A good friend of mine’s father has a saying.  “Don’t tell me how great you are, let me catch you at it.”  This saying came to mind to me recently when traveling from Toronto back to Pittsburgh.  I was around Erie and needed gas and a bio break.  I came across one of my favorite up and coming gas stations, getGo, and pulled off the highway to fill up.  I have been going to getGo’s around Pittsburgh for some time, but have never actually been inside one.  They are all new and from an outside perspective on par with my favorite gas station, Sheetz (one of the best run companies I have ever come across).  After I filled up, I went inside to find the facilities.  The inside was big, bright, and had all the amenities.  There was a sign on the men’s room door stating that getGo is committed to the cleanest bathrooms possible. So far, my inside experience was consistent with my past outside experiences, very good… until I opened the men’s room door.  The first thing that caught my eye was some paper towels on the floor.  It raised an eyebrow but wasn’t too concerning.  It went downhill from there.  While the bathroom was new, it clearly hadn’t been cleaned in some time, days, not hours like the sign implied.  While my expectations for gas station restrooms is relatively low, I felt let down.  I got on with my trip.

As I continued driving, it occurred to me, as far as gas station restrooms went, it wasn’t really that bad.  It was definitely above average.  So why did I feel letdown?  I felt letdown because they raised my expectations before my experience and then failed to deliver.  I wasn’t comparing them to the norm, I was comparing them to the expectation they set.  I am all for raising the bar, especially when it creates a competitive advantage.  However, the saying “under promise, over deliver” should always be woven into the delivery.  However high the bar is raised before the transaction, you better be able to deliver more.

So how does this relate to life and business.  Be very conscious of the expectations you set, especially in a pre-sales environment.  Be sure you and your organization can exceed the expectations set.  This will create the building blocks for mutually beneficial long term relationships.

As Mike’s dad says, “Don’t tell me how great you are, let me catch you at it”.

Note:  I did share my observations with the check-out clerk.