Wednesday, April 29, 2009

The Lost Art of Note Writing

Nuggets for the Noggin
The Lost Art of Note Writing
by Jim “Gymbeaux” Brown, April 24, 2009
The year was 1985. I unexpectedly found myself out of work when I became physically unfit to go to sea with the Coast Guard. Not big thing, just a damaged knee. Nonetheless, I was out of work. The economy was in the tank and the number of unemployed was on the rise, at least by one on this day – me.

I had no idea of what I wanted to do except for selling real estate. However, since real estate was a 100% commission income job I was not in a position to throw the financial future of my family on a brand new real estate agent’s ability to make a sale and make it quickly as would have been needed. Therefore I needed a job and I needed it sooner rather than later.

I managed an interview with a company in New Orleans who was looking for an office manager. Based on the job description, no problem. I met with the Vice President of the company and had a good interview. Towards the end of our talk, she pointed to a stack of papers on the corner of her desk and asked, “Do you know what those are?” “No,” I said. “They are resumes from applicants for the job you seek. It is a reflection of the economy, there are people in that stack doctor’s degrees, masters degrees, years and years of experience all looking for a job.”

I unknowingly had a routine I followed. I thanked her personally for the opportunity to meet with her and wished her well on finding a suitable candidate for the job and then left. Also part of my routine was to write her a hand-written thank you note the moment I returned home and to put the note in the mail the same day.

Two days later I received a call for a second interview. When I met with the Vice President she said she wanted me for the job – I was truly flabbergasted. Her choice made no sense to me but being flabbergasted and not being appreciative were two different things – I took the position. She asked, “Do you want to know why I have selected you over all these other candidates I have interviewed?” Of course I said “Yes.” She said that I was the ONLY person who wrote her a thank you note for conducting the interview; the only person. Who knew? Who knew that a job position was on the line because of a $1.00 thank you note? I wish I could say that I knew but I didn’t. It just seemed to me to be the right thing to do at the time; obviously it was.

More evidence of the “power of the note” occurred in 1985 as well. I wanted to sell real estate as compared to being an office manager for an air crafts parts company. At the same time I took the manager position, I also went to work for a local real estate company as one of those dreaded part-timers. My plan was to get enough real estate experience and education to eventually go full time. Two short years later I had reached that point but had also reached a point where at least one company owner thought I would make a good real estate office manager. I was interviewed, I sent the thank you note – hand written of course – and I was selected for the position. Three weeks before I started I discovered a cassette tape course entitled Creating Teamwork by Lee Shelton. It was fabulous and helped me right from day one with my new office manager position. I sent Lee a hand-written thank you note to the only address I had, the publisher’s address. About three months later I received a phone call from who-knows-who at the time. We talked for few minutes and finally I asked, who is this? It was Lee Shelton calling to follow-up on the Thank You Note he had only just then received. We have since become friends, all because of a Thank You Note.

The same is true of author/speakers Joe Tye, Bob Burg, Andy Andrews and Dr. Joseph Parent. All because of Thank You Notes.

Am I making any progress here on just how important the lost art of writing thank you notes is? The way I see it, the fewer people who write notes, the better for those of us who do. Think about the last time you checked your emails. How many of the emails in your in-box did you delete without even opening? I delete at least 50 a day. How many note cards do you receive in the snail mail system each day that you throw away without opening? I dare say none! And the point is………

Hallmark Card Company had a slogan, “When you care enough to send the very best” is as true today as it was 40 years ago when I first heard it. It is my belief that far too many of us consider ourselves far to busy to care about thanking those folks who should truly be thanked. Since I am in real estate sales, let’s look at a typical sale and who “should” be in line for a thank you card:

Listing Agent or Selling Agent
Loan Officer
Closing Company
Termite Inspector
Home Inspector
Heat and Air Service
Teammates who help you close the sale

If you are in real estate sales, how many Thank You Notes have you typically sent to any of the above business folks? If you are an appraiser, how many Thank You Notes do you think you would receive? I would expect few if any. The same is true for everyone on the list. But if you are an appraiser and you find that you are working another sale with a real estate agent who says “Thank You”, would you feel any differently about working with that agent as compared to the hundreds or thousands that never say thank you? Can’t speak for you but if it were me, I would!

I personally believe that I am where I am today because I wrote Thank You Cards for no reason. While working in Gulfport, Mississippi, I spent 45 minutes to an hour driving to work each day and another 45 minutes returning home. That gives you a lot of windshield time which is time to think. Whenever I would think of someone, I would get to work or home and write them the following Thank You Card:


Was thinking of you today and wanted to wish you all the best. Hope all is well, keep in touch.


That’s it! A Thank You Card for no reason in my opinion is the best card I could receive. Someone was thinking of me. How would you feel?

Here is what is truly strange. I have taught hundreds of people to write Thank You Notes to people who have made a difference in their lives. Yet as their teacher, in all the years I taught this principle I have never received a Thank You Card for any of the classes I have taught. Go figure. Maybe I didn’t make a difference in their lives or maybe what I taught had no value or maybe what I taught fell upon deaf ears. Obviously I would like to think the later. I actually believe that people expect you to do your job and no Thank You Cards are indicated. Nothing could be farther from the truth. Thank You Cards are always welcomed by whoever receives one.

One last note on Thank You Cards. I have been fascinated with fountain pens – also a thing of the past. I write almost every Thank You Card using a fountain pen. It started out as something that just seemed cool to do. I received a call from a friend in Dallas, Texas who received one of my “I was thinking of you” cards and she asked, “Jim, do you always write with a fountain pen?” I asked her if it was obvious and she said it was. I am not going to suggest to you that everyone is that observant but at least one person was and where there is one there is usually at least one more if not many.

Being a true professional, at least in my mind, is paying attention and more importantly paying attention to the small things because they do make a difference. If you want to step out and away from he crowd, send hand-written Thank You Notes as often as you can.

Oh, by the way, I no longer buy my note cards, I make my own on Microsoft Publisher and I change up the card to fit the situation. One more opportunity to be unique. And if you truly want to be unique and this may be my one and only original idea, put a feather in your card. You can buy them in packages from Hobby Lobby type stores. Then write:

“Here’s another feather for your cap on a job well done. Thank you!”

Now, how many feathers have you received over your life time recognizing you for a job well done? Do you think it may make a difference? The picture at the top of this Nugget is my latest “home-made” Note Card.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

This is TRULY amazing -- I can totally relate to what you are saying. I JUST wrote a blog about the art of letter writing. I don't understand why people don't "get it". I'm GLAD I DO :)

Here is my post if you are interested in seeing it.