Russ, customer satisfaction technical assistant for a paper mill in northern British Columbia, Canada, told Session 4B of the Leadership Development Lab:
"It was Friday around 3 p.m. in the summer of 2002. I was the on-call supervisor for the finishing and shipping department at the Fort William division of Abitibi Consolidated in Thunder Bay. I received a call from our New York sales office. They were sourcing a quick turnaround of two trucks of paper that a customer in Minneapolis, Minnesota needed in less than 48 hours. I had recently visited this customer and offered to help in any way I could if they ever needed paper in an emergency situation.
I felt that we could deliver and told them to send in the order. I told them that I would call for the deadlines and weekend delivery needs. I arranged the production and explained the timeline to the mill production crew. Then I set out to find two trucks to make the delivery. This is where things got interesting. I soon found out that none of our regular longstanding carriers could handle the extra loads on this short notice. I looked at the possibility of delaying noncritical loads and replacing them with these special orders. As soon as I learned the problem was in trucking capacity, none of our carriers had any equipment, so changing the schedule was not an option that would have helped our client get the paper we had promised on time. Not willing to give up, I thought to myself, 'Where can I find two empty trucks?' WalMart; Sears; Canada Tire; surely there would be deliveries being
made and I could hire one right on their dock. Well, after a couple of hours of driving and searching, it was getting dark and my plan wasn't working out the way I hoped it would. Still determined, I went to the Husky Truck Stop, a 24 hour, 7 day-a-week gas and diner truck stop. I started knocking on truck doors in the lot and going table to table in the diner. After an hour or so I found two drivers in the restaurant eating a meal, both with empty vans and no prearranged back hauls. With their help, I was able to contact their dispatch, arrange the details, and had them follow me out to the paper mill. Our shipping department had the paper labeled and standing by in the warehouse. The trucks were on their way by midnight and the paper arrived at our customer's newspaper press ahead of schedule.
The lesson I learned from this experience is that when I go the extra mile and keep looking for an answer, a solution can be found. More importantly, I learned that when I recruit the help of others, explain the goal, including the why behind the what, people will join in. They willingly go the extra mile."
"The action I call you to take is make big promises and keep them. Don't be afraid to make stretching commitments, and when you run into roadblocks, don't quit! The benefit you will gain is legendary success that your customers remember, and more importantly, you will remember for the rest of your life."