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A Ray of Light

With the year coming to a close, I’ve spent some time reflecting about all the things that have happened to me.  The major events have been numerous, but there is one trend I noticed that I would have never expected.  I began the year with a cynical outlook towards other businesses.  So many seemed to be riddled with poor quality, poor customer service, or poor morals.  In Good Employees Are Hard To Find, I discussed some companies which were given an opportunity but dropped the ball.  I could spend hours writing about all of the companies that have wronged me in one way or another, but then I’d be wasting too much energy on negative thoughts…I don’t have time to sit and pout.

Now that the year is over, I’ve found 4 businesses that I count on and have developed a great relationship with.  I know I can call them whenever I have a question, I’ll receive a timely response, and I’ll feel like they were ecstatic to be able to help me.

Realtor Like None Other

When it comes to real estate, I’m much more educated than your average Joe, but I’m still an amateur.  My efforts to become a real estate investor have been met with one wall after another.  The most surprising thing to me through all of this was how much more difficult realtors made this process.  I started trying to buy houses 2 years ago and I’ve already run through 5 realtors  Although these folks were supposed to be on my side, working for me, it felt as though they were slowing me down.  I found my own deals, I did my own research, and I even drove my self all around town.  The only thing I needed a realtor for was to get the key out of the lockbox.  After what most would consider to be a pretty bad realtor experience, I happened upon Allison…the realtor I dreamed about.

She caught my eye with her outward appearance.  I receive postcards from all sorts of realtors around town.  Most of them just have a picture, a phone number, and some sappy bio that says, “I went to the University of Florida and love the community.  You should hire me.”  What did Allison have?  A higher quality postcard with a list of everything she’d do for me if I were her client.  The list was two times as long as anything a realtor has ever done for me, and mentioned all sorts of things that a normal realtor wouldn’t know about.  She’s talking about getting my house on websites and search engines when most of her competition doesn’t know the difference between Google and their browser (yes, there is a difference…just take my word on it).  Time to look at her website.  What do I see?  A perfect blend of information & art; it was designed. I’m very critical of webpages and I only have one criticism of her webpage.  colordiffThere are two blues that are so similar they look the same.  On crappy monitors you can’t even see the difference.  Now I’m not saying all this to criticize Allison.  I’m using this example to demonstrate how awesome she is.  I spent over an hour looking for mistakes and this is all I could find.  I can point out problems in just about anything and the best I can come up with is the use of two different blues.  I’m not sure that I’ve ever seen a small business with such a precise corporate image.

All of this is what caused me to contact Allison, but what keeps me around?  When we first met she showed up in a sharp suit with a cool car…more with the good image thing.  Then when we were walking around the house and talking business, she was effectively telling me to not worry about anything.  I hand her a key and I’m done.  No more work for me?  You mean I don’t have to be the driving force?  Now that my house has been on the market, I’ve gotten a nice little weekly report that tells me everything happening in the neighborhood, descriptions about all the showings, and then any recommendations.  Sweet.

I work a lot of hours because I crave accomplishments and don’t have much of anything else to do.  Because of that, it’s rare that I meet someone who is willing to push harder than me.  But Allison will.  She has stopped by twice on her way home from work and I’m actually already home.  If you know the hours I keep then you know she’s burning the midnight oil to show up after me.  If you’re in Gainesville Florida and want to buy or sell a house, there’s no one that I’d recommend more highly.

Detail King

I have a car detailer who washes my car every 2 weeks; he’s the fella I mentioned in Give Without Guilt.  This guy is my car detailer, but he seems like so much more.  All of my friends know him by name.  Everyone at my office knows him (even the part-time interns).  My parents have shaken his hand and they don’t even live in the states.  Why is he so well known?  First off, he makes dirty cars clean for $25;  a mere pittance when you see the work he does.  He does the work with a smile and says, “Thank you” at least a dozen times.  After spending hours on my Jeep, I gave him $40 when he only asked for $20 and he teared up because at the time he had never received such a big tip.  I love my relationship with Fred because I know I can call him at any time and have my car cleaned with a smile.  He charges so little that I feel like he is doing me a favor.  But he feels like by calling him, I’m doing him, and my car, a favor.  He does things better, faster, and cheaper…perfect business principles if you ask me.

Laundry Guy

I don’t have many dress shirts and I am not very good at ironing, so I started taking my dress shirts to the cleaners each week.  It was really a pain because I’d have to rush out of work to make it there by 7.  One day I got there at 6:55 and the lights were already off.  The girl was still inside but refused to take my clothes.  I was livid, so I went back to work (like I planned to do already) and typed an angry email to the owner.  While I was getting his email address off the website, I noticed that they had a delivery service for a nearby community (Haile Plantation if you’re familiar with Gainesville).  So after I said my peace, I asked him about the delivery.  He now comes every Tuesday and Thursday.  Dirty clothes go in a closet, clean clothes show up in my office 2 days later.  He is polite and gracious.  Today he even brought us all little bags of chocolate as a holiday present. I get better & personal service, do less work, and don’t pay a dime extra.

Law Man

At the beginning of the summer I had the unfortunate pleasure of being on the giving end of an eviction.  Fortunately the process as a whole was rather effortless.  A mentor introduced me to a lawyer, Kevin Leary, who specializes in evictions.  It’s almost like going to the drive through.  I give him an address and a $750 check.  After waiting 45 days for the due process, I get my house back.  It’s so simple that I know who to call if it ever happens again.

My Crew

I’m slowly developing an army of people I can count on.  I know it’ll likely cost money to receive their assistance, but for these folks, the money is worth it.  They are the type of people who provide way more value than what they charge.  I’m left looking forward to 2010 to see what new business owners I’ll meet.  My fingers are crossed that a great accountant is in there somewhere.

If you really pay attention, you’ll start to meet folks who are actually worth their weight.  As you build your entourage, you’ll notice that life gets much less stressful. Having a list of solid people you can count on is just one more little thing on your journey towards infinite happiness.

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