I think that we can all agree that the greatest actor of the 1980s was Judge Reinhold. While I won’t utilize this precious space and your precious time to outline my thesis of why Judge Reinhold beats the pants off of Emilio Estevez as our greatest living thespian, there is one “Reinholdian” performance which certainly sticks out as appropriate for our recent discussions. The movie was “Ruthless People.” Remember it?
In case you don’t recall, it is that gem from 1986 which co-starred Danny DeVito and Bette Midler. See, Midler and DeVito were married and the Judge (as I like to call him) and his wife, desperately in need of money, kidnap Midler and hold her for ransom. DeVito, however, would prefer for his wife to never come back and, as usual, madcap hilarity ensues.
While he and his wife are keeping Midler hostage at their home, the Judge continues to go to work everyday as a stereo salesman. The scene in particular which I want you to think about is the one in which a scruffy teenager comes into the store looking for the biggest, baddest stereo system in the store. The Judge sees a sucker and introduces him to the biggest of the big, the loudest of the loud, and the most expensive of the expensive. He lights the lights and throws all of the switches and puts on a display, replete with woofers and tweeters and whatever else stereos are made of. He has not only a sale, but he has a big one and a huge commission… that is until the customer’s pregnant wife walks in. And The Judge gets an attack of conscience. At that moment, despite the desperation that led them to kidnap another human being, you see that there is something redeeming about The Judge’s character.
Unfortunately, you and I know too many people who wouldn’t have thought twice when the pregnant wife walked in. I call those people the “peggers.” The ones who sell one product and think that everyone needs to buy that one product. They sell a square hole and think that everyone is a square peg, so much so that they try as hard as possible to hammer the circles and trapezoids into that square hole.
It is this, however, that separates us from them. It’s what makes us trusted and trustable. Look, we have all been there. We see the dollars, we know that we have a client who would accept whatever advice we have to give… sure, they don’t own a house and have no kids, their assets are minimal, but I bet I can sell them on a life insurance trust and a qualified personal residence trust and a grantor-retained annuity trust. Or, their income would only really support a loan of $400,000 to buy that house, but I think I can convince them that they can afford the $500,000 house, knowing full well they won’t be able to make the monthly payments.
We see dollar signs for us, which isn’t always the best thing for our clients. And yet, we see the pregnant wife come in and we recommend the walk-man instead of the whole speaker system. Because we know that when we took on the role of being an advisor, when we accepted the responsibility of caring for others, that we agreed to put the interests of others ahead of ourselves, because we know, we HAVE to know, that it will come back to us.
The professionals who only think about themselves, it bites them. It gets around; the word will get out that they aren’t respectable. Their clients will not stick up for them, they won’t refer them to their friends, they won’t be there the next time around.
By comparison, though, the professionals who do the right thing, who give the best advice, and don’t shoot for the big score each time… those are the ones who get it back. The clients love them, they refer their friends, and, more importantly, they keep coming back.
You might be sitting there wondering why I am going off on this for so long, especially something so simple as this. You’re right, it is a no-brainer. But if it was so simple, then why do you and I know so many people who don’t get it?
Have a great week and, if you aren’t sure whether you would have sold the walk-man or the stereo system, give it some hard thought… Who do you want to be?