Do You Smell Like Rover's Fire Hydrant?
Manny Bucks and I were chatting the other day. “I finally got rid of Billyjo Upriver,” Manny exclaimed, his relief palpable.
I was shocked. “Billyjo, your hotshot project manager? You told me he was some sort of crackerjack. Moved projects along like a freight train.”
“Yes, that is true. He was good at his trade. Very good. But he stunk at other things.”
“Like what? Getting along with staff?”
“No, like showering regularly. And remembering to wear deodorant. Literally, he smelled like my dog Rover’s favorite fire hydrant. The girls in my office complained all the time.”
“But he made your company money. Big money. He knows your business like no one. Okay, so he dresses like Saturday Night Fever and has a bad comb-over, but its hard to fault a guy who’s so productive.”
“To a point. Let me tell you what my CFO, Stella, said after one day of working with Billyjo’s replacement, Dean. And mind you, if anyone appreciates profit, it’s Stella. She came to me at 5:30, after everyone had gone home. Our conversation went something like this:
Stella: “Manny, I’ve got to tell you how nice it is to have Billyjo out and Dean Humble in. Dean is such a professional. His clothes are ironed and they actually match. He doesn’t have much hair but at least what he’s got is well-groomed. And best of all, he smells good.”
Manny: “I didn’t know you smelled other men, Stella. You’re married, for Pete’s sake.”
Stella: “Are you kidding? Married or not, we women pay attention to every detail. Not only of men but of other women too. Trust me. Wherever you go, the girls take note. They start at your shoes and don’t stop scrutinizing until they’ve scoped you all the way to the last hair on your head — or in Dean’s case, his lack thereof.”
“Tim,” Manny continued, “I tell you, I was shocked. I’ve never noticed women giving me the fish-eye before. Well, maybe a time or two in my youth at the local watering hole, but not since. I figured they get one look at my paunch and my wedding band and that’s the end of that.”
“Not true, apparently,” I said. “My gal, Cindy, has told me the same thing. She’ll even point it out sometimes when I’m too dense to notice. Takes one to know one, I guess.”
This conversation got me thinking. Just what makes a person “professional?” Clearly, there’s more to it than skill or knowledge. I have to admit, I’m on shaky ground here. I was raised on a cattle ranch where looks and grooming weren’t nearly as important as brute strength and leatherneck-endurance. To this day I struggle with picking out the right shirt with the right pants with the right belt and proper colored socks. I’m not dumb, but why is this so darned hard for me? Oh, and it all has to be ironed! Cripes!
A big part of professionalism has to do with attitude and demeanor. Take Billyjo Upriver, for example. The main reason he no longer works for Manny is because he kept flirting with Sally, Manny’s receptionist. It’s bad enough, unwelcome flirting with a co-worker, but a 50-year old greaseball talking smack with a 20-something married gal six months pregnant?
Here is what I think professional is:
- Really knowing your trade. This has more to do with years of experience than book-taught education.
- Dressing and grooming smartly
- Being humble, yet self-confident
- Acting appropriately
Miss the boat on any of the above and most people would have a tough time admiring you as a true professional.
Here is what I think professional is not:
- Making out that you know more than you really do, aka a Level Three Idiot (See my book, “Cracks, Sags and Dimwits” for more on this topic).
- Talking too much
- Dressing unfashionably or shabbily
- Being unclean
- Being tactless
There is little doubt that most people prefer doing business with professionals. My wife, for example, switched banks recently primarily because our old bank was, in her words, “too laid-back.” She much prefers this new bank because: “All the tellers wear suits or other very nice clothes.” Her switch had nothing to do with service or interest rates or checking accounts-de-jour. In Cindy’s eyes the new bank was simply “more professional.” Having been to our new bank, I can confirm that the tellers there also smell good.
Tim Garrison of ConstructionCalc.com, is a professional engineer, author, and software producer for the building industry. Check out his new book, "Cracks, Sags, and Dimwits — Lessons To Build On," available at www.lulu.com, Amazon and Barnes and Noble.
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