guest commentary by David Potts
Potts is a certified public accountant with more than 25 years experience (Although every effort is made to provide you accurate and timely tax information, it is general in nature and not specific to your facts and circumstances. Consult a qualified tax professional to discuss your particular case.)
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Tax season, for CPAs, can be hellacious. Clients are anxious to get their tax returns so you work long hours. A person tends to get tired, perhaps even a bit snippy.
Years ago my office was located in Towneast Plaza, a strip center on Rogers Avenue in front of St. Edward Hospital (now rebranded as Mercy Hospital). Today this location is part of the parking lot in front of the Women’s Center. The location was busy back then even before the Baptists began patronizing the Chick-fil-A across the street.
One very busy day an older gentleman came through the front door carrying four, five, or maybe six brooms over his shoulder. I was up front with the receptionist giving her instructions. The receptionist and I looked up, this gentleman said “hello” and began his litany. “These brooms are the best brooms made.” followed by, “they are hand made by the best craftsman” and on and on.
I tried to stop this gentleman’s sales pitch by explaining we were a CPA office, this was tax season, and we were not in need of a broom. He was not deterred. “Here, take this broom and give it a try, you can feel the quality.”
I told him that we didn’t have time, but thanks for coming by, then I tried to walk him to the door. But he wasn’t finished and tried to continue his pitch. Being tax season, being tired and snippy, I had all that I could take. In a slight fit of rage, I told him in terms he could understand to shut up and get out of my office. He left.
Fast forward a year. Deja vu. It’s tax season. I’m a bit stressed and grumpy. My office has yet to be converted to a parking lot and I’m not at my desk but upfront talking with the receptionist. Here walks in the Broom Man. I mean the same broom man I had rudely ejected from my office the year before. “Sir,” I asked, “Do you not remember coming in my office last year and I had to yell at you in order to get you to leave?”
There are very few times in my life that I have ever felt the need to buy a broom. However, this was one of those times. I needed a broom but due to it being tax season, I had deferred buying one because I didn’t want to take the time to stop at Wal-Mart to buy one.
Now, when I asked the Broom Man if he remembered me from last year, how I was rude to him and how I threw him out of my office, his answer was no. He had no memory of our unfriendly encounter from last year. I was impressed. To this day I still feel bad for how rudely I treated him.
I told the Broom Man that since he was brave enough to come back and try again, I would buy a broom. And it was a great broom. It lasted a long time and performed better than any broom I had ever used before. My wife says since she knows of only two, possibly three other brooms I have ever held in our thirty-one years of marriage that’s not much of a recommendation.
But then that’s not my point.
For me, my experience and interaction with the Broom Man was a very important learning experience, a lesson I still apply more than a decade later.
The Broom Man is a business owner. Granted, he is the owner of a very, very small business, but nevertheless a business owner. Every successful business has to find a customer, sell them a product or service, and do so for a profit. The Broom Man did this year after year. Here’s what I learned and what you can learn from the Broom Man.
The Broom Man was fearless in asking for somebody to buy one of his brooms priced higher than brooms sold by Wal-Mart. He was fearless because he knew his brooms were great brooms worth the money and if I said no it was my loss. I learned from the Broom Man that if I wanted to be fearless in asking people to pay CPA prices for accounting and tax services, I had to produce a service that provided my clients high value and one that I believed was second to none.
My rudeness and display of bad temperament toward the Broom Man was so important to him and affected him so badly that he had no memory of it a year later and he came back to my office to sell me a broom. The Broom Man taught me that attitude, the right attitude, is everything in success.
When the Broom Man came again the next year, I needed a broom. I bought a broom.
The Broom Man taught me that when asking for business, no doesn’t mean no forever. No means not right now.
If you are trying to grow your business, continue to ask the same people for their business again and again. Their circumstances and needs might have changed. They might need your service or product the next time you ask.
Finally, the Broom Man taught me that there is nothing second to hard work for business success. I have always wondered how many miles the Broom Man walked each day to sell a broom. I know very smart people who failed to achieve anything important. I know people of average intelligence who achieved great success. Hard work, tenacity, and grit were the difference between the two.
Several years later, after the hospital turned my office location into a parking lot, I was in Paul’s Meat Market on Old Greenwood Road. What a surprise to see the Broom Man selling a broom to Paul. You know what? I bought one, too.
If I knew how, I would buy another one of his brooms today.