A Business Model to live by.
There once lived this man. A pretty amazing, awesome, inspiring man. His name was Clarence Levi French Jr. Born in New Haven, Connecticut in 1925 but was raised in a small town in upstate New York. Joined the Navy in 1943 and served until the end of 1947. He received a B.S. in Naval Science (1945) and a B.S. in Mechanical Engineering (1947) from Tufts University, Massachusetts then went on to dominate the world of steel and ship building.
He began his career with Bethlehem Steel Co. and advanced in the industry working his way through companies such as Kaiser Steel Co. and Bechtel before going to work for the National Steel and Shipbuilders Company (NASSCO) in San Diego in 1967 as an Engineer. During his distinguished career with NASSCO he progressively rose in management becoming Vice President (1975), President (1976) and Chief Executive (1977) before retiring from NASSCO in 1986.
This amazing man spent years traveling all over the world, negotiating and networking with big name people within the industry. He and his wife spent time traveling to places like Greece, Rome, Scotland, Japan, London, Ireland and so many more. While in Greece they were given private tours of local vineyards, invited as guests to stay in a giant villa on a secluded beach and treated like family for the duration of their stay. While in Japan they were given accommodations in the private home of the gentleman they were doing business with, excitedly questioned by their family (children and grandchildren) and shared meals with them seated side by side on the floor.
“Business” the way he did it meant you weren’t just shaking hands and signing papers, you were family. You were friends. You were welcomed with open arms. The way he did business was loyal and true. He trusted these people with his company dealings and as part of his family. They would sometimes travel to the United States and would be hosted like family, mirroring his own stay in their home country. Christmas cards, birthday cards, holiday greetings would be exchanged year by year long after he retired… in fact long after he has since passed away (2011).
The reason I go on and on… This amazing man was my grandfather and the man who raised me to be who I am today.
I grew up watching him do business with these people even into his retirement years. He continued to advise the government and other companies working as an independent contractor long after he retired from NASSCO. I remember reading the cards we would get from all over the world. I would excitedly open them and stare at their photos in awe. The culture and lifestyles were so beautifully different, yet my grandfather kept in touch and maintainted a family like bond with many of them. This man shook hands with Ronald Reagan and gave a speech for the Prince of England. This man never made a promise he couldn’t keep and always had an answer to everything. This man taught me about doing the right thing and how to make your impact in the world.
He quietly lead his company through bomb threats & union strikes. He held them together as the calm, firm foundation the same way he held our family together. It didn’t matter the chaos of the world or what was going on outside. He had a plan. He had an answer. And his people trusted him.
It was because of this, I decided one day that when I grow up I want to do ‘business’ the way he did. I want to be trustworthy and loyal. I want to be calm and intentional about my decisions. I want to be able to provide answers to my team if they need anything. I want to provide direction for anyone in my industry that feels lost. I want to welcome you in with open arms. I want you to be part of my family and stay in touch for years to come.
In this modern world of social media-texting-emails-twitter and snapchat, it is SO hard to feel present and truly connected. I was introduced to this guy, Brian Buffini. He is a lovely chap from Ireland who makes me smile as soon as I hear him speak. Listening to his business model and tips for my business I began remembering these goals of mine and how my grandfather made his impact in his industry. Buffini believes in relationship building. This is a process of getting to know people. Being intentional about listening and caring about them. Knowing their likes/dislikes and learning their birthdays/anniversaries. Then you take all this information and be a genuinely good human being.
You call them or send them a hand written card when you see they’ve had a tough day. You send them flowers for their birthday or a giftcard to go out with their spouse on their anniversary. You take time to occassionaly go have coffee or lunch with them to catch up. You take an interest in their lives so you can be present in whatever is going on with them. The big thing that is different here though is you don’t ask them for money, you don’t ask them for their business, you don’t try to sell them anything…. what you DO do is say something like this,
“Oh by the way, I’m never too busy for your referrals!”
My grandfather fostered an atmosphere of trust and genuine loyalty because he was a truly good person. That energy attracted other truly good people who then spent years doing business together and sharing their lives with one another.
So to answer my initial question: Why do I work by referrals?
- This business model would make my grandfather proud.
- It inspires me and challenges me to be a better person/friend.
- I am creating a network of like minded people who will hopefully be a part of my family for years to come.