The Month The Earth Stood Still – How Do You Make Things Move?

Blog Post

Based on a report in BBC News on July 24, 2020, an international team of researchers reported that the March-May period during the lockdown of the pandemic represents “the longest and most prominent global anthropogenic seismic noise reduction on record.” In plain English, this means that the movement caused by humans in everything we do—from driving our cars, to operating our factories—produces ground motions that can be detected by seismometers. In some cases, the noise was reduced by as much as 50%. Normally, this human noise needs to be filtered out to detect low magnitude earthquakes.

This is quite a phenomenon. At first, we picture bustling places like New York City, but the noise levels in the Black Forest of Germany were even quieted in boreholes several hundred yards underground. Just think of the stillness…

It is in quiet moments like this pandemic period, and other daily quiet moments I try to create in my life, that I reflect. When I read about this phenomenon, my first question was, “What noises do I make that cause a stir?” As I reflected more upon this question, I realized that it is in our actions and service to others that we can make the biggest difference to those around us. 

From this came the self-examining question that is worth spending time to reflect on and honestly answering to ourselves: “What value do I add to my service or product that makes the biggest difference in the lives of others and that the impact changes the very ground they stand on?” Let’s call this difference “life-enhancing moments.” 

As I consider some life-enhancing moments I have experienced, they have proven as a guide to my business endeavors. From the few ideas I will share with you, I have been able to measure my performance based on quality interactions with others that have had a deep-rooted impact.

When I started my CPA firm in 1987, my father-in-law offered what proved to be life-enhancing and profit-boosting advice. He shared about the time in his life when working for the IRS, he used to do accounting work at nights and weekends for some businesses on the side. Of course, he went on to work for a bank and became its president likely as a result of practicing this one piece of advice in his own business affairs. He said, “Craig, as you get busy doing the work for your clients, don’t get too busy to take an afternoon off from the office work and go out to visit your clients at their place of business.” He may have offered a reason for this advice, and if so, I have no recollection of the reason he gave. I viewed my father-in-law as having had a successful career and chose to follow his advice. 

For me, I chose Wednesday afternoons to visit my clients. Over the years, I watched not only my CPA practice grow to over 700 small-business clients, but its revenue per client soar.  The act was simple. The impact was tremendous. Not only did I gain the trust of my clients by taking time to show I was interested in their success, but that trust grew to produce two outcomes. The first was that they would refer their friends and family to me for help. The second was that at the end of each Wednesday, I would not only head back to the office with unsolicited referrals, but also with additional work they wanted me to do. Some of this work benefited me in other ways.  For example, one of my clients was considering an investment in a start-up bank. He shared with me the investment prospectus, told me why he was considering making a significant investment, and wanted my opinion. I took the information and a few days later, we met to discuss my thoughts. I shared with him that I thought it was a good investment opportunity and asked if I could join in the investment as well. He said he was hoping I would say that, because he would not invest unless I did. What a great experience to help start a community bank and be one of the founding board members alongside my client.

Some of our listeners are not business owners. As such, I thought of one of my sons and how he is the example of the ideal employee. As our family grew and the businesses I founded became more successful, we moved to a large home on 5 acres. This home was a lot of work to maintain to the standards we like. I would assign my son, Matt, to do certain chores outside. Without exception, he would not only do the work assigned, but when finished with the assigned work, he reported back saying, “Is there anything else that needs to be done? I did what you asked me to do and saw this and that needed to be done as well, so I did that.” You can imagine how any employer would feel to have employees who make the earth move so deeply by doing what is expected and then doing more without being asked. These types of employees enhance the profits and the pleasure of doing business.

As you take time to be quiet and ponder your plans, think about how your service or product can enhance and change the lives of others. The steps you take, if taken with care and attention, can really make things move for others. As you figure out how to add value to those you interact with, as my father-in-law shared with me, you too will experience greater success and fulfillment from the small and simple steps of seeking to understand the needs of others and taking time to meet those needs. 


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