When I was younger and before I knew better, I drove to a job interview at a restaurant with a company that I really wanted to work for. As I parked my car, I had to be careful that the coke bottles and candy wrappers that littered my floor didn’t blow out and onto the beautiful BWM that I parked next to. I walked in and had a great interview with a senior manager that I thought sure was going to lead to a job offer.

When the meeting finished, we walked to our cars together and I realized that it was his BMW parked next to my car. As he looked through the window of my pigsty on wheels, he looked at me and said, not everyone can afford to drive a BMW, but everyone can afford to care for their car as if they do.

Needless to say, I didn’t get the job, but I did get a lesson that may be just as valuable.

Our mothers always told us that we never get a second chance to make a first impression, but that goes further than table manners. When it comes to first impressions details count.

Years later, when I was courting a highly influential person to be our United Way Campaign Chairperson, I scheduled four meetings before my lunch with her.  When the first meeting ran long, like dominoes the rest began to tumble until I was twenty minutes late to our lunch.

Now, anyone that knows me knows that I am never late. It’s one of my biggest pet peeves in others and I value being prompt.

But she didn’t know me. What she knew of me was that I was twenty minutes late for a meeting. For all she knew, I had no value for her time or my own. Try as I might, I never overcame the stigma that the bad first impression left her with.

Today, as the father of three kids, keeping my truck neat is challenging. There seems to be a never ending supply of candy wrappers and Happy Meal toys. Getting out of the house on time always seems to be a challenge too as finding shoes seems to be a challenge I will never understand, but I have learned the valuable lessons the hard way.

This weekend, I will take fifteen minutes and reorganize my truck. It’s not a BMW, but I can care for it as if it were. Today, like all Fridays, I’m mapping out my game plan for next week so that I am able to show up on time and prepared for every meeting I have scheduled. If you work in sales or any other position that requires you to influence others, I would invite you to do the same. These are little things I realize, but often times it’s the little things that make the biggest difference.
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