My wife and I are building a new home up in Fort Collins, Colo. Lots of things to consider, and as usual, the things you really want are more. As in lots more, not $500 more, but $5,000 more. So along the way, we are talking to a flooring person, whining about how much flooring is today.

Actually, it can be fairly cheap if you want linoleum, we just happen to like something a little more modern. So we are whining, actually complaining, to our flooring person while drinking our Starbucks coffees.

The salesperson tells us we could afford the floor we really want if we just did one thing different in our lives; that would be to give up the Starbucks. I have been to that seminar, the latte factor can add up to huge dollars over 30 years, enough to pay for a lot of things.

Here is my take on that concept: I agree that spending $3 for a coffee is a lot of money. Actually, when I am in town, my wife and I go to the Starbucks (guess I shouldn’t say Starbucks, but since I have already, let’s go with that), and she gets a non-fat, extra hot latte and I get a skinny mocha.

When we take Pixie, our 70-pound pit bull, she gets a cup of foam, skinny (non-fat) foam, because she is on a diet. Yes, we do take Pixie. She loves to go and knows what we mean when we say coffee.

One of the great things about our Starbucks is that they know us. They often see us drive up and just as often are making our drinks as we arrive inside. It doesn’t get much better than that. The total bill comes to less than $6. We go several times a week when I am in town, which is about half the year. So we are probably spending $20-$25 per week, about $100 per month for maybe 6 months of the year, or $600.

That $600 buys us quiet time. We drive about 6 miles to the Starbucks that we like going to, in Old Town. Some days we drink our coffee there, others we go to a flooring store to whine about the high cost of hickory flooring.

It is an event, not just a $3 cup of coffee. Most mornings we see friendly faces, some we even recognize and it is a small town-type of time for us. Kind of like Mayberry. OK, so not Mayberry, but you get my drift.

Then we drive back home, reflecting on what is going on that day. Pixie loves it. May and I get caught up on what is happening in our busy lives.


My sons and I ride Harleys. Just why am I going now from coffee to overpriced, loud bikes?

Here it is: We really enjoy the time in the saddle. What we have come to understand, it isn’t about the destination, but it’s about the ride. I did not think how emotional it would be riding with my sons on the bikes. Yes, they are expensive, loud, and vibrate. We could buy faster, cheaper, quieter ones, but did not choose to do that. We bought what we wanted. We realize this is not a dress rehearsal. We all have a one-way ticket in life and no one gets out alive.

So how do we connect this to our business? We need to realize we are involved in helping people make a 20-year decision, sometimes with only a couple of hours preparing for it. We know the things that can make a difference, the customer usually doesn’t.

They do, however, have a really good idea of what they want to spend. Less than what you have offered, in most cases. So our job is to help them enjoy the journey.

They will spend more time at home than anywhere else, unless they are in the HVAC business where we spend 16 hours a day at work. That is a slight exaggeration, but it just came to mind.

The destination is the order, the ride is how comfortable the new customers will be in their home after we are done improving it.

How do I help them make this decision? By not guessing what they want and asking them questions - all kinds of questions. Not questions about politics, or sports - two areas to stay clear of - but about their family, home, and plans for the future. We should ask more, tell less. Most salespeople today think we have to talk the customer into buying.

Actually we need to listen them into buying. When we listen and they talk we get people engaged emotionally. This is a good thing since that is how they buy - emotionally. They then justify it with logic. And the buying process becomes an event, just like my Starbucks time.

We now have an emotional link with that customer. Referrals skyrocket as they tell friends and neighbors that we walk on water!

So this year try to listen more, talk less. We all want to impress others with our vast knowledge. They actually are not interested in how much you know, rather they just want that back bedroom comfortable. They will pay almost any price to get that done if we hook up on an emotional level.

As for May and I, we will continue to sip that joe every morning we can. I may not retire as soon as Mike Murphy, but I have been married 38 years to the same woman. I believe at least partially due to the fact we get face time several times a week. Enjoy the ride, today is your day.

Publication date:03/17/2008