I have the pleasure of teaching a business class at the local college. One of the biggest challenges is to find a way to keep the students engaged in the material. This can be especially difficult when school begins at 6:00 p.m. on Monday evenings. There is a good mix of traditional and non-traditional students each semester, so many can refer to their own working experience as we cover the various topics.
Since I've been doing this, I've always incorporated stories from my own efforts in the business world to bring some life to what could be potentially a boring subject. During an evaluation by own of the department heads, I was told "You're a great storyteller. Keep doing that!" So here's an example.
The subject at school last week was about finances, particularly accounts receivable. Once we covered the basics, I could see eyes glazing over. So I dug a tale from my memory and shared it with the class. Here goes.
While working for a transportation company, I was tagged with collecting on past due accounts. Most of the work was done by phone, but often I would combine an in-person sales call with a collection visit. I was in the Indianapolis area when I learned one customer was very elusive. The drivers all challenged me, betting that I would never collect. Not one to walk away, I covered their bets and we locked up the cash for the week I would be in town.
Turns out the customer was never at the store, but the guys would deliver his products to the alley and have the barber next store sign for everything. This account owed several thousand dollars and was well past due. I figured out he had the calls forwarded from his store to his cell phone. This allowed him to be at client locations, showing samples of carpet and tile or doing actual installations. So after a couple of attempts at catching him at the store failed, I tried another approach.
I called the store one morning and we connected. Using a thick Southern drawl, I explained that he had been recommended to do some work for an old restaurant on the other side of town that I'd just bought. My problem was that I was only in town for another couple of hours before returning to Texas. I told him the restaurant needed carpet and tile, wall paper and more. But since he was never at the store, I couldn't go over samples and options. In a flash, he agreed to meet me at the store in an hour. Twenty minutes later, I was in the parking lot when he pulled in.
He greeted me with a grin and a hearty handshake. We talked about service and his account. With a flourish, he gave me a check to bring everything up to date. He mentioned the guy with the restaurant and we discussed storing the extra materials at the freight terminal until he was ready for installation. Then he rushed me out the door, anxiously awaiting the Texan's arrival.
I went to the bank, certified the funds and continued on my way. On that Friday when I returned to the terminal, all of the drivers who had bet that I'd never catch the guy were anxiously awaiting the news, eager to spend my money. Their faces collapsed when I tossed his check on the desk. I grabbed the cash from the safe and took the whole bunch out for burgers and beers.
The students enjoyed the tale and asked many questions afterward about different ways to work with their customers. So in some situations, Story Time works.
Here are the links to a couple of other posts that you might enjoy.