The Fred Factor

Wednesday, May 22nd, 2013

There was a little book published in 2004 by Mark Sanborn called ‘The Fred Factor’.


Based on a true story and an actual person called Fred Shea, it made a significant impact on me – and in many ways helped to shape my view of work – and more particularly, the way in which I do business.

In summary, the story is about a real-life postman called Fred, and his attitude to the fast-disappearing concept called ‘the work ethic’.  Mark Sanborn, the author, is a professional speaker who travels around a lot, and Fred became his postman when he moved in to a new home in Denver, USA.

In the foreword to the book, John Maxwell says this:

“Let’s face it – if a guy named Fred, who has a less-than-glamorous job working for the US Postal service, can serve his customers with exceptional service and commitment, what opportunities await you and me to help others, and in the process achieve deeper personal satisfaction?  If I were to write out a list of individuals who would benefit from reading The Fred Factor, here’s whom I would include:

  • My employees and business associates – for they will learn the secret behind how to better serve customers.
  • Professional acquaintances in management positions – for they will be shown how to inspire an entire organisation to see unprecedented levels of excellence.
  • My family members – for they will discover the benefit of showing genuine appreciation to those they love
  • Graduating students – for they will find extraordinary insights into achieving lifelong success not taught in classrooms
  • Finally, I would wish to place the book in the hands of everyone I know who wants to turn the mundane into extraordinary experiences.

There are four basic principles to this ‘Fred Factor’:

1.       Everyone makes a difference

It doesn’t matter what organisation you work for, or what your role in that organisation is, nobody can prevent you from choosing to be exceptional.

While work does give people dignity, that is only half the equation – people also give work dignity.  There are no unimportant jobs, just people who feel unimportant doing their jobs.

Martin Luther King said: “If a man is called to be a street sweeper, he should sweep streets even as Michelangelo painted or Beethoven composed music or Shakespeare wrote poetry.  He should sweep streets so well that all the hosts of heaven and earth will pause to say, ‘here lived a great street sweeper who did his job well.’”

2.       Success is built on relationships.

The most important objective in any job, or business, is relationship-building – because the quality of the relationship determines the quality of the product or service.

3.       You must continually create value for others, and it doesn’t have to cost a cent.

The most important job skill of the twenty-first century is the ability to create value for customers without spending money to do it.  The trick is to replace money with imagination and to substitute creativity for capital.  The faster you try to solve a problem with money, the less likely it will be the best solution.

Andrew Carnegie said: “There are two types of people who never achieve very much in their lifetime.  One is the person who won’t do what he or she is told to do, and the other is the person who does no more than he or she is told to do.”

4.       You can reinvent yourself regularly.

No matter what job you hold, what industry you work in, or where you live, every morning you wake up with a clean slate.  You can make your business, as well as your life, anything you choose it to be.

Clearly, in the book, Mark Sanborn unpacks a lot more into those four principles – but you’ll need to read it to get the value.

I have found that as I began to practice them in my own life; and as I went out and looked for, or developed Fred’s in my business, that this was probably the best strategy I’ve ever implemented