For those of you who think that love in business is a soft, California, group hug, hoo-ha kind of thing, I offer this story from a sourcing agent at a defense contractor. His job is to procure the materials his company needs to make guns, missiles, and other things that go boom. Most of us would consider that to be the polar opposite of “soft stuff,” true? We would be right. That’s why even more of us struggle with the very idea of love as an operating principle in that kind of business.
We would be wrong.
From his email to me after my speech at his company (used with his permission):
“I recently had to acquire material necessary for training our soldiers to deploy a device that will save many of the lives of our troops in the field. We received the contract for these devices from the Marine Corps. The lead time for this material we needed was quoted at 6-8 weeks. We needed it in 1 week. I figured the very best we could hope for was 4-6 weeks with some arm twisting. The supplier could not and would not accept premium dollars for overtime. We couldn’t throw enough money at the problem.
During the course of our conversation, I simply related to the supplier that I was not their customer. Our mutual customer was the Marine in the field, whose very life could depend on what we did. I do not believe that I was being dramatic, nor was I waving the flag. I simply stated the facts. That same afternoon, I received a call that the lead time would be reduced to 1 week. In fact, the supplier wound up shipping a day earlier than they promised. They had pulled together all of their team and did what couldn’t be done under normal business conditions.
I’d like to think that my skills as a negotiator had something to do with it, but that would be far short of the truth. Especially after listening to your talk, I’m convinced that something far more powerful was at work.
On my desk I have two 8″ x 10″ photos of Marines. People often ask me why I have 2 pictures of the same Marine. Most of the Marines look alike in their uniforms anyway, but these two are [my identical twin sons]. They joined the Corps a few months apart, and both of them finished their service about 10 years ago. I still display their photos with pride. When I see them, I can’t help but think about all our Marines on duty. Whenever I see a Marine, it’s like seeing my own.
Maybe it was the genuine Love I have for those Marines that came across the phone. After all, you did say it was contagious.”
Amen to that.