Make Business Simple – Four-Word Rules For Success – #4

Make Business Simple – Four-Word Rules For Success – #4

Make Business Simple – Four-Word Rules For Success. #4 in a series.

We’ve spent the last few weeks talking about my four-word rules for business success.  My goal remains simple: I want to give you easy to implement tools, tactics, and techniques to make your business better.

Each rule is only four words long because often that’s all it takes to make a huge difference when you build your brand and your business. (And it’s because four words are about all my short attention span can handle!)

Rule #1 is “Shut the @#$%!! up.” If you missed it just point your browser HERE.

Rule #2 is “Take them to lunch.” If you missed that one just point your browser HERE.

Rule #3 is “Don’t work with assholes.” If you missed #3, point your browser HERE.

Rules for success

Between my sophomore and junior years in college I worked as a waiter in a fine restaurant called the Grand Café.

I enjoyed the work. I enjoyed dealing with people. And I enjoyed the novelty because I knew I wasn’t going to be doing it for the rest of my life.

One lunchtime I was serving a woman who wasn’t happy with anything. Her water was warm. Her food was cold. The A/C was blowing directly on her. The table was rocking. I brought the salad too slowly. I brought the entrée too quickly.

She finally got so exasperated she insisted I get the manager.

Back in the kitchen, the manager asked me what went wrong.

“I don’t know,” I answered. “I don’t think I’ve done anything to make her so mad. But no matter what I do, she’s not happy.”

The manager walked up to the table and introduced himself. I stood a few steps behind him.

“Good afternoon Ma’am. I’m Bernard Fish, your general manager. How can I help you?”

That was all the invitation she needed. What came next was a five-minute diatribe of everything that was wrong with the service. And the food. And me.

Mr. Fish watched and listened, nodding appropriately. Finally, the angry patron just ran out of steam and stopped complaining.

Mr. Fish paused a moment and then leaned over. He waited another agonizingly long moment before saying quietly: “I heard everything you said. And I can fix it all for you. But I have to tell you I think there’s something else bothering you. Tell me the truth. What’s really wrong?”

The patron was so enraged she couldn’t speak. She started to sputter when, like the sudden passing of a raging thunderstorm, her face softened.

She stared blankly at Mr. Fish for a long minute before erupting into tears.

“My husband left me last week and I don’t know what to do.”

Her head collapsed on her arms.

Mr. Fish turned to me. “Go grab a couple cappuccinos and a slice of our chocolate cheesecake.”

I turned and walked towards the kitchen.

“Bring two forks” he added.

Mr. Fish sat at the table and listened. When we cleaned up the lunch mess they were still talking. When all the chairs were piled on the tables and the carpet was being vacuumed, they were still talking.

Finally they got up. The formerly upset customer came over to me and apologized for her behavior. She hugged me and handed me a $100 tip.

Four-word rule #4?

Uncover the Real Problem.

The water wasn’t too warm. The food wasn’t too cold. The A/C wasn’t blowing directly on her. And the food came out when it was supposed to come out. But of course, none of that mattered. Because she wasn’t happy.

Most therapists will tell you the concern their patients first present is usually the symptom, not the problem.

I had a client who used to say, “Don’t fix problems you don’t have.”

It goes double for your customers and your clients.

Instead you’ll find real success when you uncover the real problem.

Four-word rule #4 is uncover the real problem.

By | 2017-07-17T17:10:19+00:00 July 17th, 2017|8 Comments


  1. Jennifer Coolidge July 19, 2017 at 10:54 am - Reply


    I especially liked this one and #4 uncover the real problem.

    Love reading your insights.

    Thank you,

    Jennifer Coolidge

  2. Harley Frank July 19, 2017 at 11:00 am - Reply

    Thanks Bruce – I love your blog and value what you have to say. Here’s my story – a zillion years and a lifetime ago – I was a social work intern at a community mental health center in the suburbs of Boston. My client was an adolescent male – and frankly – given that I was a newbie in the field – among other issues – our work wasn’t going so great. One day – something went wrong with her son – and the mom came in to give me a piece of her mind – and she set off a torrent of anger, frustration, angst, sadness, desperation etc. Realizing that something else was going on – and it ALL wasn’t “my fault” – when I was able to collect myself – and peel myself off the back of my chair – I said ” is it always this hard to tell some one just how angry you are” – and with that comment I seemingly neutralized the situation – and in addition to seeing her son – she also became a client. I think about that event from time to time – thanks for sharing. Keep up the good work. Harley

    • Bruce Turkel July 20, 2017 at 4:22 pm - Reply

      Sounds like the same story, Harley (minus the cappuccinos, of course). It’s funny, two or three people have told me their versions of how the same thing happened to them. Different facts. Same truth. Thanks.

  3. sam notaRbartolo July 19, 2017 at 11:54 am - Reply

    Rule # 4

    Perfect! No greater Truth.

    1, 2 and 3 also.


  4. David J. Hawes MAS+ July 20, 2017 at 10:54 am - Reply

    Bruce: This is isn’t easy to do. Empathy is rarely the default response. Thanks for reminding me that it’s not just important, it’s critical for finding the real issue.

    You had the good fotune to work with some wonderful people. You are a very lucky guy, and the best part is you know it.

    Thanks, Bruce!

  5. Ray Raposo July 23, 2017 at 11:00 am - Reply

    Great story exquisitely told. Often the real hidden truth lies behind bad behavior.

  6. Miren July 30, 2017 at 7:53 am - Reply

    FABULOUS story and lesson!

  7. Jim Fried August 2, 2017 at 11:05 am - Reply

    Great stuff as always!

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