Ben on Virtue and Maturity -- DeWese
WILL I EVER grow up? I’m beginning to think it ain’t happenin’. It’s doubtful! Sob. I’ll never reach adulthood. Sob. Sob. I thought for certain I would be grown up by age 40. Didn’t happen. Then I thought, “50: That must be my magic number. Everyone I know who is 50 is sure enough grown up.” I missed again. I passed 60 without a shot at maturity. And now, at 66, I am confined mentally and emotionally to my teens. If life was fair, I would also be physically confined to my teens instead of this wretched, arthritic body.
I may be the first human to move into my second childhood without ever having left my first childhood. It will be a smooth segue. There will be no traumatic passage, just a gentle step from “Alice & Jerry” (the popular book series from the 1950s) into Facebook.
I looked up “maturity” to see what it says. None of the definitions were very flattering. Here are a few samples. “1) Having completed natural growth and development: ripe; 2) Having undergone maturation—b: having attained a final or desired state, like a mature wine; c: of, relating to, or being an older adult: elderly.”
The Wisdom of Ol’ Ben
Those definitions were no good. They are unkind. I decided to turn to the printing industry’s most famed and earliest salesperson, Ben Franklin. He will have some answers. He was mature. He grew up. Let’s see what Ben tells us about maturity and about sales.
When I did the research, I found Ben had 13 rules for virtue and maturity. I think I will test myself against his rules. “1) Temperance: Eat not to dullness. Drink not to elevation.” Whoops! Failed that one from my late teens until about age 45. But man, did I ever pay a price for all that great food and libation. I won’t bore you with all the great stories about my exploits. Actually, my memory is a little hazy, like the morning when I couldn’t remember where I parked the car in the French Quarter.
Wanna sell? Wanna grow up? Don’t overeat or drink until you’re soused! Don’t get mad at the Mañana Man. This is Ben talking.
“2) Silence: Speak not but what may benefit others or yourself. Avoid trifling conversation.” Adults and great salespeople listen. They ask questions and then shut up to listen to others. The objective is to learn and to make the other person feel important. If Ben was alive today, he would tell us to avoid trifling Web surfing, video games and cable TV surfing. I marvel at how productive print salespeople would be if they learn to ask good, indirect questions and to limit “trifling” activities. I worry when I walk into a printing company sales office and all the PC screens are displaying Solitaire.
“3) Order: Let all your things have their places. Let each part of your business have its time.” Adults and great salespeople are always well-organized. Good organization creates more time to sell... and to make deposits at the bank.
“4) Resolution: Resolve to perform what you ought. Perform without fail what you resolve.” I never said Ben Franklin was a great writer. People in the 18th Century talked funny, which is why we probably never learned these lessons very well. Franklin is telling us to keep our promises, especially those we make to ourselves.
I always visualize to foresee some outcome that I am seeking. I keep the promise. It frequently takes a hell of a long time to achieve.
“5) Frugality: Make no expense, but do good to others or yourself, i.e., waste nothing.” I fail this Franklinism completely. My extravagance is key to my immaturity. It has been my undoing all my life. I guess I’m trying to buy love.
“6) Industry: Lose no time. Be always employed in something useful. Cut off all unnecessary actions.” Printing salespeople are supposed to be visiting customers, speaking with customers, researching new customers, communicating customer orders to the plant and not administering the office NCAA Basketball Tournament pool.
“7) Sincerity: Use no hurtful deceit. Think innocently and justly; if you speak, speak accordingly.” Ben is telling us to tell the truth—the No. 1 expectation of print buyers. “8) Justice: Wrong none by doing injuries or omitting the benefits that are your duty.” Number eight sounds like number seven. But you get it. He means do the right thing.
“9) Moderation: Avoid extremes. Forbear resenting injuries so much as you think they deserve.” There he goes again. I think what he’s telling us is that mature printing salespeople avoid “being over the top” (extremes) in their hair style, makeup, clothing, automobiles, behavior and communication.
“10) Cleanliness: Tolerate no uncleanliness in body, clothes or habitation.” Here’s one we can all understand. This is one that I do pass.
“11) Tranquility: Be not disturbed at trifles or at accidents common or unavoidable.” Franklin is telling us that mature people do everything in stride. They don’t sweat the small stuff. Salespeople who lose it over life’s many bumps and potholes are never successful. Their minds are consumed with fret and anger, and they don’t think about where they will find the next customer.
“12) Chastity: Rarely use venery but for health or offspring—never to dullness, weakness or injury of your own or another’s peace or reputation.” Some of you may say, “Now Ben has gone to meddlin’.” Franklin had a reputation with the ladies. There is merit in this admonition, however, and you don’t need me to remind you of the platitudes and the disasters that have occurred over romance in the office.
“13) Humility: Imitate Jesus and Socrates.” This is hard for all of us, but it’s a characteristic that endears us to our customers. I came by this trait naturally, since my shortcomings were always so evident.
“14) Ne’er be given to extolling oneself too seriously.” OK, this one is not Ben’s. It’s mine. Customers hate salespeople who take themselves too seriously. They love salespeople who take their work seriously. They love salespeople who take them seriously.
“15) Wait not me kinsman. Hasten to go about and sell something.” OK. You guessed it. No. 15 is mine also, and you know what it means. I’m going to try to convince my eight grandchildren that I’m a wise and mature grandfather. I have been unable to convince their grandmother. PI
About the Author
Harris DeWese is the author of “Now Get Out There and Sell Something” and “The Mañana Man, Books II and III,” available through the PI Bookstore at www.piworld.com/bookstore. He is chairman and CEO of Compass Capital Partners and is also an author of the annual “Compass Report,” the definitive source of information regarding printing industry M&A activity. DeWese has completed 141 printing company transactions and is viewed as the industry’s preeminent deal maker. He can be reached via e-mail at HDeWese@CompassCapLtd.com.