience.” This is a bad decision I will not repeat.

Do you learn from your professional mistakes? Do you sometimes look back at your early work experiences and cringe at some of the things you did and said. I would submit that every time an inappropriate thought crosses your mind, but fails to cross your lips, then that’s evidence of lessons well-learned. And we are still learning – myself included. Sometimes even “The Coach” needs a coach.

Your personal and professional brand is not just your logo or your tag line. It is not the colors of your lobby or the greeting offered to your customers. Your brand is not the jingle on your commercials or the cleanliness of your bathroom. It is everything. It’s everything that you do, and everything you don’t do well in your business. Your brand is what others think about you when you leave the room, or when they leave your business.

Today, I stunk up the place. Tomorrow I will do better. Mea culpa.


David Avrin is known internationally as the Visibility Coach. A noted speaker, author, branding consultant and executive coach, David shows professionals and organizations how to stand apart and raise their profile in a competitive marketplace. Visit him online at www.visibilitycoach.com.

Published in: on August 4, 2009 at 12:07 am  Comments (2)  
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