Thursday, July 8, 2010

Customer Service Cannot Die!

No matter how hard some people try, customer service cannot die! I've had some wacky customer service experiences lately....four, in a row! So, I had to tell you about them.

* Landscaper: He was always too busy to take phone calls despite my spending thousands of dollars with him. He doesn't call or provide the information he committed to provide. His voicemail box is always full, he's argumentative, and does things his way even if it means losing the customer. I've taken my business elsewhere.

* Car Dealer: Promises to return your call, doesn't respond, after delays when prompted to respond he has no clue about your conversation and asks you to remind him. I'm buying a car elsewhere.

* Salesman: Recently emailed a customer saying that he's already spent too much time on the customer's little deal! He didn't make that deal.

* Public Relations Agent: Took me through what sounded like a canned phone pitch, wouldn't meet in-person (because she said she's busy and is raising five kids). Despite my having kept her informed as to my schedule changes and my inability to make deadlines she established, when I called saying our company was ready to engage but that I needed clarification as to how she can help she raised her voice saying she was entitled to respect, told me off, and claimed to be offended by my not being in-line with her thinking. This one needs a little more fiber and less caffeine in her diet. We'll engage someone with more patience.

Wow! Has the customer service world gone mad? These people should be boiled in oil! Whatever happened to "The customer is always right!". Hell! Whatever happened to common courtesy and treating customers...people...with respect? Whoever said that working hard entitles business people to be rude and arrogant? Thank goodness these people represent the minority of the business world!

Unfortunately, for these people, failure is not a is most likely inevitable! I actually feel bad for them...and, for their customers!

Andrew B. Zezas, SIOR

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Happy Holidays!

Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, Happy Chanukah, Happy Kwanzaa, Happy Ramadan!

The most important words above are "Merry" and "Happy". May you experience both this season! And, may you enjoy a most profitable 2010!


Wednesday, December 2, 2009

"Try" The Weakest Word in the English Language!

The word "Try" is the weakest word in the English language. It has devolved into an excuse. The terms "I'll try" or "I'll give it a try" doesn't say "I'll get it done!" I'll "Try" says "I'll take a shot at it", and it suggests that the person who is "trying" probably doesn't expect to succeed at the task. "I'll try" is most often used like a disclaimer and means "Ok, I'll have a go at it but, I'm warning you not to be upset if I fail...because at least I will have tried!" What a cop out! What a weak way to punk out! Wouldn't it be better to say, "I really don't plan to give it everything I've got, so you should expect me to fail!"?

Even Yoda from Star Wars said "Do, or Do Not! There is no 'Try'!"....and, he's not even real!

When I hear someone use the word "Try" it says:

* "I'm not really sure that I can do it."

* "I'll make half an effort"

* "I might fail"

* "I'm not really interested"

And, my all time favorite....

* "I won't make any promises."

When someone says they'll "Try", watch their face and their body language. Do you see confidence in their expression and their emotion? Or, instead do you see weakness, disinterest, or a lack of commitment?

Using "Try" or, even accepting it promotes a lack of confidence. It permits, and can even promote, failure. To "try" is not a commitment to succeed, complete a task, or accomplish an objective. But, rather today, it is only a promise to make an effort. Unfortunately, it only suggests a modest effort.

Say the following to yourself "I'll try to complete that task." Now, ask yourself how you feel after having said that. Do you feel wishy washy? Weak and uncertain?

Now say: "Nothing will stand in my way. I will complete that task before I do anything else!" Go ahead...say it. How do you feel now? Do you still feel limp? Or, do you feel empowered, strong, and confident, maybe even a bit taller?

Using the word "Try" is somewhat like using the common term "No problem". It's not really what most people mean. But, it has become an accepted term, despite that term containing two of the most negative words in the English language..."No" and "Problem".

In the last three decades, there has been much focus on the power of the spoken word, with books and CDs published, and speeches and seminars given about power words, positive thinking, and words that inspire and influence.

If it is confidence and a sense of accomplishment you seek, don't "Try" to read those books, listen to those CDs or attend those seminars. Instead, set your mind to it and accomplish your objective.

In fact, never try anything. Decide if you wish to tackle a challenge and complete it, or not. If you choose not to, then move on to something else.

It is better to decide not to do something, than to make a half-hearted effort by trying, half-committing to it, and then failing. If you wish to conquer something, then figure out how and make sure you do. Don't "Try", Do! It's really that simple.

Don't "Try" to do anything. Either commit to get it done and finish the job. Or, go do something else!

Saturday, September 26, 2009

My Father...My Hero, and the Gift of Friends and Strangers

Growing up as a little boy in the Bronx and then later at the Jersey Shore, I always looked up to my father, as most children do. My father, Speros Zezas, was a bit of an enigma...tall, dark, introverted in some ways, very charismatic in others. He was always a pillar of strength to me. He had a temper and an ego commensurate with that of many strong Greek men of his day. On only a few occasions did we see my father cry...when he longed for his homeland and when he thought about his mother. He had his faults, but like our mother, he worked hard to make sure we had a sturdy roof over our heads, good food in our bellies, clean clothes, strong backs, a reputable name, and a sense of honor and fair-play. It was hard not to look up to my father. Like most fathers, mine was my first hero.

Eventually, as my father and I both grew older we became closer. He was one of the founders and a dedicated trustee of Kimisis Tis Theotokou Greek Orthodox Church in Holmdel, New Jersey. I was one of that church's first altar boys. In my teen years, my father and I attended church together regularly. In my early twenties, I worked my way through college in a nightclub band. My father attended most of my local shows and hung out with me and my friends. My father taught me many things about being a good person, about being a man, about being a husband and a father, and about being a gentleman. I carry most of his teachings with me to this day, and pass them on to my children. My father eventually became ill and in 1985 his life drew to a close, but not before he and I became best friends.

My father has stayed with me in many ways throughout my life. But, a series of unconnected events, or so I thought, unfolded over the last two years and brought him back to me in a very special and unexpected way.

Through a chance meeting at a business networking event at a New York City restaurant in 2007, I made a new friend. His name is Staz. Staz and I hit it off immediately, agreed to help each other in business and in life, and have stayed in touch ever since.

In October 2008, the world economy went off a cliff. Over lunch, another friend, Marty, reminded me of the career challenges that many white collar executives were experiencing, especially those in finance. Given increasing unemployment levels, many were experiencing real challenges finding work, selling themselves to potential employers, understanding and communicating their value propositions, and more. Considering my background in advising c-level executives, I felt confident that I could provide these executives with good insights and impart to them tools and skills that could enhance their careers, and hopefully their lives. Marty and I continued to discuss this issue over a couple of days, when I offered to create a presentation to help executives achieve their career goals. Marty encouraged me to complete the presentation and invited me to speak before a financial executive group that he led.

In December 2008, in front of Marty's group, I presented "Enough About Me, Let's Talk About Me!", a two hour workshop on improving executive communication, networking, relationship building, and more. The small crowd of very accomplished executives that Marty brought together was very receptive. After the presentation, a number of attendees asked if they could connect and network with me. Some even asked if I would coach them. Although I'm not an executive coach and had to decline those requests, I have stayed in-touch with a number of people who have attended my presentations.

Over the following few months, other organizations asked me to present "Enough About Me, Let's Talk About Me!", which I did as a means of giving to the universe and helping others. I started to generate a small following. My friend Staz learned that I would appear before a group of business people at Kimisis Tis Theotokou Greek Orthodox father's family's church. He and another friend of ours, Dean, hurriedly drove all the way out from Long Island to central New Jersey just to hear my presentation.

As soon as Staz arrived, he began taking page after page of notes. Afterward, he told me that he was starting a think tank in New York, called Greek Synergy, which would bring people together on intellectual, emotional, and spiritual levels. Staz invited me to present "Enough About Me, Let's Talk About Me!" to his think tank. I readily accepted his invitation.

On July 22, 2009, Staz gathered together approximately thirty business people at Cafe Martinique in New York to hear my presentation. This was a sophisticated group, and many attendees actively participated in the lively discussion. Angelike (An-gel-e-key), a reporter from The National Herald newspaper attended the event. She took many notes and snapped photos the entire night. Angelike spent a few moments with me before the presentation began, asking the Who? What? and Why? questions that are typical of news reporters. The presentation at Staz's think tank was a huge success, and after more than two hours we closed the event and said goodnight. Staz and I both felt fulfilled for having helped so many people. We were exhausted.

About two weeks after the Cafe Martinique event, I began receiving congratulatory phone calls and emails pertaining to the article that appeared in The National Herald newspaper about my presentation at the Greek Synergy event. Since I hadn't yet seen the article, I asked a friend to forward it to me. The newspaper reporter had written a very complimentary story, both about my presentation and about Greek Synergy. She did a fine job in capturing the essence of the message I sought to deliver and the drive behind Staz's vision. Her article brought a smile to my face. My wife even giggled when we read the reporter's quote about how I had presented my thoughts and ideas with a "super hero-like voice!". You can't pay for lines like that!

A week or so later, I received a phone call from a broadcaster named Amalia from COSMOS FM Greek Public Radio in Long Island, New York. Amalia said she had read The National Herald article, and invited me to appear on a live radio broadcast to discuss the event and share my ideas. Amalia thought we could use the power of radio to help even more people. Thinking that a live radio program could be fun, I agreed. On the prescribed night, I called into the radio station and we went live. Between answering Amalia's questions and fielding calls from people seeking guidance about their careers, I felt great. The live interview lasted about forty-five minutes.

About an hour after the broadcast, I received an email from a man named Dinos, whose name I did not recognize. In his email, he wrote that he'd heard the COSMOS FM broadcast, thanked me for appearing, and complimented me for sharing my ideas and for working to help others. Dinos also wrote that my name sounded familiar to him. He asked if I was the son of Speros Zezas, the man who, many years ago, ran Micro Instrument Company in Brooklyn, NY. Dinos wrote that if Speros was my father, he hoped to speak with me. He went on in his email to say that he'd come to the United States in the 1970's, that my father hired him and gave him a career. Dinos wanted to thank me.

I returned Dinos's email, confirming that Speros was my father, that we loved him very much, that he was a great man, and that we had lost him in 1985. I wished Dinos well and thanked him for his kind words about me and my dear father. Dinos emailed me again that night, and we continued to email back and forth for the next hour or so. I walked out of my office that evening with tears in my eyes, having felt great for possibly helping some people find their way that evening, but also for having heard that a stranger thought so well of my father. I looked up at the night sky full of stars and said "Pop, you're still here." and drove home to kiss my wife and two children good-night.

When I arrived at my home, I was so excited, that I kept everyone awake telling them about the radio broadcast, the email I'd received about my father, and what a great experience I'd had that night. My wife, daughter, and son, all shared my joy.

The next day, Dinos called my office to introduce himself to me. He was a reserved and humble man, with a thick Greek accent. Dinos was about 8 years older than me and proceeded to tell me the story of how he'd met my father and worked for him in the 1970s. He said that he'd come to the United States with no job prospects, no education or training, and an uncertain future. Dinos first took a job in the kitchen at a New York diner. When my father met him, he noticed a spark in Dinos and hired him right away to work in his tool and die engineering and manufacturing business.

I suspect that my father may have seen a little of himself in Dinos. When my father first arrived in the United States, he too had no connections and few prospects, despite having been trained as a machinist and engineer in the Greek Merchant Navy.

Almost immediately after hiring him, my father sensed that Dinos had a knack for engineering and encouraged him to go to school to obtain a college degree. After two years as my father's apprentice, he left the company and attended a university in New York to pursue an education in engineering.

In a humble, yet confident voice, Dinos told me that he had earned that engineering degree, and for more than thirty years had enjoyed a career and a life that he never expected he would have. He told me of his family and proudly said that he was currently employed at a Long Island engineering company that designs sophisticated componentry for NASA. Dinos said that had he not met my father, he would not have achieved what he had in his career or his life. Dinos then said something that, even as I write this now, still brings tears to my eyes. This man, who I had never met, who had only heard about my brothers and me in conversations with my father, who by chance happened to hear my last name on a radio broadcast, who recognized my name and took the initiative to contact me, told me that my father, Speros Zezas, was his hero...too.

For a moment I couldn't speak. Dinos then asked me for one simple favor. He asked if I would send him a photo of my father, so he could frame it and put it on his desk. I got all choked-up and agreed to send him that photo.

As a young boy, my father was my first real hero. As he battled cancer, my father demonstrated courage and heroism, despite knowing that he would eventually lose that fight. Two and a half decades later, when an excited and very kind man heard my last name, my father's name, on a New York public radio broadcast and shared with me the wonderful life that he had built for himself and his family with my father's help from thirty years earlier, I was reminded again about the hero my father was to me as I was growing up, and now knew that he was also equally important to someone else. That night my father, Speros Zezas, became my hero all over again.

They say that nothing happens by coincidence and that the universe has a way of balancing itself out. For more than thirty years, my father has been Dinos's hero, and I never knew that. Had Marty not invited me to develop "Enough About Me, Let's Talk About Me!", had Staz not asked me to present in New York, had Angelike not written such a great article, had Amalia not invited me to appear on the radio, and had Dinos not heard my father's name and called me, I would not have learned that while my father was my first and constant hero, he was also someone else's hero...I would not have been given such a touching and wonderful gift by both friends and strangers.

Thanks Pop, for being a great man, for the many gifts you gave me, for helping others, and for remaining my hero! And, thank you Staz, Marty, Angelike, Amalia, and Dinos for the special gift you all gave me.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

The Cone of Silence, Chaos, and the Smartest Person in the Room

(Reprinted from November 2008)

In the 1960’s television series, “Get Smart”, a play on words in and of itself, Agent Maxwell Smart considered himself to be cunning, knowledgeable, and very….Smart. In fact, he was a bumbling, funny, idiot, who despite his obvious shortcomings, always captured the agent from the evil enemy organization, known as Kaos (Chaos). Despite his strong beliefs to the contrary, Agent Smart was rarely, if ever, the smartest person in the room. Inevitably, he was assisted, and often unknowingly led, by his partner, Agent 99…a person with a whole lot more smarts than Agent Smart.

When you attend meetings with colleagues, prospects, or clients, do you feel like you’re the smartest person in the room? Do others think you are? Do you think someone else is the smartest person in the room? If you think that you are the smartest person in the room, then you may be overlooking a real opportunity!

Some people have told me that I’m pretty bright. While such compliments feel really great, they’re also dangerous, because if I’m not careful, after a while I could start to believe that they’re true. And, that could spell the beginning of chaos and lost opportunities!

How about you? Have others told you how smart you are? Yeah, yeah, yeah, you’re no slouch but, the world is full of very intelligent people…those who know a lot more than you and me…people who have received more and better training, have achieved higher levels of learning, have more degrees and more pertinent experience, those who understand what you and I don’t, and those with deeper expertise than you or me.

That’s right, you actually may not be the smartest person in the room, and I’m pretty darned sure that, neither am I. Now we’re talking! In the realization that you are not the smartest person in the room lays opportunity! In most cases, the people who are smarter than you want to share their ideas and thoughts with you. After all, why have all those smarts if not to demonstrate that they exist, right?!

The lady standing next to you in the room probably knows something you don’t. The guy across the table knows something you haven’t considered. The woman sitting next to him knows something he hasn’t heard before. They may not all be university graduates or senior executives but, they all know something. And, that something may be just what you need, like an idea; a bit of historical data; a theory; a new approach; a twist on an old concept; a seemingly crazy, far-out, or wild idea….something that you haven’t yet considered or maybe what you’ve already forgotten. But, it’s there for you to tap into.

That knowledge, that wisdom, those smarts that are better or broader than those you possess are within your reach and available to accelerate you further than you could go without them. You see, when a person believes that they are the smartest person in the room, that belief, that one seemingly small error, in and of itself, suggests that that person isn’t…..the smartest person in the room. What’s more, such a mistake can cause you to miss a very important opportunity…the opportunity to acquire knowledge from others, to capitalize on what other people know, to build on their experiences, to learn more, to become better at whatever you do….to better serve others and to become an even greater success!

Ask yourself: “Do I know EVERYTHING?” That’s an easy one. Then, as you begin to feel a bit humbled, ask yourself “Do I know everything I need to know to accomplish all of my objectives?” If you answer “Yes”, try again, and remind yourself that someone somewhere knows something you don’t. And, that something could be the key ingredient in accomplishing your mission, for yourself and for others.

The most successful leaders I’ve met have been some incredibly quick-minded and intelligent people. Among the most common traits they all possess was the realization that their knowledge and experience created greater results when augmented by what other smarter people knew. They knew that if they actually were the smartest person in the room, their accomplishments and their ultimate success would be limited by what they did not know. And, in order to achieve more, they typically sought out others with more experience, more knowledge, more expertise….more smarts.

So, what’s your best move? Accept that, while you may be pretty intelligent, you are not likely the smartest person in the room, or at least you shouldn’t be. If you really are the smartest one there, then go to another room, or find people who truly are smarter than you and who can help you accomplish more with what they know. If that means you must find your own Agent 99 then, so be it!

Your best bet will be to ditch the Cone of Silence, get dumb, then Get Smart, and excell further than your own smarts alone can take you!

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

“Spin” is a Four Letter Word

Why is it, in today’s society, that one’s ability to spin stories in various directions of choice is considered an art form, and that those who have that ability are thought of as mentally athletic and are well respected? Isn’t use of the term spin merely a way to avoid the word “exaggeration”? We even have a cool name for those who do it…Spin Doctors! I’m not referring to the rock band of the same name. I always thought that doctors were supposed to do good works, to deliver babies, to help people become healthy and stay fit, that they were supposed to save lives. Instead, Spin Doctors, those so called geniuses, who wax and wane and go to great lengths to make others see things in a very narrow way are nowadays reveled as brilliant, creative, and cutting edge. Whatever happened to simply telling the plain old truth?

I once worked for a company that devolved to a point where they permitted internal and external Spin Doctoring. More importantly, they actually promoted it! Management’s time was very thin and the company was performing quite well. So, they were not inclined to dig too deeply below the surface when issues arose, no matter how serious they were. When asked to explain one's actions, all an employee needed was a good story and a friend to back her up. So long as the story sounded credible, and someone else said it was true, management was willing to brand it as truth and went no further.

The "good story" approach was encouraged in both internal conversations and those with clients and customers! After a while it became next to impossible to tell the truth from the Spin! It got so bad that my head would spin as fast as the stories that were told. That company’s management made a lot of bad choices as a result of their unofficial Spin policy, and the company eventually paid for it. Clients left the company, and they lost some of their top professionals, too, including me. Isn’t that amazing?

I recently encountered a consultant, who claimed to offer a large and varied array of consulting services. He offered management services, website design services, surveillance camera set-up and management services, human resource consulting, operating manual writing services, and more. His list became so long that it was incredibly difficult to figure out what this guy really did for a living, and how he could create value for anyone. In fact, he was involved in so many things in so many different directions that he found it difficult to explain it himself. In one conversation he had with someone else, I overhead him say that “the definition of a consultant is someone who has no understanding of the client’s needs, promises to deliver, gets the account, and then, figures out how to complete the project.” Talk about Spin! We refused to hire him for an important project as a result of his distorted philosophy. What's more, we no longer deal with him at all.

There’s an easy solution to this situation. Remember what Mom and Dad taught you…"always tell the truth!" It’s a simpler approach, and it keeps you healthy…really! Look at it this way: If you don’t spin, you’ll never have to remember what you said to Mr. A or Ms. B, because you will have told the truth. It will be very easy to remember. Your customers, clients, friends, and family will come to expect honesty from you, because they’ll be used to it. Your business will grow, as will your relationships, and your overall success. Sure, you might find yourself in situations where pulling out the old Spin would be easier, but there’s always another way. You’ll have less stress, your life will go easier, you'll feel better about yourself, and you’ll be less prone to illnesses and disease.

Now, if the lessons you learned at your parents’ knees were different than the above or if you find yourself working toward a degree in Spin Doctoring, don't try to do business with my firm! You may wish to go back to school and reconsider your path. Remember, no matter what anyone tells you, "Spin" is a four letter word!

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Dear Staz:

I truly enjoyed presenting "Enough About Me, Let's Talk About Me!" an Executive Career Workshop at your Greek Synergy event in Manhattan. Many thanks for permitting me to be a part of such an important beginning.

I've got some exciting news! COSMOS-FM, Hellenic Public Radio, has invited me to be interviewed LIVE on the air TONIGHT, August 4th, at 7:00 PM on 91.5 FM. Listeners will be able to call into the radio station to ask questions about executive job search, high level networking, how to build meaningful business relationships, how to protect their careers and secure the right executive position.

Please tune-in to FM 91.5 or listen via the internet at 7:00 PM tonight and invite those who might benefit to listen and to call-in.


Andrew B. Zezas, SIOR
Relationship Manager,Strategist, President & CEO


908.245.5999 x11
201.906.8964 cell

Business Driven Real Estate Solutions...and Opportunities
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Somerset, New Jersey 08873

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