Failure is not an option. Find a way.

I began learning the principles of Outrageous Service in my first job after high school graduation. Along with three other college students, I was hired to work for the summer for Morley Fraser, who was head football and baseball coach for Albion College and one of the greatest motivators of all time. Morley was the kind of fiery coach that books are written and movies are made about.

But Morley never made it to “the big time” because he chose to stay at an NCAA Division III school in Michigan. He and his wife had three sons and two daughters, and Morley passed up many offers to coach Division I and II schools. He chose to stay in this small Michigan town where he had the time to see his kids play sports and where he could coach his own athletes. Each of his three sons quarterbacked the high school football team. One was killed in a car wreck after high school, and the other two went on to play in college and become head football coaches. The girls were also athletes, and both married coaches. It is an understatement to say that the Fraser family was competitive.

During the summer, Morley served as Director of Continuing Education for Albion College. The program included approximately 40 different camps and conferences that ranged from cheerleading camps to IBM business conferences, and from church groups to every sport imaginable.

Morley’s “Big Four,” as we were called, were on call 24 hours a day, and our job description was to do whatever it took to keep the campers and staff happy. The ultimate goal was to ensure that every contract would be renewed for the next summer.

The Big Four, all under age 22, were armed with master keys to the college campus. Our primary responsibility was to plan the leisure and sports activities. But, we were also responsible for seeing that conference rooms were set up, the residential rooms were clean, the laundry was picked up and any other task that affected the campers’ satisfaction.

We often had as many as four conferences in the same week. At the beginning of each conference, Morley called us in to outline the game plan and assign responsibilities to each of the Big Four. The duties were broad, but the mission was simple: “Do whatever it takes to make these campers happy and Win the Damn Ballgame.”

As a football coach, Morley knew that there are many ways to win a football game. You can pass; you can run; you can play great defense; you can have special teams play; you can make wonderful play calls. But Morley also knew that all that matters when the game is over is who has the winning score. He didn’t care what method we chose as long as we played by the rules and won.

Morley often told us that each of us had a different set of skills, and we were to utilize those skills to make the customers happy. We took little old ladies to church; we took men’s groups to taverns; sometimes we rushed people to the airport; other times we went to the local diner to get special food for someone or to the drug store to get a prescription filled. There was no job too big or too small for us to do, and any hour of the day or night was “convenient” for us.

I remember picking up hundreds of bags of dirty linen from the dormitories and loading them on the linen truck in 85-degree heat. The smell was unbelievable.

I also remember getting to have a few beers with the instructors from the cheerleading camps. This was quite a treat for a 19-year-old boy.

In the first couple of years with Morley, I would go into his office and ask a question about what to do about some problem at one of the conferences. Sometimes he would give me suggestions and help me decide what to do. However, if I brought a problem he thought I could solve on my own, he would simply look me in the eye and say, “Hatcher, get out of my office and win the damn ballgame.” It was a unique style of coaching and development, but a very effective one that I have incorporated in my business. In almost all situations, employees can figure out how to solve the problems if we will allow them to use their initiative.

I was not always the brightest or the most talented member of Morley’s Big Four, but I will never forget what he told me when I left after working for him for four summers. He said that I did not always do things exactly the way he would do them, but that he had never had anyone work for him who was as good at figuring out a way to win the ballgame. That was high praise coming from Morley Fraser.

The most important thing I learned from Morley and Albion College was that good customer service is an attitude. Fraser taught me that every detail is important and no detail is too big or too small to take care of if it helps win the ballgame. The coach helped me develop the ability to probe, ask questions, listen to people and figure out what they want–and then go get it for them. That was the beginning of my concept of Outrageous Service.

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