Soundview Executive Book Summaries
How to Turn the Ordinary Into the Extraordinary
Fred is the ordinary-looking postal carrier with a small moustache who delivers mail to motivational speaker Mark Sanborn's house in the Washington Park area of Denver. But he is no ordinary U.S. Postal Service worker. According to Sanborn, he is the kind of worker who exemplifies everything that is "right" with customer service and business in general, and is "a gold-plated example of what personalized service looks like and a role model for anyone who wants to make a difference in his or her work."
Not only did Sanborn get the best postal service he had ever experienced when he moved to Fred's route, but he also got a perfect example of superior service to illustrate his presentations to business leaders throughout the United States. According to Sanborn, anyone can be a Fred and live an extraordinary life as well.
Four Fred Principles
After examining the factors that make Fred the Postman such an extraordinarily committed service person, Sanborn honed them down to four principles that can be applied to improve anyone's life and work. These principles are:
- Everyone makes a difference. Some might see delivering mail as monotonous drudgery, but Fred sees the task as an opportunity to make the lives of his customers more enjoyable. Regardless of whether an employer hinders exceptional performance, ignores it, or does not adequately recognize it, only the employee can choose to do his or her job in an extraordinary way. Sanborn writes, "Nobody can prevent you from choosing to be exceptional."
- Success is built on relationships. Indifferent people deliver impersonal service. Sanborn writes that service becomes personalized when a relationship exists between the provider of the service and the customer. The quality of the relationship determines the quality of the product or service. Leaders succeed when they recognize that their employees are human, and employees like Fred the Postman succeed when they recognize their work involves interacting with other human beings.
- You must continually create value for others, and it doesn't have to cost a penny. Replace money with imagination. Sanborn explains that the object is to outthink your competition rather than outspend them. The most critical skill that contributes to employability is the ability to create value for customers and colleagues without spending money to do it. Substitute creativity for capital. Mediocrity is your silent opponent and can diminish the quality of your performance as well as the meaning you derive from it.
- You can reinvent yourself regularly. If Fred the Postman can excel at bringing creativity and commitment to putting mail in a box, you are probably capable of doing as much or more to reinvent your work and rejuvenate your efforts. Sanborn believes that "no matter what job you hold, what industry you work in, or where you live, every morning you wake up with a clean slate. You can make your business, as well as your life, anything you choose it to be."
Sanborn points out that Freds can be found everywhere, and there are more Freds out there than he once thought. One Fred is a woman at a hotel who helped Sanborn out in a pinch by taking his coffee-stained pants home with her overnight to personally wash and press for his departure the next day.
Another Fred he describes is a flight attendant who made a 6:15 a.m. flight from Denver to San Francisco more enjoyable for passengers by lightening the usual announcements with her unique sense of humor: "If you are having a hard time getting your ears to pop, I suggest you yawn widely. And if you are having a hard time yawning, ask me to tell you about my love life." Sanborn explains that she took some risks and had some fun, and as a result, her "customers" the passengers had fun, too.
Another Fred who Sanborn describes is a hotel worker who lent him $30 when he had no cab fare for his ride home. Sanborn explains that this Fred knows that the way to move through life joyfully and successfully is by focusing on what you give rather than what you get. Freds do the right thing because it is the right thing to do.
Sanborn explains that if you want more Freds in the world, be a Fred. Throughout the rest of The Fred Factor, he describes how every individual can make a difference, and offers numerous difference-making strategies to help readers influence the world in a positive way.
Why We Like This Book
The Fred Factor presents a compassionate look at how every action we take can be made more significant if we take the time to reinvent our work and rejuvenate our efforts. By providing a look at the normal people who do extraordinary things in their daily activities, Sanborn presents heart-warming business lessons that expose the value and endless possibilities for improving life and work that come from loving others. Copyright © 2004 Soundview Executive Book Summaries
From the Publisher
“The Fred Factor is a powerful, poignant parable of success. It’s about going the extra mile and always doing more than is expected. It is revolutionary, yet simple. It is life changing.”
--Brian Tracy, author of Focal Point and Goals: How to Get Everything You Want—Faster Than You Ever Thought Possible
From the Hardcover edition.
Read an Excerpt
The First Fred
Make each day your masterpiece.
--Joshua Wooden, father of John Wooden
I first met a "Fred" just after purchasing what I called a "new" old house. Built in 1928, the house was the first I'd owned and was located in a beautiful tree-lined area of Denver called Washington Park. Just days after I moved in, I heard a knock on my front door. When I opened it I saw a mailman standing on my porch.
"Good morning, Mr. Sanborn!" he said cheerfully. "My name is Fred, and I'm your postal carrier. I just stopped by to introduce myself--to welcome you to the neighborhood and find out a little bit about you and what you do for a living."
Fred was an ordinary-looking fellow of average height and build with a small mustache. While his physical appearance didn't convey anything out of the ordinary, his sincerity and warmth were noticeable immediately.
I was a bit startled. Like most of us, I had been receiving mail for years, but I had never had this kind of personal encounter with my postal carrier. I was impressed--nice touch.
"I'm a professional speaker. I don't have a real job," I replied jokingly.
"If you're a professional speaker, you must travel a lot," said Fred.
"Yes, I do. I travel anywhere from 160 to 200 days a year."
Nodding, Fred went on. "Well, if you'll just give me a copy of your schedule, I'll hold your mail and bundle it. I'll only deliver it on the days that you are at home to receive it."
I was amazed by Fred's conscientious offer, but I told him that such extra effort probably wasn't necessary. "Why don't you just leave the mail in the box on the side of the house?" I suggested. "I'll pick it up when I come back into town."
Fred frowned and shook his head. "Mr. Sanborn, burglars often watch for mail building up in a box. That tells them you're out of town. You might become the victim of a break-in." Fred was more worried about my mail than I was! But it made sense; he was the postal professional.
"Here's what I suggest, Mr. Sanborn," Fred continued. "I'll put mail in your box as long as I can get it to close. That way nobody will know you're gone. Whatever doesn't fit in the box, I'll put between the screen door and the front door. Nobody will see it there. And if that area becomes too full of mail, I'll just hold the rest of it for you until you come back into town."
At this point I started to wonder: Does this guy really work for the U.S. Postal Service? Maybe this neighborhood had its own private mail-delivery system. Still, because Fred's suggestions sounded like a terrific plan, I agreed to them.
Two weeks later I returned home from a trip. As I put the key in my-front door lock, I noticed my doormat was missing. Were thieves actually stealing doormats in Denver? Then I saw the mat in a corner of the porch, concealing something. I lifted the mat and found a note from--who else?--Fred! Reading his message, I learned what had happened. While I was gone, a different delivery service had misdelivered a package sent to me. The box had been left on somebody else's porch, five doors down the street. Noticing my box on the wrong porch, Fred had picked it up, carried it to my house, attached his note, and then tried to make the package less noticeable by placing it under the doormat.
Not only was Fred delivering the mail, he was now picking up the slack for UPS!
His actions made a huge impression on me. As a professional speaker, I am particularly adept at finding and pointing out what's "wrong" with customer service and business in general. Finding examples of what's "right" or even praiseworthy is much harder. Yet here was my postman, Fred, a gold-plated example of what personalized service looks like and a role model for anyone who wants to make a difference in his or her work.
I started using my experiences with Fred as illustrations in speeches and seminars that I presented across the United States. Everyone wanted to hear about Fred. Listeners in my audiences were enthralled, whether they worked in the service industry, at a manufacturing company, in high-tech, or in health care.
Back home in Denver, I occasionally had a chance to share with Fred how his work was inspiring others. I told him one story about a discouraged employee who received no recognition from her employers. She wrote to tell me that Fred's example had inspired her to "keep on keeping on" and continue doing what she knew in her heart was the right thing to do, regardless of recognition or reward.
I related to Fred the confession of a manager who had pulled me aside after one speech to tell me he never realized that his career goal all along was to be "a Fred." He believed that excellence and quality should be the goals of every person in any business or profession.
I was delighted to tell my postman that several companies had created a Fred Award to present to employees who demonstrated his trademark spirit of service, innovation, and commitment.
And one fan of Fred once sent him a box of homemade cookies in care of my address!
On the first Christmas after Fred became my postman, I wanted to thank him more formally for his exceptional service. I left a small gift in the mailbox for him. The next day I found an unusual letter in my box. The envelope had a stamp on it, but it wasn't canceled. That's when I noticed the return address; the letter was from Fred the Postman.
Fred knew it would be illegal to put an unpostmarked letter in the box, so even though he personally carried it from his house to my house, he had done the right thing by placing a stamp on the letter.
I opened the letter, which said in part, "Dear Mr. Sanborn, Thank you for remembering me at Christmas. I am flattered you talk about me in your speeches and seminars, and I hope I can continue to provide exceptional service. Sincerely, Fred the Postman."
Over the next ten years, I received consistently remarkable service from Fred. I could always tell which days he wasn't working my street by the way the mail was jammed into my box. When Fred was on the job, all items were neatly bundled.
But there was more. Fred also took a personal interest in me. One day while I was mowing the front lawn, a vehicle slowed in the street. The window went down and a familiar voice yelled, "Hello, Mr. Sanborn! How was your trip?"
It was Fred, off duty, driving around the neighborhood.
After observing his exemplary attitude and actions, I concluded that Fred--and the way he did his job--provides a perfect metaphor for high individual achievement and excellence in the twenty-first century. Fred--and the countless other Freds I've met, observed, or been served by in numerous professions--inspired me to write The Fred Factor. It contains the simple yet profound lessons all the Freds around the world have taught me.
Anyone can be a Fred! That includes you! The result will not just be extraordinary effort and success in your work. You'll find yourself living an extraordinary life as well.
From the Hardcover edition.