Michael's Monthly Column "Throwing My Loop"


     I really like our vet.  His name is Dr. Kyle Pratt from Broken Bow, Oklahoma, and a graduate from one of the top four institutions on the planet - which as we all know are MIT, Harvard, Johns Hopkins, and Doc Pratt’s alma mater… Oklahoma State University!  Not ranked in any particular order you understand. 

     He’s a young man with just the right amount of professional demeanor and equal portions courtesy and strong interpersonal skills.  He’s technically proficient, and doesn’t hesitate one second to go look something up in a reference book right in front of you.  I think he enjoys, among his many other duties, being the ‘rope horse coach’ for the Johnson Farms team, and there is one other trait in this fellow that sells me on him and his skills more than any other single thing.  Every time my horses and I leave his office, he says, “Now, if you need anything or anything happens, you call me…anytime!”  And he says it like he means and he does.   

     I feel the same about my car dealer.  Glen Bawcum lives a few miles away in Paris, Texas, and along with his father and brother operate a very successful automobile dealership.  And while we all ‘know’ about car dealers, Glen and his family don’t exactly fit the preconceived notions most of us have about people in that occupation.  There’s no question in my mind the Bawcums are in the business to make money, and we shouldn’t expect them to do anything for free.  Yet while they are financially successful, they are equally concerned with something else.  Glen has me convinced he cares just as much about my wife and I owning the best, most appropriate vehicle for us – not necessarily the most expensive one – but the best one for us and our needs. 

     And I feel the same way about our insurance man, and also the young fellow who works on our computers at the farm, and all these same words describe our attorney as well.  Certainly all are engaged in enterprise, but like my car dealer, they are equally concerned with other matters – such as do we have the right policy for us, do we own the right software for Rebecca’s graphic design used to create our books, are our legal matters on solid ground, and are we satisfied with our products and service?  In short, they care about us as people; we are not just dollar signs to them, but rather customers and most importantly, friends.  The relationships we have with our business partners is of real importance to me, and their concern for others is in great part responsible for their collective success.  Sadly, I find that somewhat rare in today’s business climate and popular culture. 

     We are all constantly bombarded with ads about shoes, weight loss products, fast food, and pizza, and most of the time, we don’t even know what the commercial is trying to sell.  Letters come by the score about warranties, insurance, burial plots, and business opportunities, not to mention countless phone calls offering credit cards, septic tank cleaning, home security systems, and home re-financing.  We have a whole world to live in, and we spend our days trying desperately to sell each other cell phones and life insurance, and wonder why we feel so empty.  If there was ever a false god, money is it.  There is a better way. 

     There are a ton of books out there about how to become financially successful.  Some are good and most are not.  There is always one key to be found in the good ones.  If you read the classics by Napoleon Hill such as “Think and Grow Rich,” and Dale Carnegie’s “How To Win Friends And Influence People,” or listen closely to the incomparable Earl Nightingale, you will begin to hear a line repeated - and  considering the topic they are writing and speaking about - the line sounds a little strange and out of place.  Over and over, you will hear all the great ones who really have something of value to teach us say, “If your focus is on dollars, you are doomed to failure!”  Now if we think about that, it does seem strange indeed.  These people who have made all this money are telling us not to be focused on money?  What are they talking about? 

     For years I taught Economics classes in the university.  One of my favorite exercises each year involved writing the word ‘salesman,’ on the board, and asking students to share what words came to mind.  Soon the board would be filled with all sorts of negative phrases describing people in the sales profession like “pesky”, “annoying,” “only want your money,” “always trying to sell you something,” “make you buy products you don’t need,” and “greedy.”  Then I would say, “Actually, those are the characteristics of ‘poor’ salesmen.  Have you ever encountered salespeople you liked, and if so, how would you describe those people?”  In no time, the board would be filled with words like, “helpful,” “nice,” “knowledgeable,” “try to help you find what you need,” and “seemed to care about me.”  And that’s what Hill, Carnegie, and Nightingale are trying to tell us.  “If your focus is on dollars, you are doomed to failure!”  Might sound a little corny, but our focus should be on the needs of our brothers and sisters.  As all truly successful salespeople know, money then becomes a by-product of those relationships.  And of course, that’s scriptural.  My friend and superb novelist, Jim Ainsworth had a line once that I’ve never forgotten.  He said, “I learned more about Jesus and what he was really saying from great salesmen than from most television preachers.” 

     We live in a world dominated by money.  As we attend various conferences, conventions, and gatherings around the country, I notice most all training sessions deal with technical matters exclusively regardless of occupation.  Engineering conferences are certainly about technical matters, even though many engineers are hired to manage people.  Yet there is never a class about helping them improve their people skills.   Vet conferences are always about diseases, medicines, and research studies, yet I’ve never heard of any classes at Vet conferences dealing with helping the grieving owner of a horse or dog deal with their pain and loss.  Business conventions are full of seminars about profit, loss, inventory, product design, distribution, marketing, but never a mention of how we might develop relationships with other human beings to create lifelong customers. 

     Does it sound like I’m suggesting we give away the farm here?  Not at all.  There’s not anything wrong with making money.  Actually, I like it – it’s just not my main focus.  My attorney is somewhat pricey, and Dr. Pratt has never advertised or made any claim to be the cheapest vet in town.  They charge for their services…that’s understandable and to be expected, but most importantly, my key business associates have my wife and I convinced they care just as much about us as they do money.  My old friend, Bronc said once, “We think we like certain people, but really, we like the people who like us.”   

     Chickens are crammed into cages, hogs are born and die on a concrete slab, and live their entire life never having touched the earth.  Some doctors and psychiatrists focus only on how big the hospital is and the number of clients and patients they have.  Some preachers focus only on how big the church is, how many members they have, and how much money was collected last week.  A numbers game played to appease the money god.  We seem to have forgotten what we are for.  Dr. Pratt hasn’t.  This man loves my horses, and because he cares for my boys - these special creatures the Lord has let me be with for a time - for that, he’s my vet.  And I suppose that’s primarily because he hasn’t forgotten the human side of enterprise. 

"We are works of art designed by the Spirit to do good deeds for other men."
                              Ephesians 2:10

Michael's latest release, Reflections Of A Cowboy, is currently available in audio book form. The two volume set consists of articles, essays and excerpts from radio performances about good people and good horses in the life of an Oklahoma cowboy. Approximately 8 hours in length. Reflections Of A Cowboy in printed form is scheduled for release in the summer of 2005. Order from Michael's website.

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