We’ve now been away from each other — and away from our routines — for the better part of six weeks. While a few of us still come into the office each morning, things around here are mostly quiet. The cubicles, kitchen and conference rooms are all empty. The contrast between what those spaces looked like two months ago and what they look like now saddens me.
But just temporarily.
When I think of all we’ve accomplished and the effort that each of you is putting toward our common mission, my spirits are lifted. That moment of sadness is quickly replaced with hope and pride. Our coffee pots and white boards may sit idle, but you are all working overtime to accomplish our goals and help our clients accomplish theirs. Ideas are now shared over Zoom and WebEx, content is tweaked over email and clients are updated and advised over phone and text.
It’s not ideal — we are in the service industry, after all — but we’re making it work well. I’ve highlighted just how well in my past few emails to you. What I want to highlight today, though, is how one of our clients has adjusted their business and, in doing so, has demonstrated the core value that means the most to me personally: integrity.
Our core values describe integrity, in part, as “doing the right thing when no one is looking.” In other words, your actions are not motivated by accolades or any other sort of acknowledgement, for that matter. You’re doing what you’re doing because of who you truly are as a person. It speaks volumes about the way you will conduct yourself in every other aspect of your life. And what Sand Mountain Toyota has been doing for weeks now tells me they’re exactly the type of business that we want to work with.
The dealership is located in Albertville, a small city of roughly 22,000 in northern Alabama. As is the case with most smaller cities and towns, the community is close-knit. Many of Sand Mountain’s customers are friends and neighbors. When the pandemic closed down schools across the country, like kids elsewhere, many kids in the Albertville area could no longer access a healthy lunch. For perspective, the U.S. school lunch program feeds approximately 30 million school-aged kids across the country. A lot of those kids depend on that meal; there is no food at home and, in some cases, no money to rectify that.
Mark Brickey, President and GM of Sand Mountain Toyota, knew there were many kids in the Albertville area who’d soon face empty cupboards at home. Motivated by nothing other than his desire to lift up his community, he called on the entire Sand Mountain Toyota team to help.
They talked to figure out exactly what they could do. They’re a dealership, of course, so their core business is pretty far removed from the food industry. Still, with a little effort and slight adjustments, they determined that they could begin cooking and packaging to-go lunches for school-aged kids in the area. Members of the team — from sales to service — would grill hotdogs and hamburgers. Other team members would pack lunches and hand out the meals in their own makeshift drive-thru. To this day, Sand Mountain Toyota offers free lunches for school-aged kids three days a week.
We created some banners and updated their website to publicize the event locally so that Albertville parents would see the information and utilize the service. For the most part, though, this was all Sand Mountain Toyota.
What strikes me almost as much as their generosity and ingenuity is the fact that they did this unprompted by anything other than the crisis itself. They didn’t seek PR and they certainly didn’t ask me to write an email about the dealership. They did what was right when no one was looking. The bag lunches won’t show up on their monthly sales reports. They will show up, however, in the hands of young kids throughout the small community who’d otherwise go hungry. For Mark and his team, no sales objective can compete with that.
So, I want you to think about Sand Mountain Toyota when you’re working remotely and when you’re out in the cities and neighborhoods we call home. And, of course, when we’re finally all filling our offices — and our coffee pots — once again. Because our communities would be stronger and our lives would be richer if we took a page from Sand Mountain Toyota. I’d love to hear your ideas on how we can do that here in the Upstate and in Boca, Denver and L.A., too.
Until then . . .
May these core values serve as a guide when it must be decided what to do next, may you always accomplish the mission, get the result and creatively solve the business problem, may you always be the best version of yourself. Above all else, may you put God, your Family and your Clients ﬁrst — in that order.
Good luck, and be ruthless and relentless with the competition.
I will not stop or give up. I understand the objective and press forward no matter what. I welcome adversity, laugh at it and then proceed to smash the objective.
I am selflessly dedicated to the success of both my clients and teammates alike. I have the courage to risk failing. I am a champion — always loyal and accountable.
I think – I explore – I create.
I practice, drill, rehearse…then I rest and repeat.
I stay true to my word, doing the right thing when no one is looking. I am open, honest, ethical and fair.
I stand for real relationships and make sure every interaction I create is meaningful.