The Rebekah Difference

Tomorrow I will be privileged to speak to the Directors and Store Managers of one of the world’s most exclusive stores, Boodles.

What can someone who leads a church say to business people who consistently provide the most excellent products to the most exclusive clientele – whose expertise has been featured in a revealing TV documentary, The Million Pound Necklace? Their leaders are among the best in the world: so I’m going there in learning mode for sure!

As I thought and prayed about it, one person’s example from the Bible shone through.

Here are the notes I’ll deliver my address from tomorrow: 

The first Vicar who trained me went to his door one day on his day off and found a rumpled old man standing on he doorstep, who said he’d been driving past and wondered if he might go and look inside the church for a short while as he was passing. David thought to himself, ‘Well it’s my day off’ – but he found he couldn’t say it so instead he grabbed the heavy set of keys and walked the short distance with the old man to open the doors and let him into the beautiful mediaeval Devon building. He asked a few questions and David told him the history of the church. Then the old man sat a while in silence, thanked him and left.

A few days later David received a thank you note from the man’s secretary in London. Enclosed was a very hefty cheque – which more than paid for the repairs needed for the tower appeal with enough left over for a state of the art sound system.

Now he didn’t do it for that reason, but whether you believe in God or not I bet you could tell stories too of when that kind of thing has happened to you or someone you know. All kinds of philosophies and belief systems have noticed this phenomena. You reap what you sow.

This is way more than karma, it’s ‘The law of the harvest’ – that’s what I mean when I say you reap what you sow. Because how it works is you don’t just get back what you sow when you sow it. No seed known to man grows as soon as you put it in the ground. No – you might see a quick return that encourages you but what I’m talking about, the law of the harvest, is how you reap what you sow is LATER and GREATER.

It’s brilliantly illustrated for me in the longest chapter of the first book of the Bible, Genesis, where we read about Abraham (who is revered by the three main world religions) and how he wants to get a wife for his son Isaac. And the story describes a test that took place, the day a young woman called Rebekah met a complete stranger. I call it the Rebekah Principle. Little did this young woman know how this meeting would change her life – and the lives of so many other people, in fact it changed history.

Rebekah had a choice in an ordinary day, and she had no idea how big a door hinged on that decision. When she did what she did she would probably have said it was ‘the least she could do’ – but it’s actually what very few people really do.

So Abraham has become this incredibly wealthy and influential Arab sheik from modern day Iraq but now he’s living in a new country – what we would call Israel, and he’s trying to fix his son up with a wife. They didn’t have the internet, so he sends his servant on a blind date match making mission – to go to far away back to his homeland. And makes him promise not to not just get anyone, but only the right one.

But how would the servant know?

Well the servant works up a plan, and a test. When he gets in the right neighbourhood he goes to a well, where in that culture the women would go every morning and evening. So he puts himself in the right place, he’s smart. He’s not expecting God to do all the work like some people do!

He prays, and he puts together a great test, which the vast majority would not pass. I’ll explain why in a moment. He decided not to base his search on good looks, or her being a non smoker or a vegan or having a good sense of humour, or a shared love of walking in the country, but on a principle. Here it is:

He wanted to find someone willing to go the extra mile – for someone else. That was it. That’s what would set her apart. Someone who’d put herself out, would rule herself in. He’s for someone who’d GIVE first and not just think, ‘What do I get?’

Is that rare? You know about rare things!

Someone who’d not just give the least they could get away with, but do the most they could do; and say, ‘it’s the least I can do.’ That’s the Rebekah Difference. Rebekah went the extra mile. That was the difference maker.

I was in the police and now I run a church and various charities and lecture on leadership but here’s what I’ve discovered: whatever business you’re in, you’re in the people business.

I’m not surprised a lot of people don’t go to church, because church is often terrible. It’s unwelcoming, cold, unfriendly, they don’t ask questions normal people ask or give answers anyone understands. I don’t blame people for not going there even if they’re trying to find their way back to God and I wouldn’t want to go if they paid me.

It would be the same if you were running a restaurant or a shop – you name it – for many people, the moment of truth as to whether they will be interested in what you’re offering starts when they feel like you have something that interests them and you’re interested in helping them.

Now I’m not likely to become one of your regular customers, unless my next book really takes off! The 80/20 rule says 80% of your business will come from 20% of your customers so they are really the ones you need to go all out on and you are ridiculously in charge of their experience and whether they’ll keep giving you their business and recommending you to others.

Do you know what the most precious, valuable item in Boodles is? It’s you! It’s you! It’s you and your team. You are ridiculously in charge of creating the moment. We live in an experience economy and people are not just buying emeralds they are buying experiences.

Week by week I want people to experience something where they say ‘Wow – that was great, I never thought church was like that, maybe I was wrong about church.’ That’s how I first got grabbed when I was 21 and just getting ready to join the riot squad and nowhere near God and then I had this ‘Maybe I’m wrong about church’ moment. Because Zoe who’s now my wife took me along to an event and it was a bit of an ambush because I knew church was boring and not for me and now here I am in this place where people are happy and then there’s this friendly normal person explaining what’s happening not a bloke in a dress and then the speaker gets up and his message is so clear and compelling and I didn’t believe what he believed then – but I could see he really did. And it just made me think ‘Maybe I’m wrong, about church…’ And later on – weeks later, I thought ‘If I’m wrong about church, maybe I’m wrong about God…’ and that’s how my life changed.

So now I tell my church we are not responsible to change people’s minds about God, that’s his job and I think he can do it. But we are ridiculously in charge of changing their minds about church.

And yes we have a kicking website and we do social media well and everything but one thing will never change and that’s every week now whether they decide if they’ll ever come back to my church or buy your jewelry – much less tell others something positive about it – is decided in those precious moments, in direct contact, with you.

And if we are fully aware of that, we can reengineer or improve those moments of truth so what you do and who you are stands out from the crowd.

I could give you a huge list of books but one I’d fully recommend and it’s a short read would be Raving Fans, by Ken Blanchard and Sheldon Bowles. Like most of Blanchard’s books including his most famous ‘The One Minute Manager’ it’s written as a short parable. This one is to help you get people talking positively to their friends about you and what you provide, because we all know how important word of mouth marketing is. Seth Godin who’s a renowned expert on this reminds us that people trust people, not adverts.

Boodles says it wants to provide ‘Unparalleled levels of customer service and love of life.’ That’s a pretty high bar you’ve set yourselves isn’t it?

Do that, and you’ll have Raving Fans, and everything follows from that. When you serve the needs of others, when you solve their problems and make their dreams a reality – you’ll never go out of business.

I got a new iphone yesterday. I’m an Apple raving fan. I remember when Steve Jobs first unveiled the iphone, I loved to watch his speeches and so did many others, but he didn’t say ‘My organisation is producing something important in technology that will make more money for Apple.’ He spoke about ‘how we are going to make this simple and easier for you to do, to have your phone and songs and camera with you, look at all the ways this will make people’s lives better! Serving and success go together.

What business are you in? (You always have to remember what business you’re in).

In a book I read last week on holiday, Mark McCormack’s ‘What they don’t teach you at Harvard Business School’ he wrote:

I was having dinner with Andre Heiniger, the chairman of Rolex, when a friend of his stopped by the table to say hello. “How’s the watch business?” the friend asked.

     “I have no idea,” Heiniger replied.

     His friend laughed. Here was the head of the world’s most prestigious watchmaker saying that he didn’t know what was going on in his own industry.

     But Heinigher was deadly serious. “Rolex is not in the watch business,” he continued. “We are in the luxury business.”

You’re never just selling jewelry, Argos does that – Ratners used to! You’re responsible for providing a level of excellence and service, not just to some customers every now and then, but with such consistency they become not just ‘satisfied customers’ but Raving Fans, talking about their fantastic experience at every opportunity.

Blanchard describes three secrets to make it happen:

Step 1: Decide what you want

First you need a detailed vision of what a perfect interaction would look like. Imagine and paint a perfect picture of what it would knock the socks off people because your future customer service is so amazing. What would you do so they go – WOW! Thinking like that will take time and effort, but without it you will not be able to progress.

Step 2: Discover what the customer wants

Ask them what they want, and listen. This sounds pretty obvious too but what they want to do is help us see that customer service is part and parcel of your product. Inextricably bound in that necklace for me is the care and attention Clare showed me, how she showed me a range and didn’t say ‘Oh I think she’d; like this one..’ I remember the way I felt waling out of that shop, like I’d done a wonderful thing – I had bought the person I love most in the world a million pound necklace. Being clear about your vision of course will also help you tell a customer you’re not the right people to help them – because you do something different than what they want, and you can’t be all things to all people. You have to remember what business you’re REALLY in.

YOU are in the luxury business aren’t you? So decide what standard you’ll set, discover what the customer wants, and then

Step 3: Deliver your vision – plus one percent

Plus one percent doesn’t sound like much, but to create a raving fan you need to more than just deliver on your customer service promise each and every time the customer deals with you, the customer needs to believe that they can count on you again and again and again. Consistency creates credibility. The organisations that do this are the ones that have systems, training and alignment between delivering that vision and pay/promotion. You have to realize you never stop improving, you have to keep on making the little improvements (what the Japanese call Kaizan) to make the big difference over time. Enough little improvements can change anything!

‘Vision plus one percent’ is another way of saying you go the extra mile. I’ve used that phrase a few times already and I don’t know if you’re aware it comes from Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount. In those days, the occupying power, a Roman soldier – could come and make you carry his pack for a mile. Jesus was saying ‘Don’t just do what you might be expected to do, or what you have to do, do what you can do, then proactively make the choice – to add value & serve.

I think Rebekah’s attitude stands in stark contrast to way most people think and act today. (TV show where they couldn’t get servants!)

We want to be the VIP, the one who gets served. We hate it when we get bad service. But this is about what we give. Her actions said: ‘I’ll do what you ask me to do, and then some – more than expected.’

People often seem to say, ‘I want to do the least that’s expected of me, but I want to get the most out of it.’ I will serve – in an advisory capacity, or if it’s easy. And if I get applauded and noticed. But serving is not helping people at our convenience, it’s helping people at cost, at cost to ourselves.

For Rebekah it was getting near the end of another hot day, she’s doing her ordinary thing, going to the well to draw water for herself. Then this guy who looks like nobody special, comes over and it says The servant hurried to meet her and said, ‘Please give me a little water from your jar.’

And she sayeth unto him ‘Behold! And what did thy last one die of mate? – Hast thou not got legs thyself?’

No, that’s not it. If she had said that – what would have happened? Nothing. No further story. No door of destiny opening up for Rebekah. If she’d complained or been impolite or said ‘I’m busy… on thy bike, or camel…’ But she says, ‘Drink, my lord,’ she said, and quickly lowered the jar to her hands and gave him a drink.

Rebekah started by first doing what was asked of her. She listened to him and walked the first mile. She showed him respect and honour, called him ‘Sir’, Lord. That’s what it means.

You know what? You can’t walk the second mile, until you’ve walked the first one. You can’t deliver the extra 1% over expectation if you didn’t do 100% first. Sometimes we never walk the second mile because we never walked the first one. We ruled ourselves out of the running for it. Because we wouldn’t even do what we were being asked. We didn’t return the call we said we would, we didn’t turn up ready to help.

Remember she didn’t know who this servant was, she didn’t do it so she’d be blessed. She did it because she knew she had already counted her blessings and was happy to help. She didn’t do it for money or reward. She did it because it needed doing, and she could do it and she was WILLING to do it.

This is a little story about four people named Everybody, Somebody, Anybody, and Nobody.

There was a job to be done and Everybody was sure that Somebody would do it.

Anybody could have done it, but Nobody did it.

Somebody got angry about that because it was Everybody’s job.

Everybody thought that Anybody could do it, but Nobody realized that Everybody wouldn’t do it.

It ended up that Everybody blamed Somebody when Nobody did what Anybody could have done.

Rebekah did what she could. Then, she did MORE…

19 After she had given him a drink, she said, ‘I’ll draw water for your camels too, until they have had enough to drink.’ 20 So she quickly emptied her jar into the trough, ran back to the well to draw more water, and drew enough for all his camels. 21 Without saying a word, the man watched her closely to learn whether or not the Lord had made his journey successful.

Only when she finished giving him a drink, doing what she was asked, did she notice the camels and offer to go the second mile – and take care of them too. She didn’t know, but the story says this was his test! She didn’t know but the camels were actually the specific thing he’d prayed about as the sign. She just knew those camels looked thirsty! So she offers. And she’s QUICK to do it all. Did you notice that? People’s most valuable commodity is time. She didn’t waste it – she’s not trudging about and dragging it out miserably like ‘Do I have to…?’

And all the time the guy’s not saying a word. He’s just watching.

Who’s watching your life?

Everyone. Everyone! Are you dependable or expendable? Are you promotable or demotable? Are you rewardable or deplorable? What are they seeing about your character and attitude as they observe it?

I’ll tell you: They’re seeing what you’re showing them. Because you are becoming, what you consistently do. You’re making your reputation, more or less.

Decide – Rebekah decided ‘I’ll do what it takes.’

Discover – ‘Oh – I need to get the water for him and the camels.’

Deliver, plus one percent!

It would have been easy for Rebekah to lower her jar after she gave the stranger a drink and go home. That would be polite, hospitable, friendly. He’d say thank you – but know she was not the one.

By the way, this wasn’t like, ‘Can I get a bowl of water for your dog?’

Ever been close to a camel? Of all the animals, camels have to be the smelliest, thirstiest and spittyest.

Ten camels, times at least 20 gallons capacity. How many gallons? (200) – Over 900 litres. With a 5 gallon container, that’s 40 trips. Might take a couple of hours. Two hours voluntary hard work, just to bless a stranger. Who’d do that?

Ask at my church the guys who do the coffee, or who get there 2 hours early and put the sound and visuals on for us in the cinema. All the children’s work helpers. Those who run our recovery groups for people with life controlling issues, our award winning debt counseling service and job club, our café, our youth services. We hardly pay anyone, but we host about 1000 people a weekend and touch thousands of others through the week. It calls for a whole other level of leadership to run a volunteer organization because I haven’t got a carrot or a stick!

It’s the Rebekah difference.

Abraham’s guy watches her work. She’s not huffing, puffing and complaining. She’s not letting everyone know about all the sacrifices she’s making or what a wonderful person she is for doing it.

Do you know some people are only happy to do good for you if they can make you feel bad while they’re doing it!?

Is that true!? Do you know anyone like that?

Don’t look around the room!

I notice it says he watches her to the very end. He doesn’t stop a few camels in and say ‘Hey, great – you’re the one!’ I’d be three camels in and give her the prize. But he wants to make sure. How does he know for sure? She works, and he waits, and he watches until she doesn’t stop – until all ten stop drinking. The he knows. She’s not just doing half a job. She’s a finisher.

Not because he’s watching, either. Some people want commendation, celebration and compensation just for turning up – even if they’re late. But Rebekah kept doing the job really well – till the job was done.

Decide, Discover, Deliver, plus one percent!

People are watching your life. Always. Get over it.

Are you and your team surprising them – in a good way?

Do you do what you say? Are you an excellent finisher or just a good starter? She finished not when she’d had enough, but when the camels had enough!

And this was not the most glamorous job but a lot of what we have to do isn’t. The bits nobody sees. Look what Martin Luther King, Jr. said in a speech in 1956: If it falls your lot to be a street sweeper, sweep streets like Michelangelo painted pictures, like Shakespeare wrote poetry, like Beethoven composed music; sweep streets so well that all the host of heaven and earth will have to pause and say, ‘Here lived a great street sweeper, who swept his job well.’”

I grew up watching my Mum go out and work full days at a cotton mill, and she’d come home and make tea for Dad who would give her a kiss then go and work 12 hour shift nights at the same place. Do you know how often I heard them complain about it? Never. I never heard them complain about it. Because they had a job. They knew what it was like not have one. They had mouths to feed. They worked hard and gave their best to the very last day. They knew nobody owed them a living. They gave maximum effort, for minimum payment.

And they gave me, a rare example.

Everywhere you look you can see exactly the opposite. People want maximum reward – for minimum effort. But Rebekah’s attitude set her apart from the crowd. She didn’t get the hump. That second mile smile was her doorway to destiny. Once she’d finished the job, she passed the test and the servant knew his job was done. She was his answer to prayer!

When did you last make someone’s wish come true? Here’s what happened next… (The servant) opened up the hidden treasure chests that the camels carried… And he showers the girl with gifts, jewelry. He tells her a great love story – that she gets to star in. “…the man took a gold ring weighing a half-shekel and two bracelets for her wrists weighing ten shekels in gold…” (Genesis 24:22). How much is that worth?

She agrees to go back and meet Isaac. When they see each other – it’s love at first sight. (Everybody saw ‘Awww…’) You could make a fabulous romantic film out of this. I wouldn’t want to watch it, cos I’m a dead hard ex copper from Manchester – but you could if you were soppy.

Rebekah saw an opportunity for excellence. I don’t think this was a one off, it was who she was. She was someone who gave her very best to serve in her ordinary every day life and one of those days became an extraordinary day in an extraordinary life!

Her story has been retold countless times since they wrote about it in the world’s most famous book, it outlived her into eternity – because as you carry on reading you find out she became the great, great, great, (x 37) grandmother of the one I believe is the Saviour of the World, the Lord Jesus Christ.

Isn’t that great?

She got the million pound necklace because she was one in a million person, because she decided what excellence meant for her, discovered how to meet a need, and then delivered on it – plus one percent.

Rebekah did everything she could, and then some. That’s the difference maker.