CX Top Tips

063: Adam Toporek: I was not passionate about it

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Adam Toporek Show Notes

Adam Toporek began sharing his ideas and expertise via blogging but soon found out he had no passion for the topic he was writing about. He knew he had to make a change but wasn’t sure how to go about it in this new internet business world. Listen to Adam share his story of how got over the hump was able to move onward and upward faster.

Adam was born and raised in Charleston, South Carolina along with his younger sister.

Adam is a third-generation entrepreneur who was raised in and around small businesses. His grandfather had a main street shoe store, his mother had a children’s clothing store, and his father had a musical instruments distributorship.

Some of Adam’s fondest business memories are of red slashing clothing prices for post-holiday markdowns and sliding down a warehouse box chute with a freshly pulled order of accessories.

Through this journey, Adam saw firsthand the crucial roles customer experience and customer service play in making organizations profitable and sustainable— a lesson he carries with him to this day as an author, speaker, and workshop leader with his training company CTS Service Solutions.

Adam’s customer experience focus is on real-world strategies. He has combined his MBA, a lifetime in small business, and a decade in the trenches of retail service franchises to develop techniques that are both effective and scalable. Adam’s business passion is teaching those strategies to front-line teams and organizational leaders.

Adam currently resides in Orlando with his wife and with his Chief Happiness Officer, Dalton the Golden Retriever. Adam loves animals, swinging kettlebells, and playing rock guitar.

Tweetable Quotes and Mentions

Listen to @adamtoporek and get over the hump on the @FastLeaderShow Click to Tweet

“Being a hero is not about these viral acts of customer service.” -Adam Toporek Click to Tweet

“Being a hero is about being there for your customer day in and day out.” -Adam Toporek Click to Tweet 

“You can build the perfect customer journey, but it will not be perfect for every customer.” -Adam Toporek Click to Tweet 

“If you don’t have a strategy for customers that are a problem…it makes it impossible to give proactive service.” -Adam Toporek Click to Tweet 

“Getting past your own mental blocks is the key to everything.” -Adam Toporek Click to Tweet 

“I come from retail so every day is a hump.” -Adam Toporek Click to Tweet 

“It wasn’t about me, it was about my customers.” -Adam Toporek Click to Tweet 

“You have adapt, (business) changes so rapidly.” -Adam Toporek Click to Tweet 

“It’s about understanding that quitting is appropriate sometimes.” -Adam Toporek Click to Tweet 

“It’s not a failure, you’re finding a new way.” -Adam Toporek Click to Tweet 

“No job is beneath you, be willing to roll up your sleeves.” -Adam Toporek Click to Tweet 

“In business, no doesn’t always mean no – a lot of times it means not right now.” -Adam Toporek Click to Tweet 

“You shouldn’t be pushy, but you should be persistent.” -Adam Toporek Click to Tweet 

Hump to Get Over

Adam Toporek began sharing his ideas and expertise via blogging but soon found out he had no passion for the topic he was writing about. He knew he had to make a change but wasn’t sure how to go about it in this new internet business world. Listen to Adam share his story of how got over the hump was able to move onward and upward faster.

Advice for others

Direct yourself, but don’t be afraid to say, “This is not working.”

Holding him back from being an even better leader

I’m over committed and not able to give each project or person the attention it deserves.

Best Leadership Advice Received

No job is beneath you and be willing to roll up your sleeves if you have to and unclog a toilet.

Secret to Success

Getting up early and not checking email for the first few hours each day.

Best tools that helps in business or Life

My new treadmill desk.

Recommended Reading

The Goal: A Process of Ongoing Improvement

Be Your Customer’s Hero: Real-World Tips & Techniques for the Service Front Lines

Contacting Adam

Website: http://customersthatstick.com

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/adamtoporek

Twitter: https://twitter.com/adamtoporek

Resources

Jim Rembach on Adam’s podcast (Crack the Customer Code): http://crackthecustomercode.com/102-jim-rembach-fast-leader/

54 Emotional Intelligence (EQ) Competencies List: Emotional Intelligence has proven to be the right kind of intelligence to have if you want to move onward and upward faster. Get your free list today.


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Click to access edited transcript

063: Adam Toporek: I was not passionate about it

 

Intro: Welcome to the Fast Leader Podcast, where we uncover the leadership like hat that help you to experience, break out performance faster and rocket to success. And now here’s your host, customer and employee engagement expert and certified emotional intelligence practitioner, Jim Rembach.

 

Need a powerful and entertaining way to ignite your next conference, retreat or team-building session? My keynote don’t include magic but they do have the power to help your tennis take a leap forward by putting emotional intelligence into their employee engagement, customer engagement and customer centric leadership practices. So bring the infotainment creativity the Fast Leader show to your next event. Go to beyondmorale.com/speaking to learn more. 

 

Jim Rembach: Okay, Fast Leader Legion, you’re going to want to hold on tight because I have somebody on the show who can give you just as much energy as I can turn. Adam Toporek was born and raised in Charleston, South Carolina along with his younger sister. Adam is a third-generation entrepreneur who was raised in a small business. His grandfather had a main street shoe store, his mother had a children’s clothing store and his father had a musical instrument distributorship. Some of Adam’s finest business memories are red flashing clothing prices for post-holiday markdowns and sliding down a warehouse box shoed with a freshly pulled order of accessories. Through his journey, Adam saw firsthand the crucial roles customer experience and customer service play in making organizations profitable and sustainable a lesson he carries with him to this day as an author, speaker and workshop leader with his training company CTS Service Solutions and a podcaster or co-host of Crack the Customer Code.

 

Adam’s customer experience focuses on real-world strategies. He has combined his MBA, a lifetime and small business and a decade in the trenches of retail service franchises to develop techniques that are both effective and scalable. Adam’s business passion is teaching those strategies to front-line teams and organizational leaders. Adam currently resides in Orlando with his wife and with his chief happiness officer, Dalton the Golden retriever. Adam loves animals, swinging kettle bells and playing rock guitar. Adam Toporek, are you ready to help us get over the hump?

 

Adam Toporek:    Absolutely, Jim. 

 

Jim Rembach:    It was awesome to have you here. I’ve given our listeners a little bit about you but can you tell us what your current passion is so that we can get to know you even better?

 

Adam Toporek:    Absolutely. In business it is training and teaching customer service and customers experience. I just love helping people get better at connecting with their customers and making their customer journey better and a greater experience as we call it, hero class.

 

Jim Rembach:    Hero class, okay. Now, I know that a lot of folks have their signature mark, their go-to-word. Hero class does hero class come from?

 

Adam Toporek:    I like the idea of a hero. In the book, the customers talk about being heroes not about this viral acts of customer service and this big thing you see go over the Internet. It’s about being there for your customer day in and day out, when they need you and always delivering expectations or exceeding expectations. 

 

Jim Rembach:    You bring up an interesting point. Lot of times I look at the reverse side of this, because being somebody who was a front-line leader themselves is that there’s some customers that you just—Hero, you’re scum and there’s no way you’ll rise above that. And so when you start thinking about the resiliency associated with trying to continually be there and deliver with all of these complexities that we have in customers—Look, we know that social media and some of those stories and things like that we see, we read have given them more brashness come at us even harder. What are some of the things that you really focus on in order to build your shield as a hero?

 

Adam Toporek:    I love that. One of the things, not that like push the book—this came down when we’re looking at the title because I was very worried about—be your customer’s heroes, sort of being flighty into—I hate all those sort of disconnected advice you get. You come from real world frontline just like I do, Jim, and we know there’s a lot of—oh, yeah, be like Apple and Zappos and you’re going to figure out everything. And so the subtitle is real-world tips and techniques for the service frontlines and that’s because you really need to know how to apply these things in the real world. I think with some of the disconnect is a lot about what customers expect how different customers are and if you do one thing this is going to make everyone happy we know human psychology that is not the case, everyone is different and you can build the perfect customer journey but it will not be perfect for every customer. 

 

Jim Rembach:    You know that’s a really good point. I had the opportunity to meet with somebody from that glorified brand of Zappos a couple of years ago and we got into this good discussion because, okay, I probed for it. I said, “Come on, I’ve been dealing and helping frontline and managing frontline and doing it for a long time, there are just some people in this world that you can give away the entire company, there’s still not going to be happy.” I said, “So, tell me a little bit about the dark side of the Z” 

 

Adam Toporek:    Nice.

 

Jim Rembach:    And she actually did share with me that they have identified that there’s a certain percentage of folks, and they block list them essentially. Because one of those situations where they do try to take advantage of everything and just ruining the company. And so they essentially give them a creative redirection to their competition. 

 

Adam Toporek:    And that is actually one of the key points to me, I think where the real world comes and in is when you talk about—Oh, yeah, some sort of effort to acknowledge, of course there’s always bad customers but let’s talk about all the positive fluffy stuff. What they don’t understand I think, is how much of a drain and an impact those customers are, that half percent that 1% is on the front line team, on the organization, and if you don’t have a strategy for that half to 1%, if you don’t have a strategy for the customers that are a problem, then it makes it impossible to give the proactive service to the customers that are easy to deal with. 

 

Jim Rembach:    That’s a great point. One of the tools that I always use which is one of the tools that we use here on the shows is quotes. Because sometimes we just need to refocus and look at something that’s going to help really bring it to earth, give us a little bit of energy, is there a quote or two that kind of sticks out for you that gives you that?

 

Adam Toporek:    I have so many. It’s funny because I knew you’re going to ask this question, of course, and all of my quotes are really long. My number one quote to which I refer people to would be the poem “If” by Rudyard Kipling, which is my favorite poem and it’s just great advice on being a person and a leader. However, to give something that is a little more bite-size it would be Calvin Coolidge’s quote on persistence, “Nothing in this world can take the place persistence. Talent will not nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not, unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not, the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent. The slogan press on has solved and always will solve the problems of the human race and I find that quote so motivational and so true.

 

Jim Rembach:    I’m glad you share that quote for a multitude of reasons. First of all, I’m impressed that you can actually do it. I don’t think there’s one that I can remember, to me I think you just gave a one-man play. The thing that stood out for me is one of the issues that I as a parent try to keep reminding myself of is that, resiliency is something that’s taught. What I mean by that is while we may come out of the womb and be very resilient because we survive, oftentimes, we lose or don’t understand, I guess you’d say, as we get over how to go about doing it. There’s a difference between living and thriving and thriving requires that resilience piece, so thanks for sharing that. 

 

Adam Toporek:    That’s a great point. Because I think the difference between our species and the rest of them, a lion will fight to the death every time they don’t give up. We are programmed, we undergo psychological programming throughout our lives that changes in—which is good because that’s how we function as humans and society. We’re not eating each other in the streets but it gets us to go against our instinct in some cases. And I think against our own drive and our persistence and sometimes you’ve got unleashed that. You’ve got to get rid of the blocks that are put there either by yourself or by society, your parents, or friends or whatever it may be and you’ve got to get past that in a lot of what you and I do in customer service training is getting people past their mental hurdles and their mental blocks—I can’t do this, I can’t handle when the customer gets mad at me—and execute everything. 

 

Jim Rembach:    I think that’s a great, great point. We talk a lot about mindset and choice and you’re right. I just had the opportunity to talk about the issue of humps that really is has that resilience piece too. We have to learn issue of humps right in the that religious the resilient piece too is that we have to learn how to get over humps, otherwise, if we always use them as roadblocks we’re not going to train ourselves to get over them. Adam I know you have many businesses and also when you start talking about frontline and a whole lot of things that you can teach us about, your life learning. Is there a story that you can share with us where you’ve gotten over the hump?

 

Adam Toporek:    Yeah. A couple retail, so every day is a hump. Yeah, there’s a lot. One of interesting ones, I thought about it after listening to your podcast and it was when I started blogging. Of all the things I’ve done I really thought that was one of the more interesting story. So, I started blogging in 2011, and at that time I literally on four separate businesses and two different franchise concepts. I had probably 60 or 70 employees and I did a lot of training on my franchise life and I knew that I really love teaching and training. So, I started to blog on Valentine’s Day 2011 and it was real challenge as you can imagine, you got your blog, you got your podcast you know it’s not just—Okay, I turn on the computer and start typing, you research in what’s the best blogging platform, the best… there’s a of work because when you’re starting it you kind of figure out—Okay, how do I do this? How do I post? How many times a week do I post? I did all that launched it and I did it all myself because I didn’t want to staff it out because I wanted to understand it.

 

So the first challenge there and I think of this as a two hump, it’s like the camel it’s almost a two hump process. The first hump was—I was in this franchise working with big brands, I was putting myself out there and just starting to talk publicly about it and I think that was really a challenge, what you talk about, can you talk about, what is your message? And then what I found out was that I made a mistake. I blog for a few months and I was really blogging about small businesses on degree but about franchising, because that’s what I did I took a very practical approach, I said “Well you know I do franchising that’s sort of where my real house is, so to speak, and my brand extension should be in franchising.” But what I found out was it’s always been about customer service and customers experience for me that’s always been my focus in business, I’m a small business owner and so I’m the chief financial officer, the chief operating officer, the cheap plumbing officer—you’re small business you do all that. 

 

Customer service and customers experience is always been where tell to have that ledge, and so what I found was, I was not passionate about it. I love franchising but I wasn’t coming home jazz to talk about it and I found myself talking more and more about customer service. So, that was the first hump and then I just had to had that aha moment, that epiphany you talked about—and that was I’ve got to make a change, I don’t want to do this. So, it was public there’s a sort of few ways to do that, one was make a hard change and the other was just, Okay, I’ve just got to slowly start entering customer service and customers experience topics with the franchising go down a little. And I think that was a second hump, deciding how to do that and publicly, basically deciding—I have to make a hard change, I have to say here’s the deal I started doing this because I had customers. I did have a lot nothing like my platform now and how many people I get to now but at that time I still have people that are reading my stuff or commenting on my stuff and I had to be transparent with them they were coming to me for one topic. I was going to be moving to this other topic this is where I thought I could add value this is where I was passionate and the words are flowing. So, I made a hard change, I’ve wrote a blog post I turned it over and six months later after that I even change my branding and the name that the customers can stick, that was the previous URL before and that it was very intrinsic I learned a lot of lessons about doing business in the new world in the Internet, the public world. And how you have to approach those things and also remembering that it wasn’t about me it was also about my good my good “uncle customers” my readers at that time. 

 

Jim Rembach:    Thanks for sharing that. There’s one thing, as you were telling that story, that stood out very clearly for me, and that is you made a change you went ahead down the process you started doing some work and then made an adjustment. Now, most folks unfortunately what they’ll do is they’ll try to have all of those things lined up, planned out so that they don’t have to make the adjustment. And a friend of mine who had done some work for a while, he referred to himself as an entrepreneurial anthropologist. He said that that’s actually one of the traits of entrepreneurs, is that they have the ability to—with what they have available to them, gather all the information, go ahead and move forward and be willing to make adjustments if it’s necessary. So I think…

 

Adam Toporek:   That’s great analysis coming from a small business, you read my bio, I’ve just been around about small business my whole life—you have to adapt. It changes so rapidly and it’s about understanding that quitting is appropriate sometimes. People think it’s a failure, it’s not a failure you’re finding a new way—what owes Edison, I didn’t fail a thousand times, I’ve got a thousand ways not to invent the light bulb or whatever it was—it’s that principle, right? 

 

Jim Rembach:    Right. Keep on pounding. Keep on giving it a shot. The key is at least move, don’t stand still. 

 

Adam Toporek:    That forward motion exactly, but direct yourself, don’t be afraid to say,  this is not working. And you have to do that all the time if you manage a team. You want to support your people, you want to commit your people but some of them just don’t work out. Once you’ve done—you and I thought about this in the conversation we had, once you’ve given them every opportunity, you’ve done your part then sometimes you have to move on.  That’s the same thing a lot of times you don’t want to admit you’re wrong or you don’t want to say, hey, we have had a bad hire, but you did.

 

Jim Rembach:    It happens, it does. Now, I know we’ve had many conversations, you had a lot of  things going on, consulting, training, podcasting yourself, your chief happiness officer having to spend time with them as well as your wife—I’m sure she’s even above that, mine definitely is. 

 

Adam Toporek:    Of course. 

 

Jim Rembach:    But when you look at all the things that you have on your plate, what are some of your goals right now?

 

Adam Toporek:    I got multiple business, I come from those a sort of non-traditional background for being like a customer service whatever speaker-author type. I’m a small business owner and I still have multiple small businesses. And one of the things…one of the challenges for me has been scale, numerous business and none of them scale well altogether so it’s been very challenging. So, my goals right now were focused on the consulting and speaking. I’m really plan to do a lot of speaking this year and we’re building a new workshop product which I’m really excited about for the spring, so that’s going to be awesome. Right now we offer a live workshop but we’re just finding—it’s such an investment, I don’t mean monetarily, I mean in time and energy and planning and organization to do a live workshop but it just takes out a lot of organization. I just don’t have the time, I just can’t find that time in the calendar, so were really looking at something we can do virtually so we can get the message out to more people, get the training out to more people. So that sort of what’s driving me right now, in Q1 of 2016.

 

Jim Rembach:    The Fast Leader legion wishes you the very best. Now before we move on let’s get a quick word from our sponsor.

 

The number one thing that contributes to customer loyalty is emotions, so move onward and upward faster by getting significantly deeper insight and understanding of your customer journey and personas with emotional intelligence. With your empathy mapping workshop you learn how to evoke and influence the right customer emotions that generate improved customer loyalty and reduce your cost to operate. Get over your emotional hump now by going empathymapping.com to learn more.

 

Alright here we go Fast Leader listeners it’s time for the Hump Day Hoedown. Okay, Adam the Hump Day Hoedown is the part of our show where you give us good insights fast. So, I’m going to ask you several questions and your job is to give is robust yet rapid responses that are going to help us move onward and upward faster. Adam Toporek, are you ready to hoedown?

 

Adam Toporek:    Yeah-hah. 

 

Jim Rembach:    Alright. What do you think is holding you back from being an even better leader today?

 

Adam Toporek:    By doubling in getting necessarily holding me back ‘cause I believe I’ll achieve my goals but there are things that are slowing me down. And primarily for me it’s just that I’m overcommitted right now, I just don’t have enough time to give each project a person the attention it deserves.

 

Jim Rembach:    What is the best leadership advice you have ever received?

 

Adam Toporek:    That no job is beneath you. Be willing to roll up your sleeves and unclog a toilet if you have to, and I have. 

 

Jim Rembach:    What is one of your secrets that you believe contributes to your success.

 

Adam Toporek:    That is simple, getting up early and not checking e-mails for the first few hours of the day, it is magic.

 

Jim Rembach:    What you feel is one of your best tools that helps you lead in business or life?

 

Adam Toporek:    This could be a weird one because they’re probably expecting some piece of software or app but right now I will tell you it is my treadmill desk. Sitting is the new smoking and it keeps me my energy up, keeps me active during 14 hours a day is awesome.

 

Jim Rembach:    What would be one book from any genre that you would recommend to our listeners?

 

Adam Toporek:    So I would recommend my own. Okay, I’ll say that one of the business books I’d like to read every few years, and I’m overdue right now is Elian Goldratt’s, The Goal. Because it’s like pouring gasoline on your brain for process improvement. There’s almost no way to read and not think about how you can improve your businesses and systems and it doesn’t matter what you do.

 

Jim Rembach:    Okay, Fast Leader listeners you can find links to that and other bonus information from today’s show by going to fastleader.net/Adam Toporek. Okay, Adam this my last Hump Day Hoedown question: Imagine you were given the opportunity to go back to the age of 25 and you’ve been given the opportunity to take the knowledge and skills that you have now back with you but you can’t take everything you can only choose one, so what piece of skill or knowledge would you take back with you and why?

 

Adam Toporek:    I’ll buy apple stock, (inaudible 18:46) knowledge 25. But seriously it actually fits our theme from today, it’s just that in business no doesn’t always mean no, a lot of times it means not right now. I was too willing, in my younger years to take that first rejection, and you shouldn’t be pushy but you should be persistent. 

 

Jim Rembach:    Adam it was an honor to spend time with you today. Can you please share with the Fast Leader Legion how they can connect with you?

 

Adam Toporek:    I am all over social media, but the main place to go is customersthatstick.com everything radiates from there so just go to customersthatstick.com. 

 

Jim Rembach:    Thank you for sharing her knowledge and wisdom the Fast Leader Legion honors you and thanks you for helping us get over the hump. Woot! Woot!

 

Thank you for joining me on the Fast Leader show today. For recaps, links from every show, special offers and access to download and subscribe, if you haven’t already, head on over the fastleader.net so we can help you move onward and upward faster.

 

END OF AUDIO

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