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Is it okay to be lazy?

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I once had a co-worker say about me, disparagingly, "he’s lazy—he’s always looking for the easy way to do things." Though I was briefly insulted, the more I thought about his comment the more I agreed with it, and the less insulted I felt. Fact is I am always looking for the easy way to do things. Should I be looking for the hard way? "Forget the shovel—I’m digging with a baby-spoon!"

When I worked at Pitney Bowes, the world’s leading supplier of postage metering machines (let’s be honest—that isn’t an industry with a whole lot of competition, so "world’s leading" is a dubious distinction, but they’ve managed to rack up $5 billion plus in annual revenue), I was given a start-up territory in two Connecticut towns, Ansonia and Middletown. My job was to go door-to-door in the small businesses in those towns, and to do my best to convince people that it made sense to spend $30 a month to rent a machine that essentially licked stamps.

In order to prepare for this job, PB put me through six-weeks of extensive training in NYC. I learned more about mailing machines than a person should know. I went through lots of mock sales pitches, I learned how to turn objections into closes, and I learned how to get past gatekeepers and find the suspect to turn into a prospect and then, one day, into a customer. I was ready (although I didn’t really believe in the financial utility of the product for smaller businesses, which was a bit of a concern since that was my initial market, but why let a thing like ethical values get in the way of sell, sell, sell?).

I hit the streets of Ansonia, and began trying to convince the good doctors, dentists, and ministers that what they needed to make their lives complete was a Pitney Bowes PostPerfect Postage Meter.

"Think of the time you’ll save not having to reach down and rip a stamp off a roll—never having to taste that disgusting taste or paper-cutting your tongue licking the envelope. What’s that? Self-adhesive? Oh. Well then, think of the time you’ll save not peeling the stamp off a roll, and … what? Your secretary/receptionist/volunteer does that? Well, imagine how much of her time you’d … what? She’s got time to talk to her mother, you say, so she can peel stamps? Okay. But it looks coooool, and all the cool kids have one. It’s the Lexus of mailing machines." Sold!

I could tell, pretty quickly, that I wasn’t cut out for this line of sales. Fat Irish people in dark suits don’t look pretty going door-to-door in summer-time. I don’t know if it was my red face, or the sweat pouring off my forehead, or concern that I might explode, but I did get the occasional pity sale in the doctor’s offices: "If we agree to give you $30 a month, will you go lie down, dear?" So I began to think about how I might be more effective. I approached my manager, pointed out that my dry cleaning bill was higher than my monthly revenue generation, and asked if I might try a new technique—namely, using my phone and my computer from the main sales branch to set appointments (or better yet, to close sales) instead of going door-to-door.

"Computer? [Keep in mind this is 1997] What good would a computer do?"

"Well, there’s this technology known as e-mail that I’ve found can be a pretty effective sales-tool."

"But then the customer can’t see your face, or shake your hand."

"True, but I’m not sure my face is selling many mailing systems, and I’m positive that sweaty palms and comfortable customers don’t go hand-in-hand, so to speak."

"Oh. Well, anyway, no. That’s not how we do it here. Get back on the road."

Cell-phone conversation, from my car, 15 seconds later: "Sweetheart, I’ve got some bad news. Yup, I know we just got married, and you just started med school classes, and we have no money saved, but here’s the thing…I hate my job….Going to have to quit. Sorry. See you soon. Save me some Ramen soup."

There you have it, in about a page—my brief career with Pitney Bowes. Since leaving PB, I continue to look for easier ways to do things. Sometimes that pays off.

To relate this, tangentially, to the Longhorns, it's my understanding (3rd-hand) that Mad Dog has all the players follow similar workout routines, while Todd Wright individualizes every guy's workout. Hmmm. It's also my impression that Greg Davis was sincerely surprised by how simply Vince took apart defenses when he added an element of uncertainty into their schemes--while it appeared this year as though Norm Chow was determined, as Greg once was, to turn Vince into a pocket passer. Tip to next year's Titan OC--give him the ball, a decent line, a few guys to throw to, and get out of his way.

What about you--"I do what I'm told, using the accepted method," or do you push the envelope?