Be Outstanding … Do Not Get Fired!

We all know that organizations fire people, but as we say in Outstanding!, people fire organizations.

Recently, while conducting a “Be Outstanding!” day of training with a senior management team representing a well-known appliance manufacturer, I asked them to each identify an organization they’ve fired; that is, one they will never do business with again—and why. Every single person in the room had an example. Here are some:

  • Car dealer: Pushy salesperson using 1970’s strong arm closing tactics.
  • Hair salon: Stylist left chemicals in client’s hair too long while on cell phone. Hair had to be cut off!
  • Wireless carrier: Billed customer three times after payment made.
  • Fast food: Manager and assistant manager using foul language at counter.
  • Barber: New owner disregarded customer’s longtime loyalty, insisting he make an appointment.
  • Satellite TV: Complete and total apathy on phone regarding customer problem.
  • Doctor: Arrogance and haste, resulting in misdiagnosis of a child’s illness (not life-threatening).
  • Golf course: Comment made by employee that felt insulting to member.
  • Auto body shop: Overcharged … didn’t stay within the estimate.
  • Gas station: Cheap gas advertised outside but the price could only be obtained by paying inside—and maybe buying mints, coffee, and a newspaper.
  • Health club: Messy, dirty.
  • Tailor: Cold personality, condescending tone. Never greets customer.

I shared an example, too. I’ve fired a post office.

Where we live 15 miles northeast of Denver, Colorado, I can choose between four PO’s to use. That’s right—four. Some, of course, are closer than others. They are 9 miles south, 7 miles northwest, 5 miles west, and 10 miles north. And that northern one has a built-in logistical advantage for the Millers: It is only blocks from the school we take our kids to and pick them up from five days per week, thirty-six weeks per year, year in and year out. How convenient!

But I will never go back.

Why? Well, it’s hard to pinpoint, but let me try. Slow. Apathetic. Solemn. Lethargic.

Did I mention S-L-O-W???

I’ve felt this way for a long time, but a couple years ago I decided to risk it again on a Saturday. I had to get some books shipped that weekend and with other errands to run in town, I thought, Well, I’ll give the Brighton, Colorado P.O. another shot. How magnanimous of me!

And this I what I saw:


Never. Again.

Very few consumers in any arena have no choices or options. Said differently, most customers can “vote with their feet” and take their dollars, time, and energy someplace else. That’s right—it’s not always about free market goods and services for payment. Churches, government offices, and nonprofits can all be fired, as well.

So here’s a critical question:

Does the postmaster of my non-favorite P.O. gets out of bed every morning thinking, I really hope today is the day someone posts a picture on the Internet of us not doing our job and labels my shop as the worst post office in the world!

I doubt it.

We’ll give this postmaster credit and assume he or she has high standards, cares about the customer, and wants people to flock to that location.

So what’s gone wrong? Lots of stuff—and you can find so much of it right here. If nothing else, just read the Table of Contents …

I apologize if it sounds like “pride of authorship” to say that, but this is exactly why we wrote Outstanding!:


But they don’t fire the outstanding ones.

As my wife, Karen, would tell you, I’ve never had an opinion I failed to share. That’s probably why I write books and speak for a living. After working with thousands of organizations since entering the training industry in 1986, I have lots of opinions. No surprise to those of you who know me! But that’s what Outstanding! really is: A collection of my opinions.

And here’s one person’s opinion on the opinions expressed in Outstanding!:

“John, Outstanding! is outstanding! I’ve listened to the audio CD several times and I get something new out of it each time! Having read both QBQ! and Flipping the Switch, this may be the best of the three! I’m ordering the hardcover for my customers and colleagues. The ideas put forth in Outstanding! are fast becoming part of the culture our team is creating in our organization.”

Craig Johnson, Lincoln Financial Group, Minneapolis, MN

So, as we close this QuickNote, here are some take-away questions worth discussing with your team:

  • Does our organization get fired? If so, why?
  • Specifically, what do we do poorly? Average? Outstanding?
  • What in our culture needs to change?
  • How can each of us help the organization improve?

Have at it. It’s always worth the time, effort, and energy to work toward becoming outstanding. At the very least, it beats having a negative picture of us posted on the Internet, eh?

Wait! I can’t resist. One more example: I fired a veterinarian.

During a heated exchange stemming from my objections to the cost of all the procedures the doc wanted to do to treat our aging dachshund, the vet proclaimed, “Your dog is my customer!” I responded. “Doc, my dog does not have a credit card.” After that we found a new vet—one who “never forgets who pays the bills.” (Ch. 24 of Outstanding!)

PS: If your organization is interested in a “Be Outstanding!” learning session like the one mentioned above, just email me.

John G. Miller
Denver, Colorado

Note: Outstanding! is ideal for TEAM DISCUSSION. Grab a carton of 12 here ( and we’ll email you exceptional discussion questions to generate true team learning.


4 Responses

  1. Sure looks like some happy people at that PO Dan.

    What an awesome article. I think sometimes we need to see the extreme negative to help us find the right way to do thing. This is one of those times.

  2. Matt, thanks. I believe one of the healthiest and most effective ways to learn is to look at and understand what NOT to do! Outstanding organizations and people do just that.

  3. Wow! What a difference between that post office and Mike the Mailman at Penn State. He is outstanding! I can’t wait to read this book – and put it into practice! Working on Specks and Planks now….

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *