Just before Thanksgiving Day last year, Judy (my wife of 47 years) and I flew to
to attend a birthday party. There were no candles on the birthday cake, yet there were lots of kids at the party. The house was packed with family to honor Vernon Cavill, the birthday boy. OK, at 85 years old maybe “boy” is a stretch. It was a frigid cold November day in Salt Lake City for the day Salt Lake—yet just the day before, Vernon was out playing golf. He was still fit, friendly and fond of every living soul he ever met. That’s why Judy and I went to his party—to tell him how much we loved him.
Who’s this old guy anyway? You probably don’t know him and most likely never will, and that’s too bad. Because for the 40+ years I’ve known him, not once did I ever hear anyone say a bad word about Vernon Cavill.
When I met him over 40 years ago he was just my Sales Manager and I was a first year ex-construction worker, with no formal education, shy and self-conscious. Oh, we were also expecting our first baby, we were broke, and I was scared to death I'd never amount to anything.
Do you remember a time in your life when you felt frightened? Uncertain of your future? Lacking in self-confidence? Most people have times in their lives when they are doubtful, fearful or unsure of themselves. In fact, someone you know right now might be in that position. They might need the help of a Corporate Angel—like
Vernon Cavill was to me many years ago.
As the meeting closed and people began leaving, Vernon called me over and said: “Well what do you think Joel, will you earn a watch?”
"Oh, yes, sir."
“Good, which one do you like?”
"Oh, that gold-plated one with the stretch band."
“Good,” he said. Then he paused and said: “I know you can get ten sales.”
“Thanks for the support” I said.
As I was leaving, he said: “In three weeks come and see me and tell me how you did.”
Oh, boy, now I was really on the spot. I had made a commitment and
Vernon was going to hold me accountable for my performance. I was motivated, enthusiastic, goal directed, had a deadline and was excited about the end result. I worked long and hard. I felt I did everything I could to achieve my goal, and yet I failed. Now it was time to face Vernon. He welcomed me with his glowing angelic smile and softly said: “How did you do?”
“Not good enough,” I said sadly. “I only got eight.”
Without changing his tone or his mood,
Vernon quietly said: “Let’s go over your activity and results for these three weeks. Show me what you did and tell me about the eight sales you made, and about the other presentations you made but didn’t sell.”
It seemed like I was on trial for my life—oh, not because he was judging me, but because I was judging myself. I could see where I went wrong and where my lack of product knowledge, qualifying skills and ability to answer customer objections was lacking. After what seemed like hours (it was actually about 30 minutes) Vernon leaned back in his chair and said the words that helped me alter my life. Yes, his action was life changing to me.
Before I tell you what he did, come to his birthday party with me 40 years later. I was reminding him why I so loved him and respected him. "It was because of the lesson of the watch," I said.
Vernon smiled that angelic smile and said: “What watch?”
“The gold-plated watch—when I first worked for you, Vernon.” At 85 years young, was he losing his memory? No, he wasn't. He just never stored the memory of that brief meeting with some young sales guy who was one of just hundreds he’d been responsible for years ago. He had no memory of the watch contest, our meeting or what he had done that changed my life when he leaned back in his big leather chair and said....
Wait! You finish the story!
- Did Vernon say: “Hey, the rules were ten sales in three weeks—you got eight. You failed to qualify. Tough luck, but that’s how life is—you don’t always get what you want!”
Vernon didn’t say that! So did he say…
- “The rules were ten sales in three weeks. You got eight, but hey, you busted your butt. You worked evenings and Saturdays and you sold more than you ever had before. Since I’m the boss, I’m going to give you the watch because you made such an extra effort. Here’s the gold plated watch.”
That would seem to be an angelic approach, and very realistic for
Vernon to do. But he didn’t do that either! What he did was life changing and will remain with me forever.
He said: “Joel, I know you worked hard these past three weeks and I sense your disappointment. You made eight and that’s the most you've ever sold. But I know you can sell ten in three weeks! So here’s what we’ll do. Starting today you and I will have our own contest. You get ten sales in three weeks and I’ll get you that watch—OK?” And we shook hands.
Well, I didn't get ten sales, I got twelve! And of course, he gave me the watch. It’s been in my desk drawer for quite some time now. It doesn’t work and the band is all rusted. So why do I still love that watch? Because of what it symbolizes---the power of belief
Vernon had in me—when I didn’t even believe in myself. From that time on my confidence soared! My attitude became so positive. I was on fire! His "wisdom of the watch" helped me become, by year end, the number one salesperson in his entire operation, and a lifelong friend as well.
Here’s what you can do:
- Who needs you to believe in them right now? A family member? A friend? An employee? A business associate? For you it could be a very little thing. For them, it could impact the rest of their life!
- Sometimes you have to change the rules of the game. Not every situation or person is the same. Think of how you can impact each individual you’re involved with in a way that’s best for them.
- Think back in your career to an event that impacted your life dramatically and if that person is still alive, go to their birthday party and say: “Thank you!”