Joe Polish first learned the meaning of true appreciation in a janitorial supply store in Chandler, Arizona.
Polish was a recovering drug addict and dead broke carpet cleaner living off credit cards in the 1990s. “I started my own carpet-cleaning business with all my savings – $1,500 – because I wanted a better future and I didn’t have any better options,” says Polish. “I quickly learned that carpet cleaning is dirty, hard work.”
A client asked Polish to clean a sofa. The job needed equipment that Polish didn’t have and couldn’t afford to buy.
Polish went to the supply store and asked if he could rent the equipment. The store owner had a better idea. He let Polish borrow the equipment along with the cleaning chemicals.
“If you need something, just let me know and take whatever you need,” the owner told Polish. “Build up your business first and then come pay me back later.”
Polish’s cleaning business took off and he stayed loyal to the store owner. “Even as my business grew and grew, I would still go back to the same store to buy all my supplies – even it meant driving 45 minutes across town.”
Polish built a million-dollar cleaning business and eventually moved into sales and marketing, with cleaning companies as his first clients. Today, he’s the founder of the Genius Network for entrepreneurs, a marketing consultant, a host on three top-ranked marketing and business podcasts, founder of Artists for Addicts and Genius Recovery and even the co-owner of a 40-acre ghost town in Arizona.
The store owner’s generosity also let Polish in on an invaluable secret.
“The secret to success in life and business is learning how to connect and form relationships with other people – and most people don’t know how to do that,” says Polish in his book What’s In It For Them?
So what’s one of the best way to connect and form strong relationships? Do what the store owner did for Polish.
Ease other people’s pain. Figure out how they’re suffering and how you can help. The store owner knew Polish was struggling to make ends meet and needed a break.
“Suffering is pain,” says Polish. “Suffering can be physical, emotional, mental or spiritual. There’s suffering everywhere and there’s much more than most people realize.”
To get at the root of someone’s suffering, ask three questions – where are you, where do you want to go and how are you going to get there?
According to Polish, we all want to connect with others, feel special, cared about and appreciated and have our problems solved.
Meet our needs in authentic, useful and valuable ways and you’ll earn our appreciation, trust, loyalty, business and friendship.
“Connecting with people is about helping them get what they want and helping them reduce or remove what is causing them suffering.”
The added bonus in helping others? You help yourself in ways that go far beyond monetary rewards, says Polish.
“By connecting with others, you reduce your own suffering, improve your own life, have richer relationships and make the world a better place.
“If you’re a person who cares about others and can solve their problems – someone who understands what’s in it for them – there’s no limit to what you can accomplish or the peace and joy you can find in your own existence.”
The owner of the janitorial supply store did it for Polish and Polish returns the favour by offering dozens of exercises and action steps to help us do the same should someone who’s struggling and suffering come into our businesses or lives in need of a helping hand.
Jay Robb serves as communications manager for McMaster University’s Faculty of Science, lives in Hamilton and has reviewed business books for The Hamilton Spectator since 1999. This review first ran in the Jan. 13 edition of The Hamilton Spectator.