Up Close

Up Close by Dr. Robert Gerwig

Ever had a Starbucks? … It could’ve been a triple (espresso) macchiato, a chocolate frappuccino, a vanilla latte or any number of specially made coffee (or non-coffee) concoctions. Starbucks has grown rapidly over the years and has expanded globally at a phenomenal pace. Though many might argue, I believe Starbucks is largely responsible for good coffee in the US. If it weren’t for Starbucks, could you get a good cappuccino at McDonalds, Krispy Kreme or even 7-Eleven? No. Plain and simple, the answer is no.

Like it or not, Starbucks helped bring good coffee to the masses (at least in the US). I love buying Starbucks for colleagues as a small “thank you.” It’s always well-received. Have you ever turned away a Starbucks drink? … Over the years, I’ve given away or shared hundreds of Starbucks drinks with others. It’s a great way to build relationships, help others feel important and get a little caffeine. I generally keep fresh Starbucks coffee in my office for visitors, employees and anyone else who happens to stop by.

Without going into the entire history of Starbucks, I’ll just say that it (more or less) started in Seattle (where they still have their corporate HQ) in a store at Pike Place Market in downtown Seattle overlooking the waterfront. Whenever I’m in Seattle, I try to make it by the original store, buy a triple macchiato (my favorite – 3 shots of espresso dropped into frothed milk).

Recently, I had the privilege of finding myself in Seattle and walking out of the original store with a triple macchiato in my hand. It was a beautiful morning and I had a bit of time before making my way to the airport. As I walked around the market, I thought about Seattle and its proclivity for creative, cutting-edge business. Without conducting a quantitative analysis, it seems that Seattle has a high density of businesses that are “cool” and successful. To name a few: Starbucks, REI, Amazon, Nordstrom, Microsoft and the Seattle Sounders (who just landed Clint Dempsey from Tottenham). These organizations are successful and full of smart people.

While browsing the market, I noticed some hanging peppers. I tried to get up close and capture all the brilliant colors. The peppers made my mouth water. Up close, the peppers looked even better than they had at a distance. As I made my way toward the fish and flower vendors, I thought about the peppers, successful Seattle businesses and leadership.

Up close, the hanging peppers looked great. They even looked better than they had when I first noticed them across the street. How about the Seattle-based businesses? Did they look better up close or far away? What do the employees, suppliers, customers and communities say about these companies? Are they “truly” great companies? I hope so. As a long-time customer of REI, Starbucks and Amazon, I’d vote “yes.” The more I get to know these organizations, the more respect I have for them. They walk the talk. They offer great customer service and a quality product/service. They look good up close.

However, the real question is how do YOU look up close? What about me? We might appear one way on the surface, but what do those that know us best say? Our family? Our friends? Our work colleagues? … You see, it’s easier to look good on the outside than it is to look good on the inside, up close. When I receive feedback (positive or negative) from someone who doesn’t know me well, interact with me frequently or has never met me, I view it one way. When someone who knows me intimately, has worked by my side for years and seen me go through the ups and downs of life/business, provides feedback, I listen. Really, really listen.

Forget the critics, what do those closest to you say about your performance? Your character? Your strengths? Your development opportunities? What do you say? If you’re a person of faith, what is God saying? Hopefully, those who know you best have the best things to say about you. Hopefully, you look the best up close, where it counts.

In an ideal world, you would look good at a distance and even better up close. But the only thing you truly control is how you look up close, how you behave and interact with close family, friends, colleagues and neighbors.

What about you? How do you look up close? What would those closest to you say about your character, your performance and your heart?

As always, the floor is open to your comments, suggestions, thoughts, and feedback.

Dr. is an agent of change and is able to balance the needs of the business and the needs of people. Dr. Gerwig believes and practices the values of performance and delivery of business metrics while simultaneously developing and growing people into leaders. You can contact him at RobertGerwig[at]LeadStrategic.com.


Photo by Author

2 thoughts on “Up Close

  1. One of the characteristics that stands out for me for those companies you mention is that they are truly interested in you. Sure it might sound like trite, but their employees have been trained to take a real interest in the customer. Not having been part of the training programs, I am not sure how they do it, but it seems remarkable. I am the most familiar with Amazon’s customer service. For me, this is an example of how customer service should be. They have been able to retain me as a customer for many years, just because of how I am treated when I send in an email inquiry.
    This type of positive interaction is contagious, meaning that I want to pay this type of service forward. I want those that come in contact with me to feel that I am genuinely interested in them and their well being.
    Great article, thanks!

    • Hi John – thanks for reading and for your comments. I believe you’ve hit it on the head: Customer obsession. Up close, the companies mentioned in my article look good because they go out of their way to take care of the customer. Maintaining that culture over the years and training new employees is paramount to their success. … Any idea why many of these type of companies seem to be based out of the Pacific Northwest? Is it the salmon or something in the water?


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