June  2006      Vol. 15, No. 6  REAP HOME PAGE  A publication of the Center for Rural Affairs    
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Can "FRED" Help You and Your Business?


Who’s Fred? Are you a Fred? Can being a “Fred” or having “Freds” work for you make a difference in your business? Author Mark Sanborn explains “The Fred Factor” in his book by that title. Fred Shea was in an ordinary position as a postman, yet he served extraordinarily. There are four main principles in The Fred Factor, and here’s a brief synopsis.

Principle number 1: Everyone makes a difference.
It doesn’t matter how small or large a business, an individual can still make a difference within that business. A sole proprietor can influence his/her customer’s behavior by his/her own actions. An employer can hinder exceptional performance of employees, choose to ignore it, and not adequately recognize or encourage it.

Or, an employer can train employees to achieve exceptional performance and then reward it. However, only the employee can choose to do his or her job in an extraordinary way, either because of, or in spite of, circumstances.

Think about it. Do you add to or take away from the experience of your customers and colleagues? Do you move your business closer to or further from its goals?

Do you treat your customers and potential customers in an ordinary way or do you treat them superbly? Do you lighten someone’s burden, or add to it? Do you lift someone up, or put someone down?

Nobody can prevent you from choosing to be exceptional. The only question at the end of the day that matters is, “What kind of difference do you make?”

Consider what Fred did. He delivered mail. Where others might have seen monotony and drudgery, he saw an opportunity to make a greater difference in the lives of others. He is proof that there are no insignificant or ordinary jobs when they’re performed by significant and extraordinary people.

Recently when some of the REAP staff were in unfamiliar territory in Atlanta, Georgia, and unsure of proper procedure, a public transportation attendant demonstrated FRED-like qualities. He went the extra mile to assist us in purchasing our “MARTA” passes in a friendly, helpful manner. We also experienced some un-FRED-like qualities in a flight attendant’s behavior.

Ultimately, the more value you create for others, the more value will eventually flow towards you. Knowing you’ve done your best, independent of the support, acknowledgment, or reward of others, is a key determinant in a fulfilling life.

Principle number 2: Everything is built on relationships.
Fred is proof that, in any job or business, relationship building is the most important objective because the quality of the relationship differentiates the quality of the product or service. That’s also why:

  • Leaders succeed when they recognize the human nature of their employees.
  • Technology succeeds when it recognizes the human nature of its users.
  • Fred the Postman still succeeds because he recognizes the human nature of his work.

Principle number 3: You must continually create value for others,
and it doesn’t have to cost a penny.

Don’t have enough money? The necessary training? The right opportunities? In other words, do you ever complain that you lack resources? Have you started believing that “more with less” is impossibility?

Then consider Fred. What resources did he have at his disposal? A drab blue uniform and a bag. That’s it! He walked up and down streets with that bag full of mail, and his heart and head full of imagination.

That imagination enabled him to create value for his customers, and he did not spend an extra dollar to do it. He just thought a little bit harder and more creatively than most other postal carriers.

By doing so, Fred mastered what Sanborn believes is the most important job skill of the 21st century: the ability to create value for customers without spending more money to do it. You too can replace money with imagination. The object is to out-think your competition rather than outspend them.

And while this competitor may not beat you out for a job promotion or take away corporate market share, it will just as surely diminish the quality of your performance and the meaning you derive from it.
Principle number 4: You can reinvent yourself regularly.

The most important lesson the book’s author learned from Fred begs a question: If Fred could bring such originality to putting mail in a box, how much more could you and I reinvent our work?

There are days when you wake up tired. You figure you’ve read the books, listened to the audiotapes, watched the videos, and sat through the training sessions. You’re doing everything you can possibly do, but you’re still fatigued and unmotivated. So when life is at low tide – when your professional commitment is wavering and just getting the job done and going home at the end of the day becomes your primary objective – what do you do?

Here’s what Sanborn does: He thinks about the guy who used to deliver his mail. Because if Fred the Postman could bring that kind of creativity and commitment to putting mail in a box, Sanborn figures he can do as much or more to reinvent his work and rejuvenate his efforts.

He believes that no matter what job you hold, what industry you work in, or where you live, every morning you wake up with a tabula rasa, a clean slate. You can make your business, as well as your life, anything you choose it to be.

For more information:
For more detail on these four principles read Mark Sanborn’s book, “The Fred Factor.” Or you can find out more by visiting: www.fredfactor.com . An audio lesson is available and can be ordered through the resources section of the website. If you are interested in receiving regular Fred Factor information, you can subscribe to The Fred Factor ezine (e-newsletter).

Contact: Glennis McClure, REAP Co-Director at 402.645.3296 or reapwbc@diodecom.net.
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