Always do more than what’s expected by your customers. That’s how people spread the word about you and your business.
Scott has lived in the Washington, DC area for most of his life, growing up in Northern Virginia. He graduated from The College of William and Mary, and started work for CompUSA, a big-box technology retailer, prior to college. He held a variety of store and region sales and operations positions there until 2006, when he left as a Division Director. After that, Scott worked at multiple companies in the retail and mobility sectors, including senior positions at T-Mobile, Zipcar and General Motors. Scott has won numerous awards for increasing sales and customer service while launching new businesses and product lines. His innovations for merchandising and sales training helped produce higher margins and attachment rates at CompUSA, T-Mobile and Zipcar. He currently lives in suburban Maryland with his family and consults for startups looking to build their customer service operations.
Where did the idea for your career come from?
After having spent a great deal of my career in customer-facing roles building great operations, I could help many more companies in a consulting role, sharing my experiences. I have always enjoyed the fast pace of the consumer sector and consulting provides a great variety to my work.
What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?
With two young kids and two active dogs, my day starts early. I’m up by 5:30am-5:45am each morning getting everyone in the house moving, but I’m already thinking about my day over breakfast. I have found that investing some time at the beginning and end of each day about what you did and need to do helps me ensure the most important things get done consistently.
When I’m at work, I try to work on the most challenging things for 60-90 minute stretches separated by small 5 minute breaks to handle email, calls, etc. It keeps me fresh and adds some variety when working on a particularly challenging product or client request. Lunch for me is often a working lunch, so I try to pack it and eat as healthy as possible – it’s tough these days. That being said, it’s important to take 10 minutes to refresh yourself and realign for the back half of the day.
I try to do my most challenging work at the beginning of the day to get a sense of accomplishment and de-stress the rest of my day. I can’t say enough about tackling the hard things first – those are usually what the client or customer is most focused on, and if you have to move deliverables around for smaller items, you’ve established credibility to get the big stones moved.
How do you bring ideas to life?
I like to approach life with a “why not?” attitude – allowing myself to always think of ways to give the customer or client what they want or help them develop solutions to their problems – with an open mind. Too often, we let our experiences create walls that prevent us from thinking in new and innovative ways. And I also love using whiteboards and other visual tools to help convey meaning and purpose when sharing with others, since people learn and communicate in different ways. I always have to know how things work, so using tools such as these allow people to see connections in as much a real way as possible. Throughout the process, you have to give your teams checkpoints to make sure they’re along with you to that point and give them a chance to challenge and ask questions. By doing this, you get much better buy-in from clients and teams, and they can more fully involve themselves in the solution.
What’s one trend that excites you?
I am incredibly excited about the ever-improving ability of retailers to customize my shopping experience in whatever way I interact with them – if I’m in a store, shopping on their website or sending me email. Learning what I like and don’t like based upon my past behaviors has gotten so much more sophisticated, and frankly saves me a lot of time. Retailers need to put in a great deal of work to ensure that the algorithms that make recommendations and suggestions make sense, because I’ve seen more than one that clearly doesn’t understand me. Giving me app reminders when I’m in a store about what I might need based upon what I’ve bought or shopped for in the past is awesome, and it keeps me coming back to the app.
The problem with email as the primary communication route for retailers is that we all get so many emails, and the frequency is often too much, that I might simply unsubscribe. Give me a chance to shape how and how often you communicate with me to help me help you! It’s a massively important way to increase my average order, shopping frequency and loyalty.
What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?
Always be selling and teach your teams to sell – whether it’s talking to a customer, a prospective employee, a vendor, anyone – because sales are your livelihood. You’ve got to bring in revenue any way you can, and people are depending upon you for a paycheck. Even when you’re not selling – for example, when you’re talking to a friend about what you do – you’re selling who you are and what you do in case the need for your product or service ever shows up. People remember friendly, engaging people who present themselves in a memorable way. You never know when that big break can come!
What advice would you give your younger self?
Listen more. When you’ve gotten good at something, it’s very easy to simply tell people how to do things without consider alternatives. There are lots of smart people out there; take advantage of what they know. At the same time, you’re helping and grooming future leaders.
Tell us something that’s true that almost nobody agrees with you on.
I’m not sure why, but no one seems to agree with me that Star Trek is better than Star Wars!
As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?
I recommend everyone read at least 1 book a month. You pick the topic, but rotate them over time and delve into subjects that you don’t ordinarily interest you. I enjoy exposing myself to new things to get different perspectives and learn about stuff I don’t think will apply to my everyday life, because you never know when that topic might come up. It also makes you a more well-rounded person, so if you’re an entrepreneur trying to create connections with a prospective customer, you’ll have more things that can be conversation points.
What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?
Always do more than what’s expected by your customers. That’s how people spread the word about you and your business. And when you make a mistake, over-satisfy them. People remember how problems are resolved, and talk about them a lot more, than just a regular experience.
What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?
When I was helping build a business line in one of my previous roles, I overcommitted purchases from a vendor that didn’t have the best history with us. I thought that this would be the time they deliver. Past experiences are the best predictor of future performance, and when you need to bet a lot on someone, bet it on someone that has been reliable for you but it might be a stretch over someone who has a name or money, but no track record, every time.
What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?
I love to visit the beach, but I hate dragging my family’s things from where we’re staying out to the beach. All the towels, chairs, umbrellas, kids’ toys and such add up quickly, and it’s hard to carry over the sand. Plus, you always forget something, whether it’s once you get to where you’re staying or at the beach itself. I think a company could bring all your things to you from your beach house to the beach, set it up, and then be available to bring things to you. Pure moneymaker!
What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?
I love shirts from Bonobo’s. I bought a great dress shirt from them that fits well and is very durable. It’s no secret that dressing comfortably and well can increase your confidence and bearing, and it does for me.
What is one piece of software or a web service that helps you be productive?
I’m a massive advocate for Trello, a visual collaborative and organizing web-based program. I use it to manage my workday and work on projects and shared goals with others. You can easily manipulate how you work with it and keep documents available for everyone to see and use, and it integrates very well with other programs such as Outlook to automate many processes. It’s designed with how people think in mind – I couldn’t live without it!
What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?
I would recommend “Team of Rivals” by Doris Goodwin. It’s easy for people to idolize Abraham Lincoln for his great accomplishments, but one of his most overlooked ones was how he worked with different types of people from different backgrounds to save this country. It’s a feat that I’m not sure can be duplicated in today’s environment, and teaches great lessons about the power of listening to people that don’t always agree with you to make your decisions better.
What is your favorite quote?
I think often of this quote by Barbara De Angelis: “Love and kindness are never wasted. They always make a difference. They bless the one who receives them, and they bless you, the giver.” No efforts to help others ever go unrewarded.
- Always be thinking about what you’re going to accomplish during each day and be ready to share it. You never know who is going to ask.
- Prioritize relentlessly and don’t be afraid to throw it out the window for the right opportunity.
- Invest in your people. They’ll always be your biggest asset, more than products or technology. When the system crashes and the phones don’t work, you want people that will go to the mat for you because they believe in the business as much as you.
Steve (Stefan) Junge hails from Germany and helps with the day-to-day publishing of interviews on IdeaMensch. While he and Mario don’t share a favorite soccer club, their enthusiasm to help entrepreneurs is a shared passion.