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Chris LoCurto

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March 21, 2011

What A Nice Guy!

March 21, 2011 | By | 3 Comments">3 Comments

Today was a rough day for my dog, Griffin. Over the weekend, he somehow scratched the inside of his eyelid. When he woke up this morning, it was all swollen and red and kinda gross.

I took him to the vet we’ve been going to for the past year. Not only did he have to get his eye worked on, but it was time for his shots too. How much does that suck? When he came out, I asked him to sit. He started down, got halfway there and then changed his mind. OUCH! But Grif was a trooper. He handled it like a tough guy, and we were on our way to check out.

As I stood at the counter waiting to pay, an older gentlemen was standing next to me. I noticed one of the gals behind the counter light up when she saw him. It was as if he had just made her day. Now, this wasn’t infatuation. It was genuine care for a person. They talked for a while, and at one point, he looked down and started talking to Griffin.

As he talked, he just seemed like a really nice guy. He asked if he could pet him. That’s a trip – people don’t usually ask, they just take their chances and reach down. “Absolutely!” I said. Even Griffin loved this guy! When he left, the lady looked at me and said, “He’s my daughter’s orthodontist. We love him!”

Wow! This guy is loved by adults, dogs and girls in headgear! All I could think was, “That’s the guy I want to be!” Okay, not an orthodontist, but a guy who, when he walks into a room, people light up because of how nice he is. The kind of guy who makes other people’s day better. I know I felt better when I walked out of that clinic, and I don’t even know the guy.

I wasn’t able to ask Griffin his thoughts, but I’m pretty sure he’s down with the doc. I don’t know what that gentleman’s life is like, but I bet it has a lot to do with God and a general love for people. What other parts there are, I’m not sure. But I know I’m going to try to discover them. That way, hopefully, someday when I leave a room someone will say, “That’s Chris LoCurto. We love him!”

Chris LoCurto

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March 18, 2011

Leadership Spotlight: Blake Thompson

March 18, 2011 | By | 6 Comments">6 Comments

For the next few months, I am going to spotlight a bunch of our leaders here at Dave Ramsey’s office. My first interview is with Blake Thompson, Senior Producer for The Dave Ramsey Show.

Blake manages everything that goes on in the studio and the content that goes out over the air. In other words, he keeps Dave on track!

Broadcasting is in Blake’s blood. After receiving a broadcasting/communications degree from Trevecca Nazarene University, Blake eventually found his way to Dave’s company. Hired in 1996, Blake was the eighth team member Dave brought on board. He has been the producer of the radio show since day one (15 years now).

But working as Dave Ramsey’s senior producer is more than just a job for Blake. He has totally embraced Dave’s financial principles. “I’m debt-free!” Blake says. Besides that, he loves helping others find financial hope through the radio and television shows.

  • Birthplace: Nashville, TN (Raised in Kansas City / Olathe, KS)
  • Family info: Wife – Tanya; Son – Blake Andrew; Daughter – Rylee

CLo: What is your role in leadership?

BT: To “rally the troops” (my team) and provide a sense of direction and purpose. “Direction,” meaning where we want to go, what it takes to get there, and the motivation/encouragement to get there. But none of this will work or last long term without constant reminders of the “purpose” of doing so.

CLo: What is the best advice you’ve ever received about leadership?

BT: “When you wake up…know exactly what you need to accomplish more than anything else that day. Write it down and/or dwell on it. Then do whatever it takes to accomplish it.” – Dave Ramsey. “Always have a goal. Something you are working toward every day. This is the key factor in avoiding laziness.” – Bill Hampton

CLo: What is the biggest challenge facing leaders today?

BT: Distraction! With emails, text messages, social media messages, etc. bombarding you every second of the day, you have to stay focused on the most important tasks at hand. There is a place for the other, but when it takes over your time and focus, you’re blowing your day and wasting time you will never get back.

CLo: How do you continue to improve yourself as a leader?

BT: By reading and following the examples of those who are winning. By meeting and hanging out with champions whether they’re winning in their careers, in spiritual areas or family life.

CLo: How do you invest in others?

BT: Encouragement. I believe people want more than anything else to be told they did a good job and that their efforts didn’t go unnoticed. As a leader, it’s vital you learn to recognize this and make it a habit – but it has to be sincere.

CLo: What was the last book you read?

BT: Radical: Taking Back Your Faith from the American Dream by David Platt. I’m currently reading Proverbs each morning. Talk about great leadership principles!

Chris LoCurto

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March 17, 2011

How To Get An Interview

March 17, 2011 | By | 3 Comments">3 Comments

Nine years ago, I was hiring a personal assistant. We were still a pretty small company at the time, so the number of applicants wasn’t like it is today. But I was hiring for an assistant, which meant I was slammed.

16:365 - Post Valentine Browns

Image by Nomadic Lass via Flickr

The process was taking me a while. In fact, I hadn’t found anyone that I was excited about. There were definite possibilities, but nobody who I felt needed an interview. One day around 10 a.m., our Director of First Impressions called and said there was something for me at the front desk.

Sitting there was a little red gift bag with a handwritten card that read, “Start your week off right. Call me in for an interview!” Inside the bag was a little four-count box of Russell Stover chocolates. Guess what happened next? Yep, she got an interview. Why? Because anyone who’s willing to go to those lengths to get my attention deserves a call.

I interviewed her, but she wasn’t the right person for the job. However, I wouldn’t have known that if she hadn’t left that little gift for me. Why? I had already passed up her resume. It looked good, but not great. But her go-getter attitude made me take an extra look!

The great thing is, this technique works in a lot of situations. Especially in sales. Yes, you can bribe your way into a sales “interview.” I always tell people that until you know who we are, we’re just salespeople to you. If you don’t understand that we are actually changing family trees, you probably just think we’re trying to sell something.

Once you know how revolutionary our information is, you become a huge fan. But first, we have to capture your attention. Here are some simple ways to do that with someone you want an audience with:

  • Know your audience. Truly understand who it is you’re trying to meet with. Is it a guy? Is it a girl? Is it a team of people? If so, what’s their makeup? Getting to know who it is will help you know how to get their attention.
  • Think! What you do doesn’t have to be extraordinary, just thoughtful. A small, four-count box of chocolates got my attention. Honestly, a stainless steel coffee mug probably wouldn’t have. If it was a plant, not so much. A bag of freshly roasted coffee beans from a local independent coffee shop, definitely!
  • Be proportionate. The job I was hiring for nine years ago was paying in the mid-20s. A small box of chocolates was fantastic. If the job is paying six figures, then you might want to step up your game a bit.

Are any of these deal breakers? Of course not, but using any one of these tips just might lead to the thing that gets you in front of someone who’s too busy to realize that you’re the gem they’re looking for!

How have you tried to get someone’s attention? Did it work?

Chris LoCurto

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March 16, 2011

Please Just Do The Job!

March 16, 2011 | By | No Comments">No Comments

Recently, I hired a company to do a specific job at my house. It seemed like an easy enough task. Come over, do the job, I pay you, everyone’s happy.

But that’s not what happened. I spent most of my time just trying to get the company out to my house. Call after call asking, “Sooooo, now when are you coming?” When I finally got them out there, it took about two weeks longer than we had anticipated. The main reason? They didn’t bring enough material. How is that possible? You do one job supposedly all the time for many years. Surely you can anticipate what’s needed material-wise.

I found myself having to be the “jerk.” Meaning I constantly had to call them and ask when they were going to start. After they actually started, I had to constantly call them to ask when they were going to finish. With each call, I felt the “jerk” factor increase. But the truth is, I just wanted what I expected.

Now there’s a funny word. Expected. Webster’s says, “To consider reasonable, due or necessary <expected hard work from the students>.” In my mind, what I expected was not only reasonable and necessary, but also due since I was paying for it. But I never communicated my expectations to the company doing the work, so I appeared overly demanding when things weren’t getting done the way I thought they should be.

When I stepped back from the situation, I realized that I could have avoided being the “jerk” if I had done a few simple things:

  • Put Expectations In Writing – Start date and time, materials required, costs, end date, etc. What recourse do you have if they do not meet the deadlines? Both parties need to sign this agreement.
  • Call Ahead – A few days before the start date, confirm that everything is in order. I know, I know, you’re thinking, Why should I be doing this? I’m paying them! The reason is simple. Not everyone is going to necessarily follow through like you would. Therefore, as I always tell my team, sometimes you have to push someone else to do their work, to get what you want done.
  • Use An HR Technique – Rick Perry is our outstanding HR director, and he has a great way of making a person aware that they are not delivering on their promises. He reminds them that their action (or inaction) is their decision. In other words, if someone promises to start a job on Monday (and you have that expectation in writing), and they don’t, you can then say to them, “I just need to remind you that you promised you would start the job on Monday. Since you did not, I have to refer back to the recourse that you put in place.”

When you do these three things, not only do you remove the “jerk” factor, but you also give yourself the power to get the company back on track. When you remind them of their promises, they have no choice but to agree. Now, if integrity on their part doesn’t kick in after that, cut ‘em loose!

Have you ever experienced broken promises like this? How did you handle it?

Chris LoCurto

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March 15, 2011

Does My Bottom Line Look Fat?

March 15, 2011 | By | 2 Comments">2 Comments

When I was 15, I worked at Mountain Mike’s Pizza in my hometown of Truckee, California. It was a great restaurant that was always rockin’, and we were always slammed.

The reason? We made a killer pizza! Everything that went into the pizza was fresh. Every day we grated cheese, cut vegetables, and sliced meats. We even made the dough every day. The best part? We used an actual pizza oven! We didn’t use a conveyor belt that made a pie in five minutes. When you ordered, you knew it would take up to 20 minutes, but you were getting a real, old fashioned, full-of-flavor pizza. Not a piece of cardboard with some rubbery meat on top.

Because of the fresh ingredients and the time it took to make the pies, Mountain Mike’s pizza cost more than the fast pizza company in town. And while we delivered, we couldn’t guarantee that it would be there in 30 minutes. There’s an old saying: “You can have good, fast or cheap – pick two!” In my opinion, the other company chose fast and cheap, but there was no doubt that our pie was better. Over time, they won out on the mass scale.

Interestingly enough, the fast pizza company is now struggling to get repeat customers due to their product’s lack of taste. Over time, they continued to cut costs with cheaper products in an attempt to get more margin and more market share. While that worked for quite a few years, it’s now backfiring on them, forcing them to spend money to make a better pie. They’re spending tons of money marketing the fact that they took their product to a point where fast and cheap wasn’t enough to satisfy the customer, and now they have to fix it. Eventually, even on a mass scale, quality matters.

You might have recently seen a fast-food chicken restaurant running commercials apologizing for its lack of a quality product. Now there are claims that some fast-food places use almost no actual meat in their meat products. For one company after another, lack of quality is starting to make a difference.

This is an easy trap for a small business owner to fall into as well. If your focus is solely on the bottom line, it isn’t difficult to find ways to make it bigger. If it means cutting more than just expenses, though, you have a problem. If it means cutting quality, you’re going to lose in the long run.

So am I saying you can’t cut expenses? Not at all! Once you have a product that is selling, and you see that people like it, do all the research you can to see where you can cut expenses while delivering the same or better quality. There’s nothing wrong with doing everything you can to grow your bottom line. The issue is when you stop producing the thing you produce in the way that brought your customers to you. You must make a profit, but make it while making others happy.