Remembering My Father, Celebrating Book Lover’s Day

August 9 is birthdate of my father, who was born in 1927.

It’s also Book Lover’s Day.

Those two seemingly incongruent circumstances actually have a powerful connection for me.

After suffering a major stroke on February 10, 2012, my father passed away on February 25. By the time I was able to get back to Tennessee to see him, he had lost motor functions and speech capacity. Over the few days I was there, the slow but steady decline continued.

I had last seen him during the Christmas holidays. While there, I spent some time alone at home with him. After suffering a series of strokes over the past several years, he could no longer read – but the legacy of his reading lines the bookshelves all over my boyhood home. In the quiet hours when everyone was asleep, I scanned the shelves and remembered hearing him talk about this book or that one. I pulled a few off the shelf, and opening them, was instantly transported back in time to a conversation about the subject, or to memories of the event itself.

I’ve been a reader of books since, well, before I can remember. My father was an avid reader, and he passed that passion along to me at an early age. Even though he worked 6 days a week, 12 hours a day, he often spent several hours reading at night. He insisted my mother take my brother and me to the library in the next town and check out books – every two weeks. I would get the maximum number of books, take them home, and read them – usually in the first day or two. Then it would be an impatient wait till the next library trip.

Reading is a passion I treasure, and one that I am thankful my father instilled in me.

Sunday 8/9 will be Book Lover’s Day – not an official holiday but one I eagerly celebrate. Book reading is a great hobby. It’s an important one, too. Employers look for it on resumes. Reading is educational, informative, and relaxing. It makes us both smarter and happier people.

Book Lovers Day is a great day to celebrate. Just grab an interesting book, find a quiet, cozy place, and crack open the cover. Celebrating Book Lovers Day in August is pleasurable on the deck, under a shady tree, poolside, or in a cozy hammock. If you fall asleep while reading, that’s okay. It’s all part of the relaxing benefits of being a book lover.

I’m also celebrating this Book Lover’s Day as a part of my vocation – Vision Room Curator and Digital Engagement Leader at Auxano. My role requires me to read – a lot – and then write book excerpts, Tweets, Facebook posts, and blogs about what I’m reading. During a recent conversation with a teammate, I was able to pull a half-dozen book titles off the top of my head when asked for recommendations on books about a specific topic that helped him work with a client. That’s part of the benefit of reading!

I love my job!

Here’s an example:

I love (and practice) the 4 different levels of reading as espoused by Mortimer Adler in his great book, How to Read a Book, but I really like to latch onto a topic and practice Syntopical Reading. Also known as comparative reading, it is where many books are read, and placed in relation to one another and to a subject about which they all revolve.

For the last several months, that topic has been “Hospitality in the Home,” and my current tower shelf of syntopical reading in the topic is at 127 books – and I’ve still got some more coming in!

In addition to the pure enjoyment of reading on the subject, these books formed the basis of a month-long emphasis at Auxano entitled “Building Bridges to Your Neighbors.” The content produced by this reading includes two emails, two feature articles, a webinar, an eBook, and countless social media posts.

Here’s a partial view of those books; the tower is out of room and another dozen or so are on a nearby file cabinet:

In addition to this special project, another ongoing syntopical project of sorts is SUMS Remix.

Issue #151, shipping next week, is the most recent one, published every two weeks over the last six years. Those 151 issues represent 452 books. The format of SUMS Remix is simple: one problem statement faced by church leaders, 3 brief excepts from books that provide a solution to the problem, and 3 ready-to-use applications for leaders to try out immediately. You can find out more and purchase an annual subscription to SUMS Remix here.

With an issue published every two weeks, a two-week production cycle, and a two-week preparation phase, at any given time I’m working on at least 4 SUMS Remix issues, which means there are 12 books on my front burner.

And that’s just for SUMS Remix reading…

Then there’s current reading for Auxano social media (Tweets, Instagram, and Facebook posts), preparation for Guest Experience development and consultations, other writing projects, and believe it or not, reading just for the pleasure of reading – a nightly occurrence. Currently a few topics I’m reading in include restaurants, food, and related areas; the psychology behind our bias; the development of U.S. culture from the 1600s through today; and of course, there’s always some Disney history in the mix!

So, on Book Lover’s Day, and in memory of my father, I’m trying to emulate Thomas Edison, who believed that voracious reading was the key to self-improvement. He read books on a remarkable range of subjects to address his endless queries. As Edison noted, “I didn’t read a few books, I read the library.”


If you want to know more about my dad, here is the eulogy I gave at his funeral. After the funeral, while my sons and I were moving some things around his gas station, I discovered one reason I am so passionate about guest experiences. And read this post to find out why readers are leaders.

How are you celebrating Book Lover’s Day?

The Love-Hate Confessions of a Horizontal Organizer

or, the domino effect in action.

courtesy Jeffrey Pioquinto CC 90412460@N00

courtesy Jeffrey Pioquinto CC 90412460@N00

A few years ago, my wife and I replaced our antique brass bed with a new bed. That led to a minor redecorating of our bedroom, which led to a major effort to simplify life in our house. As parents of four, but on the verge of being empty nesters, we decided to reduce our furniture footprint, change our room use around, and redecorate our house.

After a few trips to Goodwill to donate furniture, we had a working kitchen with plenty of space for 3 chefs at a time, a home office tucked away to one side, and an island for casual eating for 3. The family room acquired a new media center, much smaller than the previous one. The built-in book shelves were cleaned up, organized, and looked great. Free standing bookshelves were rearranged and relocated. New furniture was chosen and delivered to create a simple, clean look. The original dining room – our computer room and my office for 9 years – was returned to a dining room furnished with art from several Charleston trips. One of the front bedrooms – our daughter’s – became known as the Disney Princess room, decorated with Disney art and a Lego Disney Castle, all just waiting for our three granddaughters to visit. The other front bedroom became a mini-den, with two recliners and a small table with a large monitor for a temporary-as-neededed workstation. The entire downstairs ceilings were stripped of that awful popcorn ceiling and painted. All of the downstairs rooms were painted in shades of grey. My office was relocated upstairs to what was originally a bedroom for two of our sons, and also fulfills a guest bedroom role.

Therein lies the problem.

I’m a reader, researcher, writer, and editor for Auxano’s Vision Room. My title is Vision Room Curator, which is a really cool title, but functionally I read, research, and write – a lot of all three. Which involves books – lots of them (even in the digital reader age). And project files (I’m trying to go digital, but it’s taking awhile). More books, as in book towers – one for each year of SUMS Remix. And visual learning objects – lots of Disney items including a Sorcerer Mickey hat and Mickey hands; gas station memorabilia; Starbucks cups and barista training materials; pirate gear and props, etc. – all related to projects I’m currently working on. Then there’s special family photos, challenge coins and patches of my Air Force son’s career, and did I mention books?

My name is Bob, and I’m a horizontal organizer.

I like the things I am working on spread out on a surface in front of me, where they can beckon me to continue working on them. Efficiency experts and time management gurus live in a world of vertical file management and a digital, paperless world, but me – not so much.

As a horizontal organizer, I am at a situational disadvantage. The whole world is set up to help keep vertically organized people on top of things. On the other hand, all my work is on top of things – my desk(s), the tops of filing cabinets, bookshelves, the nearby futon (I’m getting better, Anita – I really am!), and the floor.

As you have no doubt heard, a messy desk spread thick with paper and stacked high with books is the sign of a genius at work.

At least that’s what I tell myself.

The relocation of my office from the main level of our home to the second floor has had many benefits, not the least of which is increased domestic tranquility – a phrase not exclusively limited to governmental issues by any means. Because of my tendencies towards horizontal organization – actually, more like a full-out embrace – my working office is out of sight, but not out of mind – the office must also remain a guest room (but give me a couple hours notice, please, to ahem – rearrange things).

I’m sure I’ve got some resources somewhere around here on how to accomplish both…

Now – where did I put that book?

Special thanks to my youngest son Aaron, who in his senior year in college pointed me to the book The Art of Procrastination, by John Perry. After he bought the book, read it, and wrote a paper on procrastination the day it was due, he gave it to me to read.

Through it, I was introduced to the concept of horizontal organization. I’m looking forward to finding out more about Structured Procrastination, To-Do Lists, Procrastination as Perfectionism, and other strategies for the serial procrastinator.

In the meantime…

Recently, I became aware of another book with a similar topic: Soon: An Overdue History of Procrastination, from Leonardo and Darwin to You and Me. Author Andrew Santella explores a diverse group of individuals, from Charles Darwin to Leonardo Da Vinci to Frank Lloyd Wright, to ask why so many of our greatest inventors, artists, and scientists have led double lives as committed procrastinators. Here’s a couple of quotes:

In the process of trying to avoid one task, I was in fact completing many other tasks. Even procrastinators can become task-oriented, when the task they are oriented to is procrastinating.

Procrastination is really a kind of time travel, an attempt to manipulate time by transferring activities from the concrete past to an abstract future.

Indeed.

Make Your 2nd Half of Marriage a Time of Incredible Fulfillment

The second half of your marriage (when the kids leave home, and/or when you are helping with your own parent’s lifestyle decisions) can be a time of incredible fulfillment, no matter what challenges you previously faced.

It can be a time of learning about each other and about God’s long-term plans for your marriage. And a time of building together – sharing dreams, making commitments, and working towards a more satisfying union.

Having just celebrated my 38th anniversary on December 8, I sought out resources to help answer this question:

How can we make the second half of our marriage even better than the first?

David and Claudia Arp’s book “The Second Half of Marriage” has provided a lot of helpful guidance in starting out on the journey of the second half of marriage. Yesterday, I posted four strategies they outline in their book. Here, in their own words, are the final four:

  1. Build a deeper friendship and enjoy your spouse. Now is a great time to deepen your friendship with each other and stretch your boundaries to prevent boredom. Think of ways to put more fun in your marriage.
  2. Renew romance and restore a pleasurable sexual relationship. Many people assume that as people grow older they lose interest in sex, but our survey results suggest otherwise. The quality of your love life is not so much a matter of performance as it is an integral part of the relationship. Take care of your health and renew romance even while acknowledging the inevitable changes that come with aging.
  3. Adjust to changing roles with aging parents and adult children. Release your children, then reconnect with them on an adult level. At the same time, your relationship with your parents may need a little altering, too. The effort you expend in forging better relationships with loved ones on both ends of the generational seesaw is well worth it.
  4. Evaluate where you are on your spiritual pilgrimage. Research indicates that most people, as they age and consider death, become more religious because they think more about what it all means. Why not consider this time of transition as an opportunity to talk more openly and regularly about your relationship with Christ: what it means, why it matters, and what it means for your marriage? Take time to serve others, too, and pass along some of the wisdom you have gained.

In addition to the wealth of material in the book, the Arps provide additional resources through their Marriage Alive website.


And now for the whole picture of our wedding party – December 8, 1979, at First Baptist Church, Goodlettsville, TN.

It’s day 13,882 for Anita and me – and our journey together continues!

How to Make a Great Second Half of Marriage

Happy Anniversary, Anita!

How can you make the second half of your marriage better than the first?

That question is always in the back of our mind as Anita and I celebrate our 38th anniversary today, December 8, 2017. Loosely defined, the second half of marriage comes when your kids have left home; it may also be marked by decisions a couple is making about their parent’s health and lifestyle.

We’ve got both.

I found a great resource to help begin charting this journey: David and Claudia Arp’s wonderful book The Second Half of Marriage. In their own words, here are the first four (of eight) strategies that will help every long-term couple make the most of their marriage:

  1. Let go of past marital disappointments, forgive each other and commit to making the rest of your marriage the best. Are you willing to let go of unmet expectations and unrealistic dreams? Or your mate’s little irritating habits that don’t seem to be disappearing? Giving up lost dreams and overlooking each other’s imperfections are positive steps toward forgiving past hurts and moving on in your marriage.
  2. Create a marriage that is partner-focused rather than child-focused. The tendency, once the kids leave, is to focus on new activities rather than on each other, but these activities can keep you from crafting a more intimate relationship. Try to focus more time and attention on your spouse.
  3. Maintain effective communication that allows you to express your deepest feelings, joys and concerns. Sometimes what worked when the kids were home doesn’t work as well now that the kids are gone. After all, you always had the children to talk about. Now that it’s just the two of you, you might need to upgrade your communication skills.
  4. Use anger and conflict creatively to build your relationship. With the kids gone, many couples find that issues they assumed were resolved resurface. Certain negative patterns of interaction that developed over the years can be deadly for an empty-nest marriage. Learn how to deal with issues and process anger in ways that build your relationship.

Tomorrow, the other four strategies from “The Second Half of Marriage”, as well as some other resources and ideas.

But in the meantime, I have the most beautiful bride ever:

She still is!

13,881 days and counting!!

 

 

Celebrate Freedom

I have always loved history. Not many accounting majors have a minor in US History; the same goes for a Masters in Administration and Communication with a minor in Baptist History. But of all the history periods, I think the American Revolution is my favorite.

This time of the year – approaching July 4th – is a time to read the Declaration of Independence, sections of the Federalist Papers, and Common Sense.

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For me, Independence Day now carries a different meaning.

My son is in the Air Force. He’s been deployed twice in the last three years.

While my father and father-in-law served in WWII and the years afterwards, and several cousins were in Viet Nam, somehow it’s all very personal now.

America celebrates 241 years as a nation this July 4th, even though the independence we celebrate was not settled for another seven years after the signing of the Declaration of Independence. In the many years since we have gone through a devastating civil war, numerous regional wars, two World Wars, a Cold War, and are continuing a global war on terror that has no end in sight.

It seems that to have peace you must have war.

I pray for my son every day, for safety as he performs his duty. I know that he has been trained and prepared to do his best, and give his all, for his family and his country. While it is a sacrifice he is prepared to make daily, I hope he never has to.

Hundreds of thousands of men and women have made that sacrifice since 1776, and continue to do so to this day.

So when you celebrate freedom this July 4th, never forget the price others have paid.

 

 

 

Do You Have the Courage to Leave a Legacy?

Eulogy given at my father’s funeral, March 1, 2012. I usually repost it every year on the date of his birth, August 9. This year, a Facebook post sent to me by my wife and daughter reminded me of one of my dad’s favorite things to do for kids – so here it is again in his memory.

During the past few days I have been reminded in powerful ways that even though you may go away from a place, it’s always home.

Last night, over 750 guests came by to visit with my family. We saw friends of four years – and of four decades. Multiple generations of “customers” of my dad came by to pay their respects. From four to ninety-four, our family and friends came…

On behalf of my family, I want to thank all of you for your kind words, gestures, and acts of love.  We are humbled by your actions, and thank you for honoring the memory of my father, Doc Adams.

My memories of my father span the 54 years of my life – and each memory has a special significance. A father means one thing to a 3-year-old, another to a 13-year-old, and another to a 33-year-old. They are all special.

But today I remember my father in terms of being a grandfather. I am reminded of times with my grandfather and also how my dad played with his grandchildren.

My paternal grandfather died when I was an infant; my maternal grandfather lived in Missouri. When he moved into the small apartment next to my house during my early teenage years, I remember fishing and hunting with “Pappy.” I think that established in me what grandfathers did.

Later on, after marriage and the start of my own family, since my father was still working during my kids’ early years, trips to Grandpa’s house always included driving the mower; pumping gas at the gas station; feeding the birds; and reading books. Later when he retired and the kids were older those kinds of things expanded, but he was always reflecting a spirit of giving to others.

So here I am in 2012, finding myself a grandfather – actually, a GrandBob – twice (now, 4 times!) and it seems things are the same. The kids probably get more sugar, less sleep, and more attention than they should – but I don’t remember it permanently damaging me or my kids, so who am I to break with tradition?

The point of all this long discourse: A lot has changed in the decades of grandparenting I’ve been a part of: first as a recipient, then as an observer, and now as a practitioner. But one thing remains the same. 

Grandparents love their grandchildren, and through that love, cherish their children in a different way, as parents, and bearers of a legacy to a new generation.

That’s a legacy I cherish.

At my father’s celebration service, we showed a video clip that included him saying “I never made much money, but I made a lot of friends, and that’s what’s important.”

It reminded me of comments made by my dad when he would buy something for himself – which wasn’t very often: “I hope you don’t mind me spending your inheritance.”

When you put those two comments together, I think you have a perfect expression of what my father meant to our family – and to his church, community, and friends.

A huge difference exists between a legacy and an inheritance. Anyone can leave an inheritance. An inheritance is something you leave to your family or loved ones. A legacy is something you leave in your family and loved ones. While it hard work and success may lead to an inheritance, it takes courage through a lifetime to leave a legacy.

 Inheritance

  • Something tangible you give to others
  • Temporarily brings them happiness
  • Eventually fades as it is spent
  • Your activity may or not may pay off

Legacy

  • Something tangible you place in others
  • Permanently transforms them
  • Lives on long after you die
  • Your activity becomes achievement

What would you rather leave: an inheritance or a legacy?

I am reminded me of a quote attributed to Winston Churchill which I think reflects my father’s spirit and actions, and is backed up by the presence of hundreds at his celebration service today:

We make a living by what we get; we make a life by what we give.

Giving is very much the legacy of my father, and what I want to leave with you today.

DumDum(Family and friends leaving the celebration service were given a Dum Dum sucker.)

Your smiles in the audience tell me most of you know what this means; for those of you that don’t, it’s very simple.

Kids of all ages who came by my father’s gas station received a Dum Dum sucker from my father. It was just a simple act, but one that reverberates in my spirit to this day.

Serve people with a smile, and then give them a little extra.

Enjoy the Dum Dum or give it away.

Either is okay: keep it for comfort or a memory of Doc, or give it to someone in memory of Doc.

Give away a smile today.

That’s the legacy of Doc Adams that we all can pass on.

It Doesn’t Take a Magic Mirror to See the Past in Your Face

courtesy Paulin'a CC

courtesy Paulin’a CC

Whose face do you see when you look in the mirror?

Recently I went on a business trip that’s took me through 4 airports, 3 rental cars, a subway ride, 3 hotels, and more lines than I care to recall. While I was waiting in those lines, I looked in a lot of faces, and heard lots of conversations. One conversation in particular stands out – two young women in their early 20s were behind me talking about another person. I wasn’t eavesdropping, but voices in a jet way are quite clear. The comment that stopped me? “Yeah, he’s 35 you know, and that’s like, you know, old.”

I’m over two decades past the age of 35, and I obviously have a different outlook on life than those two young women. Or do I?

I’m not normally the type that looks at myself in a mirror. But this comment, along with comments from my colleagues I had not seen in several months made me look in the mirror in the hotel that night. Just who was that looking back at me?

The face I saw was that of my father. Even though he passed away four years ago, I still have vivid memories of him. Going places he’d been, seeing things he had talked about, reading about things he was interested in – my memories are constant, and good.

This morning, I looked long in the mirror and the vision I saw was that of my father, coming into focus like a picture being developed right in front of my eyes.

Thought of another way, however, that familiar face embedded in my mind morphed into my son’s and then into his son’s – my grandson. Like a modern day mashup, those collections of lives lived, and yet to live, offer a considerable span of history. A long life lived, a life at halftime, a life in early adulthood, and a life just beginning – that’s quite a few faces in the mirror.

It doesn’t take a magic mirror to see the past in your own face, or wonder about the future in the face of your children and grandchildren.

Who knows when you will glance into a mirror and meet a past you hadn’t expected and weren’t ready for, or a future that is yet to come.

Look in the mirror – what do you see?

My 5 Generation Family is a Microcosm of Society

The legions of ancient Rome were composed of ten cohorts each: cohesive units of 300-600 men who trained, ate, slept, fought, won, lost, lived, and died together. The strength was their ability to think, act, and react as a unit. Though composed of individuals, training and socialization equipped them to behave as if of a single mind when called to battle. Social demographers, students of the effects of population on society, use the term cohort to refer to people born in the same general time span who share key life experiences – from setting out for school for the first time together through reaching puberty at the same time, to entering the workforce or university or marriage or middle age or their dotage at the same time.

The five primary generations of today’s American lifestyle span a remarkable slice of American and world history. Three major wars, countless minor (?) ones, economic booms and busts, social upheavals, rocketing technological achievement, and even stepping beyond our planet are among the milestones that have directly and indirectly shaped the times.

I count myself fortunate to have a direct connection to all five generations. To me, understanding more about how each of them think, feel, and act is not just a mental exercise – it’s necessary part of life.

  • Veterans (1922-1945) My father and mother were born into the early part of this cohort. He entered military service just as WWII was ending; she was in college and then taught school; they were part of what some call “The Greatest Generation”. Think “American values” and you’ve got their number: civic pride, loyalty, respect for authority, and apple pie. My father passed away in 2012, and my mother is in declining health now. But as a cohort, their generation may be moving into their twilight years, but they still control a significant part of the economy and will continue to be influential in the years ahead.
  • Baby Boomers (1946-1964) I am a late Baby Boomer. Born in 1958, I am a part of what was until recently the largest cohort in US history. For over thirty years, the sheer size of the Boomer generation defined the organization’s social landscape in a majority-rules cultural takeover. We were the civil rights, empowerment, and diversity generation. Never content with the status quo, we are always redefining what it means to be old and cool and important and successful.
  • Generation X (1965-1981) My oldest son and one of my daughters-in-law are Xers, even though they sometimes exhibit characteristics of the next cohort as well. Technologically adept, clever, and resourceful, the Xers are a deeply segmented, fragmented cohort. Their need for feed back and flexibility, coupled with the dislike of close supervision is but one of the many complex nuances of this generation. They are all about change- they’ve changed cities, homes, and even parents all their lives. Often seen as pessimistic with an edgy skepticism, many Xers are more positive about their personal future than the group as a whole.
  • Millennials (1982-2000) My other three children, a daughter-in-law, and a son-in-law all fall into this cohort. They are the children of the soccer moms and little League dads, and endless rounds of swim meets, karate classes, dancing lessons, computer camp and … you get the picture. They consider themselves the smartest, cleverest, healthiest and most-wanted group to have ever lived. Born into the technology boom times, barriers of time and space have little absolute meaning to them. They are willing to work and learn. By sheer numbers (their total births eclipsed the Boomers by several million) they are going to dominate history in new ways. They are the hyper-connected: constantly connected to multiple devices in order to know what and whom they need to know.
  • Generation Y (born after 2001) Just now entering into the teenage years, sociologists have little hard data yet. But it is the generation of my four grandchildren, and it is important to me! There are some indications that generational cohorts repeat every four generations, so we’ll just have to see. At least from my viewpoint, their generation will be about social technologies, a decreasing importance of the US, and a growing global awareness.

An interesting fact, and the origin of the title of this website: there are 27 years between each of the above generations in my family, thus 27gen.

The next five to ten years are going to be very interesting as each of these five generations exert influence on each other. I will be actively watching my own microcosm of society!

AdamsFamily5314

Marking Milestones

It‘s a week for marking educational milestones at the Adams’ house.

ADA-JWU2

Our youngest son graduates from college this week, and that marks the end of “school” for our children. Anita and I have four children, who were born four years apart. From the beginning of kindergarten for our oldest son to graduation from college for our youngest, we have been in “school” for 29 years.

That’s a lot of school!

By the numbers:

Elementary and Secondary Schools

  • 25 years of public schools
  • 11 different schools in 3 states
  • Shortest – ½ year at kindergarten in KY
  • Longest – 16 years (all 4 kids) at North Mecklenburg High School in Huntersville

University and Graduate School

  • 16 years of college
  • 5 different universities in one state
  • 1 graduate school
  • Shortest – 1 semester at UNCC
  • Longest – 11 years (2 kids) at Campbell University, including 3 years of graduate school

When we started our parenting journey in 1981, we didn’t set out to achieve these milestones. We didn’t know what was in store for us. Milestones are reached with small, consistent achievements that, when added up over a 29-year span, equal something big.

Our oldest son, now 34 and a father of 2 himself, started kindergarten in the fall of 1986. That was the first milestone in a long line. Parents and child alike look forward to those first days of school.

Now fast-forward to May 23, 2015. Our youngest son, now 22, will be graduating from college. In between were another son (now 30 and married with a 2 daughters) and a daughter (now 26 and married), who graduated from divinity school last year. Add it all together and you have consistent work along the way and before you know it – a milestone.

Milestones are accomplished over time from achievement after achievement. Showing up every day for class. Homework papers turned in. Quizzes and tests to study for. Projects, big and small, completed on time (most of the time).

If you’re going to reach a milestone, think one day at a time, not 29 years of days.

I’m proud of all my kids. They finished school; now their education really begins.

Customer Service is Never Out of Date – or Out of Place

Epiphany at the Gas Pump

Regular readers of this blog know of my borderline fanaticism in the area of Guest Services related to ChurchWorld. Some leaders cringe at those words, but the fact is people who come to church are consumers, and leaders in ChurchWorld can learn a lot from good customer service practices wherever they find them – even in a 1946 training manual for Gulf Dealers.

In a recent conversation with a friend, I was asked the question, “Where does your passion for Guest Experiences come from?”

The answer to that question became a little clearer in the last week.

My father.

My father passed away in 2012, and recent changes in my mother’s health required that she move out of the house in which she and my father had started their family in 1954. Over the last week, as my brother and I were going through the process of moving her from her home of 61 years, I took great delight in looking through some of the items my dad had saved and stored over his life. When I found this manual pictured below, I knew it would become a special part of my Guest Services resources.

After my father was discharged from the Army Air Corps following WWII, he worked at several jobs before he and his brotherGulf Service Plan 1 built a Gulf Service Station outside of Nashville TN. My father operated it for 44 years, closing it when he retired in 1993. Growing up in that gas station (literally – our house was about 100 feet away) I learned a lot about how to deal with people by watching my father interact with his “customers.” What I didn’t realize until recently was that his natural, easygoing style was augmented by customer service training materials supplied by the Gulf Oil Company.

It seems that good service is never out of date.

Notice the red dotted line around the vehicle – that’s the suggested travel path for the service man – or two – to take when a customer pulled up to the gas pumps to have gasoline put into his tank (I realize many readers have no clue nor experience of this, but it did happen!). Starting by engaging the driver, here are a few of the suggestions for engaging the customer:

  • Always be prompt – the service plan starts when you see a customer driving into your station. Whenever possible, be alert and at his side when his car stops, ready to greet him.
  • Greet the customer – your greeting is your first important step in showing courtesy to the customer, and it should be friendly, cheerful, and always in your own words.
  • Acknowledge the other customer – when a second car drives in, you should immediately recognize the other customer and saying you’ll be right with him. This kind of greeting pays off because you not only please the customer who is waiting but you also please the customer you are waiting on, who notices that you are courteous to others.
  • Improve the rear view – while you are at the rear of the vehicle putting gas in, wipe the rear window and tail lights. Should a light be out, call it to the attention to your customer at the proper time.
  • Look at those tires – while you are back there, take a look at both rear tires for cuts, blisters under inflation, etc. and make a mental note to tell your customer before he leaves your station.
  • Work to the front end – walk around the right side, cleaning the right windshield, checking the wiper blades, and inspecting the front tires.
  • Under the hood – check the oil and water levels; it’s your responsibility to protect your customer’s car. If any is needed, ask him if you may bring the levels up to the correct level.
  • Keep alert under the hood – while you have the hood open, keep alert for other service needs. Train yourself to quickly observe all needs, informing the customer as appropriate.
  • Collect for the sale – it is important to give the customer the right change, so count the change back into his hand. If he is using a credit card (yes, they had those in 1946!), learn to fill out the invoice quickly and accurately.
  • Courtesy is pleasant – before your customer leaves the station thank him and ask him to come in again. By this time you should have learned his name, so make it personal.
  • Help him safely on his way – if your station is on a busy street where it’s difficult to get into traffic, give your customer a hand. Guide him into the moving traffic safely. He may not expect this added courtesy, but he’ll be glad to get it and remember it. Every courteous act will be appreciated by your customers, and make them regular patrons of your station.

And a closing reminder:

With the Gulf Service Plan, every time you do some little service for the customer, it makes him realize that you know your business, and that you’re looking after his welfare. These services keep your customer coming back again and again. Good will – the tendency of the motorist to return to a place where he has been well-treated – is being created every time you give him not only what he wants, but what he needs. He remembers you are the man who looks after his best interests by taking good care of one of his most prized possessions – his car.

To all of us who live in 24/7, always-connected world, the actions above probably seem like a throwback or an anachronism of the good old days.

I happen to think they are a timeless reminder that service still matters – especially in ChurchWorld, where there is no “product” per se, but the outcome of the interactions with our Guests may be eternal.

Thanks Dad, for the lessons you taught me even when I didn’t realize it, and for the lessons you still teach me after you’re gone.