Dance to THEIR Tune (Issue 952)

In which we are reminded to dance with clients’ answers to our questions rather than sticking to our own agendas and tasks.

Someone asked me, during a conference call with one of our bank clients this week, “How have you, as a business owner, been affected by the Covid-19 shutdown?”  I called him back after the conference call and apologized for my answer: “I think I went a little overboard, I’m sorry. More than what you were expecting.  I think I blew your colleagues away.”

“Yes,” he replied with a compassionate laugh, “It’s been hard and you got pretty intense.”

His response reminded me that, several years ago, I went to a small bank branch near our town square to take care of some business. For whatever reason, 30 minutes to closing, the branch lobby was hopping. There were six of us standing cheek by jowl, dancing foot to foot, waiting to see the two moving-fast-as-we-can Financial Services Representatives, all wondering whether old hard-of-hearing Mrs. Doings could have picked a less busy Saturday to come to the branch for help balancing her check book.

After Mrs. Doings rose from her chair, one of the men ahead of me in the six-deep queue, probably in his early ‘60s, moved to the chair she’d left warmly vacant. He sat down, gently folded his jacket over his lap, and waited for the now-available Financial Services Representative to catch her breath.

“Good morning,” she smiled. “Welcome to So-and-So Bank. I’m Jackie Brooks. How may I help you?”

“Good morning,” he replied. “I’d like to open a business checking account for a condo association, please.”

“Great!”, she enthused. “And how are you this beautiful morning?”

He was silent for a couple of breaths, then said, “Thanks for asking, I’m generally OK. But I was thinking, while I was waiting for you: It is a beautiful morning and I wish I’d taken time to enjoy more mornings like this rather than working six and seven days a week. I regret that I didn’t spend more time with my kids when they were growing up and, now that they’ve moved away, I wish I could see more clearly how soon I can cut back at work so I can go visit them. I don’t know whether I’ve blown my chance for retirement in a few years by saving too little or investing poorly. And, now that my wife has passed, I can’t decide whether and how fast to move to a smaller house or whether to buy a new car now or wait.”

….. Motionless, she looked at him… right into his eyes… for a long moment.

“And how many people will be using the checking account we’re opening here this morning?”

Nick Miller trains banks and bankers to help small businesses thrive by guiding them to good financial practices and leveraging the full range of their banks’ capabilities. He is President of Clarity Advantage based in Concord, MA. Additional articles on Clarity’s web site.

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