Achieving Business Excellence with John Spence

Customer Service: It Will Save Or Kill Your Business

defining-it-project-successAbout a week ago I got an e-mail from an author I’ve never heard of, Kirt Manecke, asking me if I would like a copy of his book so that I might do an honest review on Amazon (it is one of the best perks of my job that I get offers like this all the time – and who in the world am I to pass up free book?).  A few days later a small 89-page book entitled: “SMILE – Sell More with Amazing Customer Service” showed up in my mailbox. On the cover it touted that it was, “The Essential 60-minute Crash Course,” so I shoved it in my briefcase to read on the plane during my two week speaking tour across Canada. Well, it didn’t even last 60 minutes; I read it while on the tarmac waiting to take off from my hometown of Gainesville – 45 minutes tops.

To be frank, the book was a little fundamental, extolling such basic customer service practices as: smile, answer the phone with a smile, say please and thank you, make good eye contact, be enthusiastic, dress for success, keep professional, don’t make the customer wait… stuff that every single customer-facing employee on the face of the earth should know and do for every customer. However, in the last few days since I left for this trip I have wished to God that someone had given this book to every single service provider I have dealt with. I have been met by rude attendants, uncaring employees, unprofessional staff, long waits, and generally crappy service at nearly every place I’ve been in the last week. If only someone had made them sit down and read this little book – twice or three times – I feel they probably would’ve done a much better job and I might actually be going back to some of those establishments and giving them my business again!

Let me make this as Awesomely Simple as I can: for the vast majority of businesses today the ONLY competitive differentiator you have is the level of service you deliver to your customers. People can copy your product, your price, your location, your hours, your decor, your uniforms, your marketing and advertising… they can copy just about everything you offer… except the quality of the service your front-line employees deliver and the relationships they build with your customers. For many of you reading this blog, Amazing Customer Service – or lack thereof – will be the sole determinant as to whether you are successful in your business or not. Please take a moment to read that last sentence again and think about it very carefully!

As your Trusted Business Adviser here’s what I’m going to tell you: make sure that you spend a significant amount of time, energy, effort and resources training and retraining your customer-facing people to deliver absolutely world-class service –PERIOD. I highly recommend this book as a perfect “handbook” that every one of your service folks should read, but don’t stop there… show them videos, send them links to blogs, send them to training classes, reward them when they do a great job and quickly point out when they’re not delivering the service-level expectations you have set.

Remember: You can only hold people accountable to deliver the level of service you have trained them to deliver, and the service expectations you have set for them, so use this book, use other books, use every resource available to set exceedingly high service expectations and then hold your people fully accountable for delivering them flawlessly for every single customer, every single day.

To me, this is one of the most powerful strategies for creating a highly successful business, one that everyone knows, but so few businesses do – which means it is a great opportunity for you to create a powerful and valuable differentiator in the marketplace.

***Quick gut-check: on a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being world-class, what would you honestly score your business right now on the overall level of service you deliver to your customers? Even more important, what would your customers score you??

To buy the book on Amazon click here…


Free eBook Link for Building and Sustaining a Winning Culture by John Spence

Success Quotes: 51 Ways Ordinary People Reached World-Class

I recently came across this extremely powerful list of success quotes by Robin Sharma, a writer and philosopher that I deeply admire and respect. I was so impressed with this list that I sent him and note to ask if I could share it with all of you and he graciously agreed.  I believe the 51 items he has listed (except number 7 for me!) are all spot on, and I have added a few of my own at the end. I hope you find this list very useful and share it with as many people as you can!







By Robin Sharma – Author of the #1 International Bestseller “The Leader Who Had No Title

  1. Know what you want. Clarity is power. And vague goals promote vague results.
  2. Remember that every problem has a solution. Maybe you just can’t see it. Yet.
  3. In this Age of Dramatic Distraction, the performer who focuses the best wins the most.
  4. Before someone will help you, you need to help them.
  5. Become the most passionate person you know. It’ll be contagious.
  6. Know more about your craft/the work you do than anyone who has ever done the work you do…in the history of the world.
  7. Join The 5 am Club. Your most valuable hours are 5am-8am. They have the least interruptions.
  8. Devote yourself to learning something new about your field of mastery every day. Success belongs to the relentless learners. Because as you know more, you can achieve more.
  9. Remember that when you transform your fitness, you’ll transform your business.
  10. Don’t check your mobile when you’re meeting with another person. It’s rude. And rude people don’t reach world-class.
  11. Every time you do what scares you, you take back the power that you gave to the thing that scared you. And so you become more powerful.
  12. A problem is only a problem if you make the choice to see it as a problem.
  13. Stop being a victim. Your business and personal life was made by you. No one else is responsible. To make it better, make better choices. And new decisions.
  14. You can lead without a title. Don’t wait to get a position to stand for excellence, peak quality and overdelivery on every expectation.
  15. Find your own style. Be an original. Every superstar differentiated themselves from The Herd. And marched to their own drumbeat.
  16. Understand that when you play small with your success, you betray your potential. And the birthright you were born under.
  17. Eat less food and you’ll get more done.
  18. As you become more successful, stay really really hungry. Nothing fails like success. Because when you’re successful, it’s easy to stop outlearning+outOverDelivering+outthinking and outexecuting everyone around you. (Success is Beautiful. And dangerous).
  19. If you’re not overprepared, you’re underprepared.
  20. The only level of great manners to play at is “Exceedingly Polite”. In our world, this alone will make you a standout. And differentiate you in your marketplace.
  21. Remember that the moment you think you’re a Master, you lose your Mastery. And the minute you think you know everything, you know nothing.
  22. To double your results, double your level of execution.
  23. Invest in your personal and pro development. All superstars do.
  24. Get this year’s best Targets of Opportunity down onto a 1 Page Plan. Then review it every morning while the rest of the world sleeps.
  25. You don’t get lucky. You create lucky.
  26. When you push through a difficult project, you don’t get to the other side. You reach The Next Level.
  27. Smile. And remember to inform your face.
  28. Spend time in solitude every day. Your best ideas live there.
  29. Debrief on how you lived out your day every night in a journal. This will not only record your personal history, it will make you uber-clear on what you’re doing right and what needs to be improved.
  30. If your not being criticized a lot, you’re not doing very much. Ridicule is the price of ambition.
  31. Develop a monomaniacal focus on just a few things. The secret to productivity is simplicity.
  32. To get the results very few people have, be strong enough to do what very few people are willing to do.
  33. Rest. Recover. It’ll make you stronger.
  34. Buy a smaller TV and build a larger library.
  35. Remember that the bigger the goal, the stronger a person you must become to achieve that goal. So goal-achieving is a superb practice for character-building.
  36. Food fuels your body. Learning feeds your mind.
  37. Don’t ask for respect. Earn it.
  38. Finish what you start. And always end strong.
  39. Breathe.
  40. In business, don’t play to survive. Play to win.
  41. Protect your good name. It’s your best asset.
  42. Remember that words have power. Use the language of leadership versus the vocabulary of a victim.
  43. Give more than you take. The marketplace rewards generosity.
  44. Know that if it’s not messy, you’re not making progress.
  45. Be a hero to a kid.
  46. In business, aim for iconic. Go for legendary. Make history by how awesome you are at what you do.
  47. Please don’t confuse activity with productivity. Many many people are simply busy being busy.
  48. Your doubts are liars. Your fears are traitors. Stop buying the goods they are attempting to sell you.
  49. The best anti-aging remedy in the world is working really hard.
  50. World-Class performers have no plan B. Failure just isn’t an option.
  51. You have the power to change the world—one brave act and one person at a time. Please use it.

From John

52. You become what you focus on and like the people you spend time with.

53. When values are clear, decisions are easy.

54. The minute you stop expecting life to be simple, fair and easy…it becomes simple, fair and easy.

55. The true measure of your life will not be in money, fame, or power – but in how much you loved others and how much they loved you.

56. Embrace an abundance mentality. Help as many other people as possible get what they want and you will get everything you want.

57. The quality of your life will be determined by the quality of the questions you ask…to others and to yourself. Quality questions lead to quality answers.

58. The three watchwords of excellence:  Focus – Discipline – Action.

59. Just remember – you are not right, there are many, many ways to look at every situation and your way is not the only way.

60. Life is short, very short, do not waste time on the trivial… live in the moment and invest in yourself for the future.








What would you like to add to the list?

If you enjoyed this post you will likely find GREAT value in my post:

90 Quotes That Will Change The Way You Think!


Ode to Customer Service, a Business Poem…


I sit in the hotel restaurant, my iced tea is empty

The waitress fiddles to reset a table and spies my glass

We make eye contact…

I look at the glass

She looks at the glass

She goes back to setting the table

The game is afoot!


Care to offer your own business poem for this lovely Friday? The best business poem submitted wins a free copy of my book!!!

The FIVE Keys to Business Success






Several years ago I wrote about this business success list, but I just have to share it with you again because it’s so incredibly powerful and vitally important. 

I can count on one hand, with several fingers left over, the number of businesses that I deal with that deliver consistently superior customer service.  On the other hand, I do have a list as long as my arm… down to the ground… and about a mile down the street, of businesses that consistently disappoint me.  I will bet that you do to: the service repair person who says they will be at my home between nine and five… what, am I supposed to spend the entire day waiting around for them?  I’m the customer, I’m trying to give them money and they treat me like this?  Or the restaurant waiter who is rude and inattentive and then angry when they don’t get a 20% or greater tip?  The doctor who keeps you in their waiting room for three hours then only spends 10 minutes with you; the real estate agent who does not return your calls; the hotel maid who bangs on your door even though you have the “Do NOT Disturb” sign out; and don’t even get me started on cell phone companies. 

So let me tell you the secret of how to dominate your marketplace, how to do something so outlandishly different, unique and special that you will be loved by your customers and they will tell everyone they know to do business with you.  I got this little nugget from one of the most expensive books I’ve ever bought ($50.00 for a 29 or so page book) called: “How The Best Get Better,” by  Strategic Coach Dan Sullivan.  It may have been quite expensive on a per-page basis, but it was worth every penny because this idea can make you rich.

If you want to drive lots of positive referrals to your business you need to do only FIVE things (Dan recommended four – but I added a fifth):

1.  Show up on time.

2.  Do what you say you will do.

3.  Finish what you start.

4.  Say “Please” and “Thank You.”

And added by me…

5.  Give a little more than expected.

Now you’re probably asking yourself?  “Why did Spence get me so excited about this amazing success formula and then disappoint me with such a pathetic list?” Let me tell, that if you consistently did these five things for every customer, every time…you would need to invest in a dump truck to bring your cash deposits to the bank. 

Just five things…it is so awesomely simple, but incredibly powerful.

So I challenge you to take a good, hard, honest look at your business and see how well you truly deliver these five things…consistently.  I promise you that if you work hard in improving each of these five areas, you will look up and in several months your business will be doing dramatically better, your customers will be much happier, you will have lots of new customers, and you will be making much, much more money.

Let me know how it turns out – I wish you great success — John

The Ten Biggest Issues in Business Today

During the past 45 days I have presented workshops to more than 1,000 CEOs, business owners and senior executives in several states in the US and across New Zealand and Australia and have been amazed to see an extremely clear pattern emerge about what this widely diverse group of businesses all agree are key areas they must focus on more intently in their organizations. 

Read this list carefully and consider whether these might also be areas that you need to spend more time, effort and resources on in your business.


  1. Lack of a vivid, compelling and well-communicated a vision and strategy for growth.
  2. Lack of specific, measurable, binary metrics that support the vision and strategy.  
  3. Lack of disciplined execution / culture of high accountability.
  4. Do not truly listen to, and deeply understand, the voice of the customer (VOC).
  5. Do not understand our “Moments Of Truth” and therefore do not have processes in place to execute them flawlessly every single time, with every single customer.
  6. Do not do a superb job in talent development.
  7. Do not deal decisively with mediocrity and poor accountability.
  8. Have not invested enough time and energy in building a high-performance/winning culture. 
  9. Not focused enough on innovation.
  10. Lack of trust and true teamwork across the entire organization.

I would say that in the last year, talking to literally thousands of business owners and CEOs that nearly every one of them struggled with at least a few of the things on this list.  It would be my suggestion that you sit down with your top people and score the above items on this scale:

1 = Strongly Agree that this describes our organization.

3 = Agree Somewhat that this describes our organization.

5 = Not Sure if this describes our organization.

 7= Disagree Somewhat that this describes our organization.

10 = Strongly Disagree that this describes our organization.

Anyplace you score a 7 or less should be an area of concern and any score below a 5 should get you very worried.

As you look at this list you might think the items I’ve listed are fairly mundane –just fundamental business practices that you know are important, however there is a big difference between knowing something – and actually doing it every single day.  Most business people I talk to clearly understand that on a scale of 1 to 10 they should be a 9 or 10 on all of the items I’ve listed above, yet very few truly are.  While having lunch with a client yesterday in Auckland, he asked me why this was and I replied that from my experience is because most people are too busy putting out fires and taking care of emergencies to focus on these critical fundamentals, or they do not have the will to enforce them as non-negotiable standards of performance across every part of their business.

Look for more blogs on these topics in the coming months as I will be building several new training classes to address these issues and adding them as chapters in the new book I’m writing.  If you have any specific questions on these issues please send me a note or post it here on the blog and I will do my best to address them.

Hope you are doing fantastic — John


PS – all work and no play makes Johnny a dull boy, so I did make sure to take a few days off to go fly fishing while on the south island of NZ!! (And yes, I released it – I release ALL of the trout I catch)

John Spence

Business Success Advice for 2013

As I sit here in my office surrounded by more than 2,000 business books it’s pretty tough to narrow it down to just a handful of the very best. However, if I were going to pick the top 50 books that I feel give the very best information, the most useful ideas and tools for how to run a business successfully this would be my list.

** In no particular order**

1. In Search of Excellence — Tom Peters
2. The Little BIG Things – Tom Peters
3. Good to Great — Jim Collins
4. Built to Last — Jim Collins
5. What Really Works — Joyce, Nohria, Roberson
6. The Leadership Challenge — Kouzes and Posner
7. Authentic Leadership — Bill George
8. Indispensable – Joe Callaway
9. Becoming a Category of One – Joe Calloway
10. The Discipline of Teams — Katzenbach and Smith
11. The Five Dysfunctions of a Team — Patrick Lencioni
12. Team Building (fourth edition) — Dyer, Dyer and Dyer
13. Lessons in Excellence from Charlie Trotter — Paul Clarke
14. Kiss Theory Goodbye — Bob Prosen
15. Mavericks at Work — Taylor and LaBarre
16. On Becoming a Leader — Warren Bennis
17. The Great Game of Business — Jack stack
18. The Starbucks Experience — Joseph Michelli
19. The New Gold Standard — Joseph Michelli
20. Customers for Life – Carl Sewell
21. At America’s Service — Karl Albrecht
22. The Northbound Train — Karl Albrecht
23. Leading People — Robert Rosen
24. The Definitive Drucker — Elizabeth Edersheim
25. What the Best CEOs know – Krames
26. Teaching the Elephant to Dance — James Belasco
27. If Aristotle ran General Motors — Tom Morris
28. The Rockefeller Habits – Vern Harnish
29. The Orange Revolution – Adrian Gostick and Chester Elton
30. All In – Adrian Gostick and Chester Elton
31. Nobel Enterprise – Darwin Gillette
32. Blue Ocean Strategy – W. Chan Kim and Renee Mauborgne
33. Primal Leadership – Daniel Goleman, Richard Boyatzis and Annie McKee
34. The Leader of the Future – Frances Hesselbein, Marshall Goldsmith and Richard Beckhard
35. Execution – Larry Bossidy and Ram Charan
36. Love is the Killer App — Tim Sanders
37. Start with Why – Simon Sinek
38. Up Your Business — Dave Anderson
39. The 100 Best Business Books of All Time – Jack Covert and Todd Stattersten
40. Simply Better – Patrick Barwise and Sean Meehan
41. Referral Engine – John Jantsch
42. Duct Tape Marketing – John Jantsch
43. Managing with a Conscience – Frank Sonnenberg
44. Six Disciplines Execution Revolution – Gary Harpst
45. Repeatability – James Allen and Chris Zook
46. The Lean Startup – Eric Ries
47. The Thank You Economy – Gary Vaynerchuck
48. Crush It – Gary Vaynerchuk
49. Firms of Endearment – Rajendra S. Sisodia, David B. Wolfe, Jagdish N. Sheth
50. Leading in a Culture of Change — Michael Fullan
51. Awesomely Simple — John Spence :-)

I could easily recommend 75 or 80 more, but I think that if you were to read these books they would give you the best overall view on how to build, lead and grow a highly successful organization. If you do not see one of your VERY favorites, please send me a note in case I have not read it yet!!

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High-Performance Teams, Clear Expectations and Courage

This is a short montage from a recent seminar I taught in Auckland, NZ with a wonderful company called (you ought to check out their website – they do cool stuff!). I hope you enjoy this clip and share it with anyone you feel would find value in the ideas I share…


John Spence is the author of “Awesomely Simple – Essential Business Strategies for Turning Ideas into Action.” He is an award-wining professional speaker and corporate trainer, and has twice been recognized as one of the Top 100 Business Thought Leaders in America and also as one of the most admired Small Business Experts in the nation along with Malcolm Gladwell, Seth Godin and Apple.