Does Paying Your Dues Ever Pay Off?

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“My customers (and leadership team) are not concerned with me – they’re concerned with the results I produce for them.”  — Misti Burmeister

Mike Brannon, Vice President, Old Line Customer Meat Company, (parent company to Roseda Farm in Baltimore, Maryland) took hours out of his busy schedule to help me understand the farming business.

Last week, Mike and I drove to Annapolis where we met up with Steve and Jay, and the four of us headed toward Solomons Island. We boarded a boat, made our way to a crab-picking house, and finished the day with an oyster farm tour.

After our extraordinary adventure, during which Steve both entertained and educated us about sea life and the environment, I asked him about his background.

Teach a Man To Fish…

“I sold dead fish for 12 years,” he said.

“My days started at 6am, and didn’t finish until 6pm, Monday to Saturday. I would get up, work all day, come home, crash, and then get up and do it all over again. While we were closed on Sunday, sometimes one of my chefs would call last minute and ask for a large order for the very next day.”

Tired though he was, Steve would go into the plant late Saturday or early Sunday, fillet the number of fish needed, and personally deliver the fish to his chef in time for the event.

12 years and thousands of dead fish later, hundreds of chefs throughout the area trusted and respected him, and counted on him as their sole fish provider.

“When I left to take this job,” he shared, “I made sure the new sales rep had all the details – the notes I’d taken about my customers. I kept track of each one of their hobbies, children’s names, their favorite …”

Steve probably knew more about each customer than they knew about themselves.

Not surprisingly, his current position as the Director of Fisheries Marketing for the Maryland Department of Natural Resources, was created just for him.

Curious, I asked him how much of a pay cut he took when he accepted this job. “$200K,” he said, “But I get vacation and a personal life now. And, I love this job!”

Fed For a Lifetime

Steve’s story inspired me. He had poured himself into a job he loved, devoted 100% of himself to his customers, and had given up much of his personal life.

Now that’s paying your dues.

His payoff? He wound up with a life he loves, work that matches his passion, and freedom to make whatever choices he wants.

“When you do everything you need to do right now, the day will come when you can do what you want to do, when you want to do it.” – Zig Ziglar

Instead of asking, “How do I achieve success?” maybe a better question is “What do I need to do more of to help my customer – or my boss – achieve success?” or “How can I help my customers – or my team – get the results they care about?”

Because the truth is, my customers (and leadership team) are not concerned with me – they’re concerned with the results I produce for them.

Ultimately, my biggest take away from Steve was to care more about each customer’s success than about being successful – and success will find its way to you.

Join the Conversation: What do you think? Is “pay your dues” really code for “care moreabout your customer, your team, and the value you contribute?”

Thank you, Steve!

Looking to build an inspired, collaborative team? Contact Misti Burmeister today. She’ll help you create the right culture and attract the right people.

Thanks to Dexter Britain and Gillycuddy for their music contribution and LN Lurie for producing this podcast.

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