It wasn’t the last plane out…


It wasn’t the last plane out…

Speaking of the late Robert Townsend and his wonderful book “Up the Organization” (he died in 1998) you should find the book and read it. He tells wonderful stories.

When he was a new salesperson with a company (It may have been International Harvester) he was sent to Japan to close a deal. When he arrived his host asked when his plane left and then put him in a limo and immediately took him on a day and night tour of Japan that lasted up until the morning he was to leave. He was panicked. He hadn’t even discussed the deal. His host then just before leaving for the airport, looked at his proposal and presented a counter offer. Of course the offer was a bad one, but there was no time.

Suddenly Townsend had an epiphany. The flight he was on was not the last flight out of Japan. He cancelled his flight, beat his customer at his own game and came home with a good deal.

Townsend had no secretary when he ran Avis. He answered his own phone, kept his own calendar, and if he needed a letter typed, he called someone up from the steno pool. When he travelled he had a rubber stamp made up. He took the stamp to the mail room and told the mail clerk to open every letter addressed to Townsend, determine to the best of his ability who it should go to if not him, and then stamp it and send it off. The stamp said:

    Read this. Do whatever you think is best. Don’t tell me what you did. R. Townsend

In his years at Avis he never had a problem arise from this policy, and he never had a stack of mail on his desk when he returned from business travel.


PS The book is available on Amazon in hard cover, paperback, and Kindle and at the Sony Reader Store. I strongly recommend it. Written 35 years ago, its message is a fresh today as in 1970s.

Picture of John Van Horn

John Van Horn

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