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December 02, 2006

You Gotta Believe--or just sell shoes, drive cab, whatever.

Why WAC?'s Client Service Model & 12 Rules May Not Work.

Answer: Because people are selfish, and WAC?'s 12 Rules of True Client Service presupposes that people are not selfish--that you and your staff will put clients before yourselves and All Things other than blood, country, God, a job at the White House or dinner with Parker Posey. Conservative humorist and writer P.J. O'Rourke said it best, sort of, in explaining in an article for Rolling Stone Magazine in July of 1995, why he went from National Lampoon to jester for the right:

No child ever wrote Santa, "Bring me, and a bunch of kids I've never met, a pony, and we'll share."

O'Rourke is right, of course. People are selfish. Period.

So there's no point in being nice to anyone, even clients, because it doesn't get you anything today, right?

Well, no, wrong. There's a "blind faith"-based and slightly zen-like remedy for the 12 Rules' blissful ignorance of human nature, and here it is: Rule 13: You Gotta Believe.

Get spiritual, get crazy, but somehow get it. History teaches that only Spiritual or Crazy can truly trump and defeat Selfish. So try one of them--Spiritual or Crazy--in your shop, keeping in mind that may be closely related ("Insanity is half-way to Enlightenment," a mildly crazy Duke religion professor once said.) But seriously, folks...somehow, some way, you and yours must believe that for your business to be what it is supposed to me--and to mean anything at all--the Client is first, right, The Main Asset, It, prime, special, All Things, The One Thing, Center of Cosmos, Alpha, paramount, Godhead, the Big Dog, more-important-than-you, more-important-than-dinner-with-Parker Posey--and the key to your success, wealth and happiness.

The client relationship as a valued asset. You must be willing to sacrifice for it. The idea, and the passion that carries it, can never be the object of derision. It's the one sacred thing. (Nothing else needs to be.) Everyone at your shop must always buy into client service passionately.

It doesn't matter how you get people to buy into client service passion. It just must be real.

You can (a) try hiring or even creating the spiritual Steve Covey-type ("Last night, the Forms of Beauty and Truth appeared to me in a vision, and asked me for alignment of principles with our company's principles, to take place later today, around 2:00 PM in the Lavender Conference Room, and please bring your own toga and sandals...") or (b) take the easier, quicker crazy-about-service route by hiring Wharton, Tuck or Fuqua B-school grads who are already believers ("I'll torture, and then fire, and maybe even kill, anyone who doesn't bend over backwards for every client every moment on my watch...") for whatever reasons, and who are otherwise sane, mainly. It doesn't matter which oddball or zealot you recruit. Just find them. Chances are it can't be taught.

They can be selfish. Even really out there. But they gotta believe in serving clients 24/7.

Anyone who does not buy into true client service must be asked to leave, and leave quickly, without attempts at "rehabilitation". So consider this easy-to-use quick exit interview talk, which you can memorize, and with which we'll conclude:

Dude, Justin[*], you don't believe what we believe about clients, and that's fine. So this is not working out.

Look, we know this firm is not for everyone. You are likely miserable here. We're probably all crazy, Dan Hull, and Julie McGuire, especially--they are real pieces of or work, and especially Hull, what a whackjob, eh? [optional, of course]--but, dude, Justin, real client service is what we really are all about. Julie and Dan are militant about that. They are serious.

Here, client service is not a gimmick or line we tell to clients to get them here. It's something we do ourselves to make them stay here. And it holds everything at Hull McGuire together. It's a religion. Okay, it's a little weird. Extreme. A Passion, Justin. May even be a cult. But there is nothing else. Nothing. Everything flows from it.

Thanks, Justin, and take care.

*All males we fire are named Justin, Brandon or Josh--go figure.

Posted by JD Hull at December 2, 2006 02:06 PM

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