United Portrait Studio, a three person company, of which I'm one of the persons, supports my writing habit. In five years, the three of us have established a base of approximately two hundred customers (primarily day care centers) in four states.
Adrienne Wall, our partner, takes the children's photos. Christina (my wife) and I show and sell (no pun intended) the portraits to the children's parents and grandparents. Between Adrienne taking the photos and our showing them, is Advanced Photographic Solutions, our processing lab of choice.
The internet and telephone connect us to the lab. FedEx connects the lab to us. Actually, the last statement isn't accurate. David Gore connects us to the lab. That's David, in the photo, standing beside his truck. David is a FedEx contractor. He owns the truck. I took that picture Monday when I met him on the downtown portion of his route at mid-morning to get a package from the lab that would have been delivered in the afternoon.
In case you're thinking, what's the big deal, let me tell you the rest of the story. Advanced Photographic Solutions has a worldwide customer base. Each customer chooses his or her method of shipment. Advanced has a contract with United Parcel Service which, among other things, (I do not know the details of) gives them late afternoon, dedicated pick-up service from UPS, while FedEx picks up at the lab an hour, sometimes two hours, earlier. In spite of that, I choose FedEx for all of my deliveries.
Why do I choose FedEx? Two reasons. David Gore and the bitch-from-hell who formerly delivered UPS packages to us. I don't care about the hour or so difference in pick up time at the lab - Bob Montgomery, my wizard Account Manager at Advanced, takes care of that. I only care about the last fifty feet of the shipment's journey - from the truck to the box on my front porch.
The UPS bitch-from-hell made it clear from the beginning that those last fifty feet were a mine field in a war zone, and she was going to win the battle every time, no matter what the cost to me or United Parcel Service. David Gore, on the other hand, makes it clear to me that United Portrait Studios is the most important customer on his route. Therein lies the difference.
A year or so ago, FedEx shifted us from morning delivery to afternoon delivery. I told David there would be times that wouldn't work for us. He smiled, like he does all of the time, and said, "No problem." He reached in his pocket, came out with a card, and said, "Here is my cell phone number. Call me if you need a package before I arrive and I'll meet you and give it to you. If, for some reason, it's not on my truck, I'll find it and get it to you."
I have a new UPS driver and he is outstanding, but the memory of the bitch-from-hell is still there, and I have an idea it always will be. But of even greater import is the sure knowledge that David Gore has my back - that's why I continue to choose FedEx over UPS and every other shipping company.
What does that have to do with writing?
Everything. David Gore knows that I'm his customer and that customers like me keep the wheels of his truck turning. He also knows that I have the final choice on how my orders are shipped. To keep my packages on his truck, he has to give me the service I expect, and he does, plus a whole lot more.
I'm a writer. My customers are my readers. If I'm going to be a successful writer, I must write the way David Gore delivers. I must give my readers more than they expect. Not with one book but with every book. I must take impeccable care of the details - formatting, editing, research, cover design, and my stories have to be, not good, but outstanding.
When I deliver every book, every blog, every tweet, every Facebook comment that way, then my readers will know they can count on me the way I count on David Gore, and then I'll be a successful writer.