Taking a Flier

Regular ODS readers know that we explore the fundamentals of building personal trusting relationships and at the organization level. Here’s a quick story of what can happen when trust gets ingrained in a company’s psyche. The original story was posted in the RBB blog.

Probing the Soil

plantSeveral months ago I caught wind of a recorded call of a young man who wanted to build a single prototype of a device. The caller was inexperienced and while we treated him courteously, we got off the phone quickly… too quickly for my liking. At first glance it would have been a costly project with little chance of a profitable return on our investment. But I wondered: without investigating would we ever truly know?

I returned the call and a Mom answered. Soon I was talking to a 13 year-old boy named Stan in Iowa. I apologized for RBB’s lack of initial interest and encouraged him to tell me his idea. Surprised but heartened, Stan spoke of a simple pen-sized gadget that people could insert into the soil of their houseplants. A small LED would alert the person that their plant’s soil had dried out enough to require watering. Like you, I immediately saw the utility of the concept!

Sparking an Interest

I could tell from our conversation that the project might take a while and there was no guarantee of success. And when asked how much money he could spend on the effort, Stan said proudly that he had saved sixty dollars, so there was that.

But something in this kid Stan cheered me. Maybe it was his idea, his fresh entrepreneurial spirit (how many 8th graders make such a call?), or his polite Midwestern manner. If I could remotely mentor him a bit, I would enjoy seeing him succeed. Or, through failure, grow. Greatness is fostered in such ways.

I ended that first conversation with a homework assignment for Stan to email me everything he could envision about his idea. While the RBB technical team was busy refining Stan’s concept into a workable prototype, I challenged his thinking about his target market, price, and competitive positioning. These issues are what differentiate a successful launch from merely a good idea. Stan busily set about learning and defining how to proceed. By the time he got his prototype in the mail, he was thinking like a business owner – and I thoroughly enjoyed watching his transformation.

In His Own Words

stanIn lieu of payment we asked Stan to send us a video of his idea in action. If there were any doubts along the way, one glimpse of this bright, articulate young man set them to rest. After killing my own share of houseplants through negligence, I believe Stan’s project has real commercial merit. But regardless of the business viability, I know we made the right decision to invest in him. And we hope his future employer will pay it forward!

Click here for a video of Stan describing his experience.
With positive role modeling and frequent reinforcement, trust can become a way of life. Natural instincts of paranoia and self-centeredness are replaced by faith in others and the future. I wanted to share this story with ODS readers for several reasons.

First, c’mon, you gotta love Stan… and under ‘normal’ business we would not have even met him. Who else might be out there for you and I to encourage?

Second, sometimes all it takes is one spark – and you certainly don’t need to be the CEO to trigger it. Upbeat feelings have spread throughout the company; we’re all rooting for Stan now, and likely you are too. If you are still waiting for permission to take that trusting flier, how come? Only you can grant it.Third – yes, I trust my employees… but that does not preclude me from intervening occasionally. True trust in business is never the blind kind!Finally, the Stan story reminds us that what we teach here are not theories. Trust matters in the real world, with real people – in their lives, businesses and dreams.
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Bruce loves to help people overcome challenges, particularly in leadership, interpersonal relationships and trust. He’s a noted speaker, author, active church member and community volunteer. Bruce’s day job has been to lead RBB since 2001, becoming Owner in 2007.