On July 27, 2018 I lost my mentor and good friend Joe Kaplan. Joe’s life ended too early, but his legacy lives on. I wrote a blog which I was given the honor to share at his funeral. Below, I discuss in more detail the 5 Lessons I Learned From Joe.
Lesson #1: Set Goals. Joe would always say, “Goals without timelines are only dreams.” He would have us write down 3 business goals and 3 personal goals at the beginning of the year, place them in a sealed envelope, and turn them in. At the end of the year, he’d return them sealed. He never opened them. He just wanted us to feel accountable. Goals have to be measurable. The more specific the better. “I’m going to go the gym more this year”, is an ok goal. “I’m going to go to the gym at least 3 times per week this year”, is better. Joe taught me a lot about goal setting. At PCIHIPAA, every department sets goals that are definitive and measurable. We then review them every month to see how we are doing and discuss priorities to improve. What goals do you want to set for your business? What goals do you want to set personally? Write them down and measure your results after a period of time. Be accountable to yourself and others.
Lesson #2: Love Customers. Joe would say, “Without customers none of us get paid.” He purposely connected our customers to our paychecks. It was his way of making all employees feel accountable for customers; not only the Customer Care Department or the Sales Department, every department, every employee felt accountable. Joe called customers on their birthdays. He invited customers into our offices and hosted them for lunch, dinner and happy hours. He listened to our customers and created solutions to solve their pain points. At PCIHIPAA we call it ACE. It stands for Amazing Customer Experiences. It’s one mindset to feel that customers are important, however it’s a different mindset to take on the responsibility to deliver an “amazing” experience. Joe taught me that the easiest (and cheapest) way to acquire new customers is by word of mouth. However, customers don’t recommend a business unless they feel an emotional connection; an amazing experience. Are you delivering ACE to your customers? What can you do creatively to differentiate your business from the competition? What do you need to do better to get customers to recommend you?
Lesson #3: Be Charitable. Joe was always charitable with his money and time. We aligned with different charities and made it a company event. We built houses, participated in team marathons, visited schools, and had fun doing it. He’d say, “We have to share the victories.” My kids hear me all the time saying, “You give. You get.” I learned from Joe the gifts you give come back exponentially. At PCIHIPAA, we donate every month to charities we feel passionate about. “We Care” is not just a saying. We back it and grow it every year. Being charitable doesn’t have to be monetary. Joe taught at schools and universities and shared his time and learnings with employees, friends, family, and strangers. What can you do to give back, or become more charitable? How can you involve others and make it fun? What charitable giving goals can you commit to today?
Lesson #4: Tough Love is Still Love. I could still hear Joe say, “Broudy, you suck.” He pushed me harder than anyone I ever worked for. Joe never let the small stuff go. He’d call me out on everything. I learned to pay more attention to details and began to anticipate what was acceptable and what wasn’t. I learned that Joe’s toughness on me, meant that he cared for me. Joe wanted to make me better and he invested in my potential. I began to embrace constructive criticism, rather than run from it. It’s human nature not to ask for feedback and to not give it, unless asked. Not Joe. He delivered it constantly and developed a culture of continuous feedback. None of us were every surprised by Mid-Year or Annual Reviews. Reviews were given daily. Constructive criticism means you care. Avoidance has no benefits. Who in your life needs more feedback? Are you avoiding the difficult conversations? Will your employees be surprised by their Mid-Year or Annual Reviews?
Lesson #5: Everyone Matters. Joe was a multi-millionaire that made everyone feel rich. There were over 1,000 people at his funeral. Everyone there had some type of relationship with Joe. How could one person cast such a wide net? How could over a thousand people feel connected to him? It’s because everyone mattered. He cared about every phone call, every meeting, every hallway hello. Everyone in his life mattered. There was no hierarchy in Joe’s world. We all felt part of it and he purposely made us feel that way. Yes, he was the boss and made the big decisions, but I also felt part of those decisions. He was inclusive, approachable, and sought input. Employees, customers, partners, friends, and family all mattered. He was the most relatable person, to all types of people, that I ever met. How can you make employees or loved ones feel more important? What can you do to reduce exclusivity and foster inclusiveness? What can you do to change someone’s life?
Joe Kaplan changed my life and I will never forget the lessons he taught me. Hopefully, Joe’s Lessons can help change yours.