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Furniture Retail Tip #29 From Grandpa Mike-e-e! at 90 - "Retail Promissory Handshakes"

Furniture World Magazine


Michael Greene (Grandpa Mike-e-e at 90)

Before my buddy Carlton Chutney, was a Nobel Prize winner, he was a hardworking young man looking for a niche in New York business life. This past summer while Carlton and I were lunching on Moo Shoo Vegetables at our favorite Chinese restaurant, Carton told me his secret to success.

"When I was a young man,” Carlton said, “I picked up a magazine in a doctor's office and read a write-up about Billy Rose the famous, talented theatrical producer, who in his younger days was a male secretary with the ability to take 300 words a minute of dictation. That is almost like a million words these days with all kinds of electronics.

"And because this skill, Rose landed a job in the office of a top corporate executive as an administrative secretary.   Result? With that one giant move he caught the eye of chief executives and learned how thin air breathing executives did their jobs, and got major visibility for their unique business talents. That’s how Rose got his start.”

"So-o-o,“  he continued, “I found a top secretarial school, studied nights, practiced my fingers to the bone and learned the visibility game. It took me four years as an administrative secretary, but I ended up as a junior executive on the third floor of a Wall Street skyscraper with an eye peeled on the corner suite of an eightieth floor, which I finally succeeded in climbing up to, just like Billy Rose."

"Gee! Carlton,” I replied, “getting up there in that rare business atmosphere is one thing, but tell me, what kept you suspended up there and prevented your tumbling back down to the secretarial pool?"

"Simple, Grandpa, he replied, “It was the "promissory handshakes" I distributed when I was on the lower floors of the business game. I honored every promise I ever made. A business handshake is a bond, and my handshake could be counted on through good days and bad."

"Sure there was many a tough day in-between the third and the eightieth floor but as I made my way up I made sure that I didn't use the bodies of my friends and competition as stepping stones… never. So when the bottom dropped out in the '80's and I tumbled down more than a dozen flights, the friends I made getting to the top jumped into the cavity and not only caught me in midair but brushed me off, had my vested suit dry cleaned and re-launched my return climb with their own Promissory Handshakes."

"Sounds like a brand new Disney-Pixar musical fairy tale in eighteen colors and a Leonard Bernstein symphony orchestra."

"Uh! Uh!" he said. "There's nothing new about it all, Grandpa. The truth is that regardless of super-computers and endless Internet gizmos we still go around only once in a lifetime…especially in high visibility business."

All this brings me, believe it or not, to the profound application of this story to our retail life in the furniture business.  So what is this point? It's that there is nothing more important that keeping your promises to the most important people in your retail life.  A-n-d, that is true when you are on your way up the retail life ladder to success. It is equally true when you've made it to the top... and it is even true if you've fallen a couple of floors (or all the way to the basement).

The fact is, no matter what stage of life you are in, honoring the "promissory handshakes" you make is the most important thing you can do.

These handshakes are the promises you make to your bosses and colleagues, to your employees, family, customers and reps.  It doesn’t matter if you ever shake their hands in person, but that’s a good idea, because when you go into the furniture retail life business, you’ve made a promise to make people's lives better, more beautiful and less stressful. So why not let them know up front that this is what you intend to do --- a-n-d then do your best.

So, if you keep all your “promissory handshakes” will you, like my friend Carlton Chutney win a Nobel Prize? Will it be guaranteed that your business will succeed and that people will always catch you when you fall? Probably not, but you will have a better chance, and your retail life will be worth living.

Thanks, again, for listening.

Grandpa Mike-e-e! at 90

Got a question? Got a comment? Great!! E-mail: grandpamike-e-e!@furninfo.com

PS. See the new YouTube music video staring me, Grandpa Mike-e-e! with my granddaughter Becca in a supporting role at http://bitly.com/qALkrX

About Michael Greene (Grandpa Mike-e-e!)

Retailer, author, columnist, lecturer, composer and lyricis

Came to US with immigrant parents in 1924 at the age of three.

Graduated high school at 16.

Managed a small bedding retail and manufacturing company at 18 in 1939.

Hired as Assistant to the VP of Purchasing (Sweets Corp. of America... approximately 500 employees) in 1940 at 19.

Drafted into US Army Signal Corp - Communications Personnel Div., Fort Monmouth.Tested and selected for Army Specialized Training Program, Rutgers University. Qualified for O.C.S. - Officer Candidate School and graduated as Second Lieutenant, Inventory/ Personnel Division in 1944 at 23.

Married his sweetheart, Anita, and he gives thanks to the Almighty that they are still sweethearts... after 73 years.

Rejoined Sweets Corp as Director of Personnel in 1945 at 24.

Joined his suddenly widowed sister as President of a small retail/ manufacturing company in 1946. Stayed on for 46 years managing the custom designing of over 20,000 childrens rooms and master bedroom beds.

Attended Hofstra University (evening program), and graduated in 1968 at age 47. Two of his kids followed right along at two other college campuses.

Applied for 30 day temporary columnist opening offered by the Reed Business Newspapers in NC and stayed on for 27 years. His retail columns were distributed everywhere from Brooklyn to Bangladesh, to Belgium to Beijing.

Traveled the US and visited with 3rd/ 4th generation retail owners.

He was admitted to the Writers Hall of Fame for, "Conspicuous Excellence In reports and appraisals of the furniture industry."

Retired from retail management at age 70.

BOOKS: (1) At age 72: published first book "Where's The Green Pea?" vegetable character stories including his original music and CD.

Designed programs for primary and pre-K schools and presented them with his Anita. (2) At age 76: Gee! I Wish I Had A Bedroom All My Own," lectured in middle schools (teenage), with tech info for parents, teachers and students in Home

Science. (3) At age 80: Tzedakah - Caring And Sharing classic book with original music CD and illustrations for high school chorales and drama groups.

At 89 -- published Retail Life: How To Get In, Stay Alive a-n-d Love It! in online and printed version for business schools, industry, and entrepreneurs. Includes how-to educational section for "Wise Women Who Love A Challenge" and "Oldtimer Retailers Who've Missed Some Basic Goodies In Business Promotion. Also provides business professors and career students seeking everyday practical trade experiences and business thinking.

Invited to address Levitz Furniture retail salespersons, Furniture Designer Associate members,

IHFRA sales associations, High Point University students and F.I.T. retailer evening sessions. Also accepted as an ASID associate member.

At 90 plus... is a musical playwright, composer and lyricist with original music and thinking for very young and very old America.

Grandpa Mike-e-e

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