What are you known for, and what do you want to be known for? These are two crucial questions for growth that host Jesse Cole and Jeff Henderson tackle in this episode. Jeff is a forward thinking leader and the bestselling author of Know What You’re For whose strategies for growth has proven to be successful, be it in business or non-profit organizations. A business and church leader, Jeff talks about how he leads his people and adds value to the little things. Don’t miss this episode as Jesse and Jeff exchange marketing success strategies – from email marketing to valuing people first.
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Successful Strategies For Growth With Jeff Henderson
You are in for a treat as this episode is truly for you. For all the guests I’ve had on Business Done Differently, this guest is maybe the most forward thinker we’ve ever had. He’s the best-selling author of Know What You’re FOR and his strategy for growth has been an inspiration to me and my team. Jeff Henderson, I am pumped to connect with you.
I got to have fun with the format. I got the book and our team has the book. It’s a big inspiration. I want to tell a little bit about the journey going through this and how it came to it. I’m inspired by great leaders that keep their message going for a long time. Walt Disney and PT Barnum in my office but Truett Cathy is who you learned from. You opened the book with him and you finished the book with a story from him. I like to get the background work with him because it sounds like he was a big inspiration for this concept in the book as well.
The book begins with me driving through it to a speaking engagement. There were two of us in the car. One of us was a billionaire and one of us was not. This is one of the first one-on-one interactions I’ve had with Truett. Imagine going to drive someone, your boss’s boss’s boss. Here’s the big guy. You’re expecting we’re going to talk about chicken and all that, the business. We talked a little bit about that, but the conversation shifted, Truett again asked me, “How’s the business impacting you personally? Are you enjoying working here? Does your wife Wendy like it here? How are the kids?” I began to understand that the course of the evening that Truett was more interested in me as a person than he was as an employee. That’s when I discovered one of his secrets of growing a multibillion dollar business. Truett was more interested in the business of growing people than he was in people growing the business, and that’s exactly how the business grew.
Truett was interested in selling chicken but he discovered that the way that you sell more chicken is to grow people. He often said, “I’m not in the chicken business, I’m in the people business.” It’s one of the millions of things I appreciate about you. You’re not in the baseball business, you’re in the people business. Baseball is a platform for you to impact and encourage people. When I realized that that night and I saw that play out on Truett’s life, the thing was after that night, I already would have run through a brick wall for Truett before. Now, I would have run through 100 brick walls because he was genuinely for me. What I began to discover is when you are for people, not in a manipulative way but in a sincere way, is we only have a little bit of time to impact people in our lives. When you’re for people, more often than not, they return the favor.
How long were you at Chick-fil-A?
Six and a half years.
All those years were with Truett or no?
I left Chick-fil-A in 2003 and he passed away in 2014.
You had the experience with Truett and other great leaders and the family. I’ve interviewed David Salyers as well. You started seeing the makeup of Chick-fil-A, Truett, character, and people and then all of a sudden, you started getting part of North Point Ministries and going to church. How did these whole four concepts come about?
It comes down to two questions that any organization needs to ask and that’s true for a business and for nonprofit. The reason I have a little bit of credibility on this, Jesse. I worked for a multibillion dollar company that arguably is the best in its field in Chick-fil-A. I left Chick-fil-A. It’s a long story. David Salyers is to blame for me leaving Chick-fil-A in a good way. He took me to a leadership conference that changed my life and that changed the trajectory of my career. I’ve also worked for an organization for many years that was named the largest church in America. I don’t know if that’s true. I don’t even know if that’s important. What I’m saying is I’ve worked for a multibillion dollar business and I’ve worked for a large thriving nonprofit.
I was challenged by a mentor a few years ago, “This isn’t just a blessing. This is a stewardship responsibility. What did you learn?” I began to think about it. There are two questions that any organization should ask whether it’s a business or a nonprofit. Number one, what do you want to be known for? That’s your unique niche. That’s your unique offering to the marketplace. As Steve Jobs would say, “That’s your dent in the universe.” It’s assumed many times that everyone knows what that is. Everyone on the team knows what that is, and that assumption is a dangerous assumption to make. I would encourage leaders to do a vision inventory, just walk around. Whenever we can get back together or you can do this virtually, ask people, “What do you think we’re known for?” Don’t push back and don’t say another word or anything. You just take notes. More often than not, and this isn’t a criticism, it’s because it’s hard to do, there are either blank stares or you get lots of different answers to that.
What that means is that there’s confusion in the office space about what you want to be known for. When there’s confusion in the office space, there will be confusion in the marketplace. You’ve got to get crystal clear about what you want to be known for. I’ll give you a couple of examples. One is Zappos. They want to be known for Delivering Happiness. That’s what they want to do, and you could push back on that a little bit to the Founder, Tony Hsieh, “How does Delivering Happiness deliver to the bottom line?” Apparently, it’s done well because in the first ten years, they went from $0 to $1 billion in sales. This idea of Delivering Happiness drives everything that they do. They were bought by Amazon like we all will be one day.
Speaking of David Salyers, we went out a few years ago to Zappos and everywhere that talks about repeating your vision. Everywhere we went in the building was Delivering Happiness. Even when you went to the restroom, it was Delivering Happiness, which was a little awkward. Nevertheless, they are saying, “Here’s what we’re known for.” Let me give you an example. This may sound critical and I’m not trying to be critical. What I’m trying to do is to point out how this question, what you want to be known for, is simple but it’s not that easy. It’s easy to drift off of this. One of my marketing heroes is Al Ries. He lives in Atlanta and Al is a marketing legend. He wrote a book called Focus, which I would highly recommend that you get. He was hired by Burger King to come in and help them increase their chicken sandwich sales.
Al comes to the meeting. The meeting begins, he raises his hand and he says, “Can we all go outside?” They’re like, “Why do we need to go outside?” He goes, “Trust me.” They go outside and they get to this large corporate signage that says, “Burger King.” He says, “On the count of three, I want you to say the name of the company out loud.” They’re all looking at him like, “What in the world are we doing?” He counts them down 3, 2, 1 and they all go, “Burger King,” and Al goes, “Exactly. Here’s my question. You’re Burger King. Why are you selling chicken sandwiches?” That was the last day that I worked on the Burger King account. The point of that is you can’t be known for everything, but you must be known for something. You can be the king of burgers but you’re probably not going to also be the king of chicken sandwiches. It stretches credibility.Leaders are repeaters. Click To Tweet
What do you want to be known for? That’s question number one. Question number two is the pesky one when you hold the rock up and you see all the squiggly things under it. This is the challenging question because the challenging question isn’t yours to answer. It’s yours to influence. It’s mine to influence but it’s not ours to answer. The second question is, what are you known for? That’s when customers tell you, “Here’s what you’re known for.” Here’s the challenge with those two. The opportunity with these two questions, with what you want to be known for is exactly what you’re known for and it’s a compelling vision, then you create vision carriers for your business. Jesse Cole, that is exactly what you have done.
For example, one of my closest friends, Stuart and Lauren Espy. Stuart’s mom lives in Savannah. Before I knew you, he was talking about you and Savannah Bananas. He was like, “You’ve got to see what they do. We’ve got to go down to Savannah. We’ve got to do this,” because what you wanted to be known for and what he experienced matched. Here we are in North Atlanta and he’s trying to get me to come to the Savannah Bananas baseball game. Here’s the wonderful thing about this. Do you know how much money the Savannah Bananas are paying Stuart and Lauren Espy? That would be $0. You gave them a great experience and here they are. They are vision carriers. The more vision carriers your organization has, the more vision casters you have. That’s the future of “marketing”.
It’s such a simple first question to get to the second question and what your customers are saying. Let’s get more specific. I love Tony Hsieh and Delivering Happiness, but what about with Gwinnett Church? It sounds simple but let’s clarify it.
I left Chick-fil-A in 2003 and I’ve launched three churches in the middle of that. Whether your readers are a person of faith or not, let me take in a little bit of a journey on what this looks like. I’m not asking anyone to do something that I haven’t done. I began Buckhead Church in 2003 and then we launched Gwinnett Church in 2011. When we launched that church in 2011, we processed through these two questions. What do we want to be known for? We weren’t known for anything because we didn’t exist. We took a bigger picture and said, “What is the church known for?” In that meeting in those early days, somebody said, “When it comes to the church, many people are more familiar with what the church is against rather than what the church is for. Here’s a novel idea. How about us letting people know who and what we are for?” We all looked at each other and there were only four of us. Lauren Espy was in that meeting, by the way. She’s one of our vision carriers.
We thought, “What are we for?” We said, “We’re for Gwinnett.” Gwinnett is a county in North Atlanta and will be the most populated county in Georgia. It’s the most diverse county in Georgia, so the opportunity to influence not just the people in going out, but to have it spread is unique. That’s what we’re going to do. We’re going to be for Gwinnett. We’re going to be for Gwinnett kids, students, businesses, and everybody, whether they go to our church or not. I didn’t care and that doesn’t matter. We’re going to be for them.
An example of that in terms of creating vision carriers is when we bought the property of our first location, we put a sign out. We have two locations. Typically, the sign says, “Coming soon,” or “Walmart,” or “Chick-fil-A,” or “Savannah Bananas,” or “This route would be coming soon.” That’s exactly what I did not want to do because ironically or sadly or unfortunately, that word church, immediately, people would go, “I’m not a church person and that has nothing to do with me,” or they would just drive past it.
I didn’t want that to be our first impression in the community so we put a sign out there that said, “#ForGwinnett.” There was no website and there was nothing. You’d have these bulldozers out there and people had no idea what was going on. I got some feedback internally, which I totally understand. People said, “They’re not going to know this is a church. There’s no clarity here. It just says #ForGwinnett.” I said, “Exactly. I want to spark a conversation.” We gave everyone shirts that just said #ForGwinnett and didn’t have much name on it or anything like that. What I told our volunteers, and there were only about 100 of them or so at the time, “I’m going to give you this shirt. When you go to the grocery store and ballparks, people are going to come to you and say, ‘There’s a sign up there that says #ForGwinnett and you’ve got a shirt that says #ForGwinnett. What is that?’”
This is important for leaders to understand. Here’s what I want you to say. At this moment, what you’re giving your vision carriers, if you will, is you’re giving them words to say. Vision is like a bucket of water. The more words that are in the bucket, the more the words are going to spill out. You’ve got to have enough words that are substantial but you don’t want to have so much that it falls out. I told our key core team, “When people ask you what that means and what is that, tell them it’s going to be a church. When they say, ‘Why does it say #ForGwinnett?’ Here’s what I want you to say. Many people are more familiar with what the church is against rather than what the church is for. We’re for Gwinnett and we’re for you because we think God is for you as well.”
Those vision carrying moments grew and continues to grow in our church. Whether you’re a church person or not, it doesn’t matter. The point is, what is the language in the vision carrying bucket that you are giving your people? What is the experience that you are giving your customers and your team? For example, not to belabor this point, but the Espys drove all the way from Savannah back to Gwinnett with a bucket and they handed the bucket to me and said, “We’ve got to go to Savannah Bananas.” By the way, when you messaged me and sent me that video on LinkedIn, I probably should have thanked you first but the first thing I did was I sent it to the Espys and I said, “Look how big time I am. I got Jesse Cole to send me a LinkedIn video.” Thank you for making me appear bigger and larger than I am.
Anyway, for us, that has been the vision for who we want to be. Here’s the other thing we got to do. We’ve been doing this for many years. It’s easy to go, “Hasn’t everybody already heard #ForGwinnett? Hasn’t everybody already heard about Savannah Bananas?” The reason we think that is because we’re in this every single day. I’ll give you a quick example from Chick-fil-A world. One of the things I did at Chick-fil-A is I represented the corporate office for the Atlanta market, Atlanta operators. Atlanta is the hometown, the largest market. When we launched the eat more chicken campaign with Chick-fil-A, we did it for ten years. By the way, this is a successful ad campaign. It’s in the Advertising Hall of Fame. I didn’t even know there was such a thing as the Advertising Hall of Fame. What a great country.
Anyway, the Atlanta operators, and I totally understand it, said, “Jeff, how much longer are we doing this campaign? It’s been ten years. Everybody’s heard of it.” I thought, “That’s a valid question.” We did marketing research. Advertising Hall of Fame, ten years, Chick-fil-A’s hometown market, and it was only barely starting to register with the City of Atlanta. That reminded me that we can’t fall victim to, “Hasn’t everybody already heard this?” One of the other lessons that Truett taught me Jesse is, “Leaders are repeaters.” You have to say it over and over.
That’s why I love the yellow tuxedo. It’s reminding people what you’re here for and what you are trying to create for your customers. We can’t get too bored or used to it and assume, “Since I’m in this every day, everybody is.” Because no one is thinking about Gwinnett Church right now, it’s a Friday and Monday seems like it’s five years away, but I am, so I can assume that since I’m thinking about it, everybody is. Since you’re thinking about Savannah Bananas, everybody’s thinking about Savannah Bananas. You can’t go there, so stay on message. Once you clarify that message, once you’ve got that message, then you stay with it.
Because you’ve got to spread it but you’ve got to get other people to spread it. What’s interesting was I interviewed our staff. I did a quick little pop-up video to everyone individually and I said, “What do we do here? Who do we service?” I asked every single one. What was the most fascinating is they were close in their answers but not one of them, and this is fifteen full-time staff, said baseball, which was interesting when you think of everyone on the outside. That’s one of the battles that we’re fighting a little bit as people still think baseball in the traditional way, but we’re entertaining, fun, and experienced. Your two friends came back and you said they brought a bucket. What did they say and what did you think that we are known for from the outside?
I’m a baseball fan. I grew up in Atlanta and we didn’t have a whole lot to cheer for. Atlanta has built more stadiums than we won championships. I remember watching Hank Aaron hit 715. I worked for the Braves and Hank Aaron worked two offices down from me. I didn’t have an office. I had a table but in the promotions department. I remember one time, Hank Aaron, the legend, with all due respect, I still think he’s the home run king. One night, I’m leaving, and this is in Atlanta–Fulton County Stadium, and there are only two cars in the parking lot. I looked over and it’s Hank Aaron, the Hammer, the all-time home run king. If you took away all of his home runs, he would still have 3,000 hits. He’s phenomenal. I waved at him and Hank Aaron waved back. I’m thinking, “Hank Aaron is waving at me.”
I love baseball but their perspective coming back was baseball is boring to our little kids. This was a fantastic experience for our family. That’s what they came back with. It wasn’t like, “That first baseman, he’s got a big swing. We can’t wait for him to make it. Hopefully, he’ll make it to the Braves someday.” It was when the pitcher walked off the mound, he stopped and started dancing. It was great and our kids loved it. It was a great experience for our family. That’s what they talked about. You’ve got a different perspective. It’s much like, “It’s not about baseball, it’s about entertainment.” It’s much like, “It’s not about chicken, it’s about people.” There’s that dichotomy there. That’s what I think you’re doing, which is creating a different kind of experience.Encouragement is never small when you're on the receiving end of it. Click To Tweet
The definition of entertainment is to provide enjoyment and amusement, so everyone doesn’t need that. It’s funny that you said that because words are important. You used that #ForGwinnett and everyone’s wearing For shirts, which is powerful. I love it more than anything. Three of our people said, “We provide a fantastic experience.” I love the word fantastic because the name of our company is Fans First Entertainment. Everything we decide is fans first. We talk that we’re fanatic about fans and we use that. When you say fantastic, it embodies and it’s all about the fans. Thank you for sharing that. That was great. Jeff, I want to get into an activity, a fun game. Someone could do this and any company that don’t know what they’re known for or they’re maybe not clear on it. Ask the team what are their favorite companies and why, and ask them one thing they are known for. Let’s go to a couple of companies back and forth. Let’s have some fun here. I’ll throw it to you. Walt Disney World.
For me, Walt Disney is magic. It’s a magical experience and it elevates you. I’m not a ride amusement guy, but I love to go to the Magic Kingdom, sit on that bench that’s right next to the statue of Walt Mickey with a Coke and popcorn, and go, “This is not an idea. This is magic.” What it encourages me to do is if you can do this with a mouse and an idea, what can I do? When you read the biography of Walt Disney, you begin to discover it wasn’t easy. It just looks easy. Instagram, everything’s a highlight reel. You don’t get to see the full story, but when you see how the financial struggles and pushback that they had and the dreams that he had that nobody could buy into. For me, it’s magic. How about you?
It’s the first you think, magic. It’s a magical experience. We surprised our whole team and spent a week there. It’s a cool thing. That’s what they said and they had a magical experience. The terms are used and they say that over and over again. Throw one at me.
How about Starbucks?
This is tough for me. Here’s a reality, I’ve never had a sip of coffee in my life. The first thing I think of is the community and they’re known for bringing people together. That’s the first thing I think of Starbucks.
If Howard Schultz was in this conversation, he would be tearing up or giving you a standing ovation. A good book to read is Onward, whether you like coffee or not. It will be hard for you though to read that book and not want to get a cup of coffee. He wanted to create a community so that would be a huge win for Starbucks to go, “We want to create community.”
This is a great example. Any company that they think they’re just selling toothbrushes, doing HVAC or a restaurant, have that conversation and then go into these favorite companies, “They’ve got community. They’ve got magic. They’ve got an experience. What do we want to be known for?” That was such a great point that we got out of this and work from. I want to keep moving forward. You would love this comment he said, “Winning organizations of tomorrow will be more concerned with becoming fans of their customers instead of convincing customers to become fans of their organization.” Let’s start getting practical because this was fascinating. I loved it more than anything. Give me some examples of either how you guys are doing it or how you’ve seen other companies do it.
Let’s take social media for example. When I consult with large organizations and I tell them, “By the way, you do realize you’re not doing social media,” they absolutely lose their mind. They’re like, “Let me show you. I can show you right here. We have an Instagram page and a Facebook page. We’re doing all this.” I’m like, “No, that’s digital media. You’re forgetting the social in social media,” and it’s absolutely astonishing to me that there are brands that will post something, customers will comment back and they won’t ever say a thing. I’ve told people that are in retail, “When people walk up to the counter and they ask you a question what this is and you just turn your back and walk away, you’d never do that or you wouldn’t want that to happen.” That’s exactly what’s happening on social media. I see this all the time.
In fact, I put in the book. I used to play golf but I’m not any good at it. It wasn’t good for my spiritual life, so I gave it up. My hobby is commenting on organizations and Instagram posts to see if I ever even get a like or comment back. What these big brands push back on me on this is, “We can’t do it for everyone.” That’s what I love about what Andy Stanley said, “Do for one what you wish you could do for everyone.” I’m not saying you have to necessarily. There are systems that you can like every post. I don’t even know if that’s good or not. What if you commented on a few? Here’s the thing that few organizations are doing, Jesse. Most brands stay on their platforms and they never venture off those platforms to go on to their customers’ platforms and comment on them and comment with them there. Here’s why. This is going to sound a little critical and maybe it is, and maybe it’s odd for a pastor to be critical or maybe you’re like, “No, my pastor was critical. That’s why I don’t go to church anymore.”
Here’s the deal. If business was a person, many businesses would be considered narcissists because you look at their Instagram page and they never talk to anybody. They never visit anyone else and it’s always like, “Look how much better we are than our competitors. Look at the latest greatest thing that we did. We’re amazing. We’re awesome. Our competitors are awful. Look at us.” There’s a word for that and it’s called narcissism. I’m not telling the people in organizations that they’re narcissists. I’m saying that your organization is displaying narcissistic tendencies. My premise is that narcissism is bad for business. Let me give you a couple of practical examples of this. Let’s mention Starbucks. I was mentioning this to a large organization one time and somebody raised their hand and said, “I know what you’re talking about.” She said, “I’m a huge Starbucks fan.”
One day, I posted a picture of me in a Starbucks with my Starbucks mug that said, “I love Starbucks.” Starbucks commented back to me and it was amazing. I took a screenshot of it, I sent it to my friends and said, “Starbucks talked to me.” I said, “Great. Timeout. How many other Starbucks Instagram posts have you taken a screenshot of and sent it to all your friends?” She said, “I’ve never done that before.” Exactly. David Salyers is the genius of this. At that moment, Starbucks got personable and the more personable you are, the more remarkable that you will be. What if you did that on a daily basis? What if you did that once? What if you ventured on to another person’s platform and commented with them there? What you’re doing is you’re shifting the focus away from yourself and shifting the focus on the customer.
To use your analogy, what you have done is you have in essence to put the fans on the field, you’ve put the organization in the stands, and you’re cheering the fans on. This is great because this is dying away. Old school marketing is, “Customers, you get in the stands and you cheer us on as we try to round the basis and score as many runs as we can. Your role is to cheer us on because we’re the most important person or the most important entity here.” You have flipped the script and thriving organizations in the future will flip the script.
What I mean by that is you’re putting the customers on the field, you’re putting the organization in the stands and you’re saying, “Customers, we’re cheering you on because at the end of the day, you’re more important.” Honestly, what you have done is a breakthrough, revolutionary in terms of eliminating corporate signage and all of that. I say that as a former corporate sponsor at Chick-fil-A. I helped to start the sports marketing department at your place. I totally understand that, but that was back in 1996. Here we are many years later.
That’s a great analogy. Put your fans on the field and you get to the stands. It’s funny you mentioned that because we’re worth looking at a game where the fans manage the game. We put the coaches up in the stadium and seats to watch the fans manage it. When you have that clarity, Jeff, when you look at For and you know what your For, for us is Fans First, what would be more Fans First? The fans decided the team name, the mascot, jersey, T-shirts, and music videos. It’s like, “Why do we keep going with that? Let them.” Sports in the future is not going to be a spectator sport. Why is Topgolf doing so well? Because they’re engaged, they’re playing it, and they’re not just watching it. The idea of sitting and just watching the entire game is going to fade. It’s exactly this For concept. How do you get them involved?
What you’re also doing is you are switching language. Instead of your fans describing the Savannah Bananas as they, your fans are describing the Savannah Bananas as we because you have created ownership in this, “Guess what we did? We were on the field. We designed the uniforms.” That we is important.
I love this, too, because you talk about in churches, you’re based on many volunteers and businesses don’t have volunteers. I started thinking about it as like our Banana Nanas, our senior citizen dance team, completely volunteer but they dance on the field. They have the time. They’ve signed autographs and they’re celebrities. Our male cheerleading team, the Man-Nanas, get to go on the field and they’re celebrities. A lot of our characters want to be a part of it and they feel on top of the world because they’re on the inside. We find ways to try to pay everyone as much as we can, but that’s huge.
One of the things I want to do but try to avoid is to qualify for the Dad Bod team that you have but that’s a brilliant idea to go, “Let’s go on this journey together.” It’s a revolutionary way of what you’re doing but what you’re doing is applicable to every organization. For example, our social media strategy. Do you need to tell people when the Savannah Bananas are playing? Absolutely. I’m not saying you don’t talk about your product. I’m not saying you don’t talk about organization. I’m saying that there’s a balance. Let me give an example for us, and we don’t always get this right. We have a litmus test. On Instagram, for example. For every 3rd or 4th post, it has to be about the community. It can’t be about the four walls of the church or what’s happening inside the four walls of the church.Entertainment is encouragement. Click To Tweet
In fact, one of the things I’m trying to do on my personal Instagram page as the lead pastor of the church to start talking about the season we’re in, “Go and support this business.” These aren’t people that all go to our church. These are just people in our community because we want to be for our community. Leverage your platform for other organizations. I keep saying I don’t want to be critical and it sounds like I’m being critical. I’ll go to counseling after this. If I were the director of marketing for AT&T, Sprint, Verizon or anything, I would stop immediately, telling everybody how much better we are than our competitor. “We don’t care. We aren’t impressed. It’s not surprising information to us that you think you’re better than your competitors.”
By the way, one of the many reasons I love you as well is that I have two kids named Jesse and Cole. In this world of technology, these unforeseen or unprecedented days, “AT&T, Sprint, Verizon, can you help me understand how to manage technology as a parent because when I was their age, we didn’t have any of this stuff? If you’ll do that for me, I’ll pay more. It doesn’t matter. I don’t care. I want to raise great kids that can leverage technology and allow it to benefit them.” The reason I say that is that it is a For mindset. You’re not trying to beat somebody up over here to gain market share because ultimately, you’re the most important one in this relationship. You’re like, “We’re going to go down swinging for our customers.”
I was at an online summit and I talked about you. I forgot to tell you that. They asked me, “Give me an example in the sports marketing world.” By the way, I’m a huge Braves fan. I’m all in and I can’t wait to get back to the Braves game. The Braves missed an extraordinary opportunity to be for their community with the renaming of their stadium. They named it from SunTrust to Truist Park. You can’t even say Truist. Let’s not even talk about the name for example. Here’s what they should have done and somebody’s going to do this, and you’ve already done it.
In Major League Baseball, Truist should have said, “Atlanta, we could put our name up there. We paid to put our name up there. Do you know which name we’re going to put up there instead? We’re going to put up Hank Aaron’s name not only because he was an amazing baseball player, but he is a civil rights icon. When he was breaking Babe Ruth’s record, he was criticized as an African-American. People threatened his life, but he had the courage to step up the plate and break the record. He’s an amazing man. He’s a man of class, honor, and integrity. Do you know what we’re going to do? We’re going to take a step back and we’re going to call it Hank Aaron Field sponsored by Truist. We’re going to take a backseat.”
Jesse, if they had done that, the community goodwill, every time you would look at that Truist company, would be like, “I’m going to support them.” Here’s what it’s going to require though and here’s the big point. It’s going to require courage because the Braves are going to say, “We don’t care what you call it. Just when is our check arriving?” You’ve got to go to the Truist CEO and say, “We’re still writing the same dollar amount but we’re going to take a backseat and put someone else’s name in the spotlight.”
I’m telling you, somebody in Major League Baseball, National Football League, and NBA, Major League Soccer is going to do that. When they go first, the dominoes will fall. That’s why when I saw what you did, I thought, “Here we go. Somebody’s having the courage to do this,” because this is a big financial decision. What you’re basing this on is not the bottom line. You’re basing it on the fans responding to care, sincerity and being valued as them. I’m hoping that there’s a company out there that will value the community more than their name.
That goes back to Ego Is the Enemy by Ryan Holiday. I was thinking a level there that could have said, “This is Atlanta’s ballpark. You, the community, get to name it.” They have a naming contest. They’ll get thousands of names, then do this big launch. This is yours. It’s presented by Truist. I’m like, “Whoo.” That’s unprecedented and what we do is the buy-in, “We named this. Not this bank who has more money than everyone else.” That’s powerful. Jeff, you got me thinking too. There used to be all those Verizon or Sprint and then so-and-so. All these battles between all the mobile carriers that’s saying, “We’re better.” Thinking about T-Mobile, they’ll say, “No, we’re going to get rid of contracts. We’re going to get rid of this.” They started going the opposite way and they went further to people, and they skyrocketed. I had a T-Mobile phone because I believe in what they were doing, not who they were battling.
The same thing with the beer companies. “We have these ingredients. We’re better.” A few years ago, Miller High Life said, “We’re for you. We’re going to sponsor regular people.” They started doing $5 checks. I don’t know if you saw this. They started sponsoring people and I was like, “Brilliant. Make it about them.” I do want to get a little more practical in the social strategy. I love what you said, “Every third post is about the community.” The telephone over the megaphone philosophy. You talked a little bit about Chubbies. You can mention them because they’re always about their fans. You also have an email strategy that you’ve put into play, even more so about how you add value during Christmas time and all those other things. Can you share that a little bit?
Email is often criticized and social media is valued over email. Yet, email is still key if you leverage email correctly, and here’s why. Facebook does not control the algorithms of my email list. When I send an email, it goes out to everyone. When I post something on Facebook, I think it goes to all my followers. It doesn’t. What that means is I don’t get any credit for sending an email. I get credit if the email is opened and acted upon. Let me give you an example from my world as a nonprofit leader. As you might imagine, Year-End Giving is a big deal because everybody’s figuring out taxes and trying to get all that. They want to give the organizations, but they want to do it for the year to get a tax rate for that particular year. What happens is right after Christmas, that last week of the year, you get this and we all get this, we get flooded with nonprofit emails. What I realized is everybody’s waiting too late and we’re just using email as an announcement. What if we began to add value?
I took this from Gary Vaynerchuk about value. He called it Jab, Jab, Jab, Right Hook. It’s add value, add value, add value and then ask. In December, we will put out an email that says, “Here’s a coupon for free Chick-fil-A milkshake. Thanks for all that you’ve done for an extraordinary year.” The next one would be, “Here’s a great recipe for Christmas morning.” It’s simple. The next one would be, “Here’s the college football bowl schedule, print it out because we love college football.” The next one that week would be, “As you consider making Year-End Giving, consider Gwinnett Church,” and then the next week, we repeat it. Once Christmas comes past, then we go, “Here’s a great exercise to plan out your year. Here’s a great way to clean out that pesky office or garage.” It’s jab, jab, jab, right hook.
We’ve been doing this for several years and our Year-End Giving has increased substantially each year. My concern is that we’re going to get a lot of unsubscribes because we’re sending a lot of emails during the last part of the year. We had people calling us, asking, “How do I get on your email list?” They were hearing about the value of what they were getting. We’ve taken that approach and tried to spread it throughout the year. How can we add value to our email to be able to create more of a connection and leverage technology?
Email is not about you. It’s about the people you serve. Do you offer things of value? That’s such a good point. When you know what you’re for and what you want to be known for, it makes it easy. For us, it’s entertain always. If we’re sending out an email and that’s not entertaining, then that’s going against what we stand for. I’m still working with our team because it’s like, “They want this. They might want this.” I’m like, “No, we’ve got to think about what’s the value. That’s why we’ll do music videos and we’ll send this out just for fun.” That’s important but the challenge that I have, Jeff, personally is the time, and this sounds like an excuse and it probably is. I might post in the morning personally, but do you dedicate time to say, “I’m going to go and follow, like and comment to people?” Do you put that in your schedule? How do you build time into doing that?
For our staff meeting, we begin our staff meetings by going to Instagram and search #ForGwinnett. We all like and comment.
Is that daily?
No, we meet every Wednesday or every other Wednesday. Whenever we meet as a staff, we do this so it’s not daily but that’s a good point. I’m hoping that we continue to do that all the time. In fact, somebody posted something about Gwinnett Church and we posted that on our staff communication channel. We said, “Go and like this post.” We’re trying for more dialogue. In the staff meeting of #ForGwinnett, we’re sharing these posts but for me, we want to reward the behavior we want to be repeated. People love getting likes on their Instagram posts.
For me as a pastor, it’s helpful because when I see people in the community and when I see people on Sunday, I’ll go, “How was your vacation?,” or “Congrats on the Little League Baseball championship. That’s cool.” It shrinks. I learned this from Dan Cathy. We want to grow a small company and that’s what Dan would say about Chick-fil-A. I want to grow a small church. I want to reach as many people as I can. At the same time, I want them to think, “They noticed me.” I can’t do it for everybody, but I can do it on a consistent basis. That’s why handwritten thank you notes are so important.
I have a goal from Monday through Friday. I’ll try to write three handwritten thank you notes a day. Am I perfect at that? No, that’s not the goal. The goal is it’s supposed to bother me. I know that that’s my goal but I’m not perfect at it. Am I good? I’m good at it because I have a system and I have a goal. If you were to see my car, you would see in the glove compartment, there are no cards there. If you were looking at my computer bag, you would see that there are no cards there so that when I’m maybe at a coffee shop waiting on somebody and they’re not there yet, I can start writing handwritten thank you notes.
On Sundays, I’ll send out to the staff, “Was there a story that happened that was great that you would think that your volunteers need a thank you note?” All of those touchpoints, if you just look at them at one moment in time, they’re important to that person. Here’s the thing. Encouragement is never small when you’re on the receiving end of it, but when you add that up and go, “Three times five is fifteen. Fifteen times 52 is a big number that I don’t know.” Those are the thank you notes.
Here’s one of my secret goals. I won’t be the lead pastor of Gwinnett Church forever, but when I leave, I would love for somebody to say, “Thanks, Jeff, for being here. How many of you got a handwritten thank you note from Jeff over the years?” It may not be everybody, but I would love for 99% of the crowd to raise their hands. One of the things I learned from Truett is it is the international side that you can use to determine if someone needs to be encouraged. The international side is if they are breathing, and if they are breathing, they need encouragement. That’s what you’re doing with the Savannah Bananas. Entertainment is encouragement. It’s taking their minds off of maybe their worries and stress, and go, “The world can be a good place.”When you treat your team poorly, your team will treat the customer poorly. Click To Tweet
I received a thank you card from you and nothing matters more than making people feel like they matter and you need to have a strategy for it. As crazy as that sounds with our time, we need to have a strategy. I’ve been doing one a day since 2016, but there’s nothing like you. That is impressive. The key is if we want our team to do this, we have to follow it and we have to embody it ourselves. As our season goes, we have all these digital interns that join our team. There’s time for them to like and comment but we, as leaders, have to make a commitment and say, “I have done this.” I started going out, spending time daily and just liking. The Savannah Bananas or Gwinnett Church, “They liked my post.” That seems cooler than a person sometimes.
We need to think about the power our brands hold. Our brand is listening to us. That is one big practical thing that has inspired me so much. I want to go in a little bit because you can’t do this all for your fans. You’ve got to become great fans of your people. I love how you started saying, “Love your people more than your customers.” I saw a picture on Instagram. You had a For card and you were doing some things for your team. Tell me a little bit about this mindset and some of the things that you do for your people, volunteers, and staff.
I’m a preacher’s kid and I’ve been in church all my life. Let me tell you a little secret about the church world that most people don’t know. I’m being general here. The church, generally, is a terrible place to work. I saw that growing up. I saw people criticize my dad and that’s called culture. The culture of an organization determines the future of the organization. I love what Peter Drucker said that culture eats strategy for breakfast. I can have the best breakthrough strategy as a nonprofit or business but if my culture is dysfunctional, give it enough time. It will flow to the customer because the customer is eventually treated like the team is treated. It is unquestioned. There’s no way around this. If you treat your team poorly, your team will treat the customer poorly. Taking your team to Walt Disney World, no wonder your fans get treated like they do.
I spoke at the Chick-fil-A convention one time and they took the entire organization on two cruise ships because Chick-fil-A was too big for just one. They spent millions of dollars on that, but everybody walked off that boat with operators and staff saying, “We’re going to treat our customers even better.” For me, the For card is a way to tell people in our team, “We love you and we appreciate you and work for you.” That’s why I’m trying to figure out a schedule for you to come to speak to our staff. I feel like staff meetings are so important.
One of the things I’ve been blessed with is a strong network of people like you and people that I’ve met who I’ve said, “Could you come to speak to our staff and tell us what you’re doing with Savannah Bananas? Don’t worry about what we do or how it’s going to connect to what we do. Our job is to take what you do or what you’ve told us and apply it to our world.” We had phenomenal staff meetings in the season that we’re in. I want to be a calm leader in the crisis that we’re in as a world and say, “We’re going to get through this.” My top priority is taking care of the staff.
What was on the For card? What did you do with it?
For that particular photo was just Planet Smoothie smoothies and we have a local business that we like to support with Planet Smoothie. Even though it’s a franchise to local business owners, I walk around and say, “Does anybody want a smoothie?” Sometimes, it will be popcorn or for Halloween, it will be Halloween snacks. We do that occasionally as an afternoon break. Ken Blanchard wrote this book called Management By Walking Around and our team might start walking around. “Let’s have some fun while we walk around and create an afternoon snack. Give people a little boost toward the day.” If we’ll let Disney World be the happiest place on earth, in terms of what I do, the church should be the most joyful place on the planet. That’s not the reputation of the local church in this world. You’re competing with us, Jesse, in terms of joy. You’re ahead of us.
We have different words though, Jeff. When I hear this from a breakdancing coach and our players, we always say, “We want this to be the most fun summer you’ve ever had.” After the summer, a lot of the guys give me a hug and say, “It was the most fun I’ve ever had.” That’s joyful, fun, and happy. They all go together but fun and that embodies what we’re doing. Joyful, you own that. It will work with fun.
It goes back to it’s not about wanting to have a great baseball experience. You’ve clearly identified what you want to be known for and how you’re going to deliver.
We’re going to do some rapid-fire games. The first one is truth and dare. Which one would you like first?
Let’s go with the truth.
What’s one thing that you notice that’s either holding you back or companies back from doing this for strategy more?
The demands of daily life. What I mean by that is you have to get ahead of the social media game. You have to have a plan so that you can go, “Let’s go to this business and ask them to put on a For shirt. Let’s shoot a video so that we can post it on #ForGwinnett Friday.” That’s going to take a plan. If you’re not planning out for this, you’re going to fall prey to, “What’s our sales? How are we doing? This product is not doing too well.” I’m not saying you shouldn’t look at that but that’s going to be the thing that shouts the loudest.
For example, I never get an email from people who don’t go to our church, complaining about our church. I get emails from people who go to our church and they’re great, but sometimes, they’re like, “The music is too loud,” or “I don’t like this. I don’t like that.” I can be so consumed by what they think and then I forget to think about the people who we’re trying to impact outside of our organization. Having a plan is going to help you make sure that you’re balancing between talking about your organization and talking about those that you’re trying to serve. Get ahead because this is not an urgent thing to do. It’s an important thing to do.
Set time. We say, “Win the morning, win the day, nothing can interrupt you then.” Maybe set time and say, “We’re going to commit to this.”
That’s the same thing in terms of our staff meetings. I could just go, “It’s our staff meeting. Here’s the profit loss statement for the month. Here’s what we’re going to do. We’re going to encourage the people in our church. We put on music and we’ve got five minutes. Ready, set, go.” People’s phones start blowing up and it’s like, “I can tell it’s Gwinnett Church staff meeting.”
Are you ready for the dare? It’s truth and dare.
Let’s do it.
When you come to a Bananas game, you’ll be a part of this. This is one of the favorites that we do every night. It’s the whole stadium sing-off, 2,000 fans in one grandstand versus 2,000 fans in another grandstand. We play a song and when it stops, you’ve got to finish those song lyrics. This is going to get interesting and fun. Are you ready for it?
I’m not much of a music guy.
No one is that. That’s what makes it great.
“She says, we’ve got to hold on to what we’ve got. It doesn’t make a difference if we make it or not. We’ve got each other and that’s a lot for love. We’ll give it a shot.”
I know it’s Bon Jovi. “We’re halfway there. Woah. Livin’ on a dare.”
It’s Livin’ on a Prayer by Bon Jovi.
How embarrassing that you have a pastor and he went with dare and not prayer?
It was playing truth and dare, so you are officially living on a dare. That’s exactly what we’re doing there so you nailed it. You won that game. We’ve asked the questions. What do you want to be known for? Is there another amazing question that we should ask ourselves? If you want better answers in business and in life, you should ask better questions. What are you known for is the number one. Is there maybe a number two question we can ask ourselves?
There’s a few there but what are you known for? We’ve got to ask our customers, “What do you think? How are we delivering? Are we delivering on what we want to be known for?” The reality is there’s a gap there. There’s a gap in what you want to be known for and what you are known for. Here’s what we should wrestle with these two questions. When a team, group or staff comes to work every day and they know what they’re supposed to do, they’re supposed to shrink the gap between those two questions. You don’t have silo thinking and you don’t have the finance department over here, and you have marketing and operations over here.
There’s a classic battle between marketing and operations in any organization. When they understand, “We’re not battling one another. We’re trying to shrink the gap between what we want to be known for and what we are known for. That’s what we do. Here’s how you do it, accounting. Here’s how you do it, operations. Here’s how you do it, marketing. Here’s how you do it, customer service. Here’s how you do it, sales.” That’s all we’re doing. Those two questions are important to wrestle with.
A quick win for someone after reading this. They can go back to their team to start becoming a more for company or be clear on what they’re known for.
Let’s stay with Instagram. I would go and look at how many followers you have. There’s a discrepancy. I’m not saying that you should follow everybody but there is a discrepancy, especially with major brands. You’ll see brands that have like 700,000 followers and they’re following 500, 300 or 200. When you look at who those followers are, they’re following themselves. There’s a word for that. It’s called narcissism. What I would do is I would try to level that out a little bit and then I would go on your customer’s platforms and comment on them.
Here’s the thing that a lot of companies don’t realize. It’s not how many followers you have, it’s how many followers you have had times how many followers your friend’s followers have. If you have 500,000 followers, it’s 500,000 followers times how many they have. When they start talking about you, you unleash the opportunity for them to talk about you. That’s what I would do. I would start trying to talk with you and I would comment on five a day. It may not seem big to you, but it would be big. In fact, I’ve told Chick-fil-A this. I said, “I would search #ChickFilA and everyone in the organization should be commenting on posts.” Do we need to have training? Yes, we need to be careful about what we say. You could just say, “Thanks for eating Chick-fil-A today.” That’s simple.
You finished the book talking about after Truett Cathy passed and the staff all received a letter from him, and how powerful that was. He left a lasting legacy. How do you want to be remembered?
Can I tell you something about that story?
Here’s some breaking news that I wasn’t allowed to share in the book, but I’ll tell you this. He didn’t just send a letter. He took a life insurance policy out for all of the staff. When he passed away, they benefited from it. They got a letter from him and they got a check from him.
This is the whole full-time staff?
Yes. It’s not the amount that matters, whatever it was. It was the gesture, “I went to take a life insurance policy out on you because I value you.” That humility of Chick-fil-A, I wanted to include that story in the book and they were like, “We’d prefer not to do that,” so I took it out but here I am. There are several answers to that question but for me, I want to be known for being for the person in front of me at that moment. Right now, that’s Jesse and his readers. I want to be for you. I may leave in a little bit and go to the drive-thru, let’s say, Starbucks. I want to be for the barista. They’ll get, “How are you doing?” I want to be for a customer behind me. We do this thing at Gwinnett Church called Pay It Backwards. We have these little magnets that say, “#ForGwinnett.” You’re sitting behind me in Starbucks and then you get up to the counter, and the person in front of you paid for you.
The whole time, they’re sitting there going, “#ForGwinnett, what does that mean?” They pull up and the person is like, “What does that mean?” In that case, I want to be for the person behind me but more often, I want to be for the person right in front of me because every personal interaction is important. For me, personally, it’s God-ordained, and don’t take any of that for granted. There are these little dry cleaners I go to and there are seven dry cleaners. I have to drive all the way to this one. I want to encourage these people because we used to live there.
I was there one time and you could tell the lady was having a bad day. She goes, “I wish all customers were like you.” I know that sounds egotistical. I’m telling you this. The point is it’s a moment. Every time I go there, I’m like, “How are you doing?” I’ll come by and drop off some chicken nuggets sometimes for them or I’ll drop off some food for them. It’s those moments of being for that person in front of me. I want to have stories like that, that when my life is over, there are countless stories that say, “That guy was for me.”
What’s so great about their book and the wisdom here is it’s timeless. It will last forever and it will make an impact. You made an impact on me. I don’t think my precedent is fired up about this whole mentality. This person worked for Chick-fil-A, also religious and this is an important message. The book Know What You’re FOR, I hope everyone reads it. Jeff, I can’t thank you as much for the inspiration and the impact you’ve made on me.
Thank you, Jesse. I can’t wait to be in the Savannah Bananas game. I’m still not going to try to do the Dad Bod team, but I’m going to be there. I can’t wait to experience it in person.
We’re going to have a lot of fun. Thank you.
- Know What You’re FOR
- David Salyers – previous episode
- Lauren Espy
- Gwinnett Church
- Ego Is the Enemy
- Jab, Jab, Jab, Right Hook
About Jeff Henderson
Jeff Henderson believes in the power of words. As an entrepreneur, speaker, pastor and business leader, Jeff is a master communicator at his core. He has witnessed firsthand the capacity for language to dictate vision and for vision to transform the cultures of companies and organizations worldwide. Recently named by Forbes Magazine as one of twenty speakers you shouldn’t miss, Jeff has helped lead three of North Point Ministries’ churches in the Atlanta, GA area since 2003. As a much sought after thought-leader, Jeff knows the value of effective communication to spur growth and believes it is the key to impact change in one’s life ultimately.
Jeff has seen this outlook pays dividends in both the nonprofit and for-profit worlds. Prior to serving as a pastor, Jeff worked in marketing with the Atlanta Braves, Callaway Gardens, Lake Lanier Islands and Chick-fil-A, Inc., where he led the company’s sports marketing and regional marketing efforts. Jeff understands what it takes to build something from the ground up having founded several organizations including Champion Tribes, Preaching Rocket, MNTR (fka Launch Youniversity) and The For Company which helps churches and businesses grow by using the FOR strategy. Whether established or emerging, Jeff has a heart for developing leadership.
Fueled by the passion to see individuals and businesses thrive, Jeff has become a trusted voice for those who want to see true success in themselves and their sphere of influence. Jeff has a way of inspiring people to reach their maximum potential while understanding that it will not only positively impact one’s company and organization but also establish a legacy of healthy growth.
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