Thursday, August 03, 2006

The most profitable thing I write

I take a great deal of pleasure in being a writer and an organizational development trainer – particularly because I am fortunate to make this my full-time livelihood, and have done so for much of the past dozen years.

As you can imagine, this means that I do a great deal of writing – books, articles, presentations, editorials, client projects, you name it. And I love every minute of it. But this week, I was struck by how one kind of writing, ironically one of the shorter things that I do, has probably been more profitable for me than anything. What is it?

Thank you notes.

Long ago, I started following the advice of leading sales trainers to send thank you notes to people, and this has been my personal habit for many years. Anyone who invites me to write or train for them, brings me in for a speaking engagement, hosts me on their radio show, or connects with me in any meaningful way will usually find a thank you note from me in their mail or e-mail less than 24 hours later. And looking back, the connections that these thank you notes have built have grown over time to become the bedrock of what I do.

Ironically, I do not treat thank you notes themselves as a sales opportunity. I never ask for more business, suggest follow-up work, or hint that I’m available for future projects. Instead, the focus is on them – how much I enjoyed working with them, crediting the people who helped make our project a success, and the mentioning the good things I observed about them during our time together. They are simple and come from the heart. I’m doing what our mothers taught all of us to do when someone does us a favor, and take great pleasure in it.

The response to these thank you notes is often very direct. Many people write back and suggest new ways to work together in the future. One radio host in Boston told me that I was his first guest in years to send him a thank you note, and had me back on his show again soon afterwards. And many years ago, a visiting colleague responded to my thank you note with an invitation for an all-expenses-paid trip to teach in China as they were opening up to the West – the experience of a lifetime. Response or no, every single note helps me build better relationships with people I genuinely like and respect.

So, if you don’t do it already, try working more thank you notes into your repertoire, and see what a difference it makes. Oh … and by the way … thank you for reading this!


For my friends in the Capital District of New York - come meet me in person this Tuesday, August 8 at Borders Book Store in Saratoga Springs! I will be presenting a free lecture and booksigning at 2 PM, courtesy of the great folks at Borders, who told me that they expected a big crowd because it was a "dark Tuesday". (And I finally figured out what that means - there is no horse racing at Saratoga's famous track that day.) See you there!

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