When I was a young man, fresh out of college, I was undecided as to how best to earn a living. In 1978, my dreams of being a singer songwriter were fading fast and an impending income tax bill for my student earnings were both forcing me to make a quick decision. One afternoon I stepped into an employment agency in London to see what they had on their books. After challenging me with a number of questions the recruiter suggested I apply for a position with the agency itself. Three interviews later, I found myself taking part in an intensive training course at the Brook Street Bureau academy. During the following five days I learnt everything from employment law right down to how to answer the telephone.
The amazing thing about the Brook Street Bureau course was that, thirty years later, I still apply a number of the lessons learned every working day.
1. People are both surprising and flexible (they often do not actually want what they ask for, they just think they do)
2. A warm and friendly phone manner will open many more doors than you can imagine
3. Smiling, although it can take some effort, is a prerequisite to a happy life and a successful and happy office environment
4. Always end your correspondence with a friendly but courteous closer
5. Never ask “can I help you? but always “how may I help you?”
But that’s not all, in that classroom of ambitious dreamers, I learned the absolute secret to success. Imagine the scene:
The head trainer was deep into her let’s get them motivated routine when she rose the tempo and excitement level to the absolute highest possible pitch, at that precise moment she asked: “What is the absolute secret to success?”
Silence fell in the class room, we were tense and excited waiting for the one piece of wisdom that would make us rich and successful. Two rows behind me, a young man, a little older than the rest of us, muttered a reply; “don’t’ get caught!”
“Pardon?” demanded the trainer, “don’t be shy speak up, share your answer with the group”. Obviously, when the very embarrassed contributor reluctantly repeated his answer, the effect was very unwelcome and his cynical comment ruined the trainer’s flow. However it did get a rather nervous laugh from some of the audience, including me.
“No, no, no!” the trainer retorted, “The absolute secret to success is: Do it now! Don’t put off today what can be done tomorrow but DO IT NOW! Follow this simple rule and you won’t go far wrong in your office or indeed in your entire career.”
So there you have it, the answer to the absolute secret of success. Pick one of the two, or take them both: ‘don’t get caught’ and/or ‘do it now’. I took the second and so far, it has worked fine for me…