Software for the finest computer – The Mind


Posted by Tim Bryce on July 17, 2017


– “Trifles make perfection, and perfection is no trifle.”

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I hate to forget a person’s name. There is probably nothing more rude in business than to forget someone’s name, particularly if you have had to deal with them one-on-one. Years ago, when I was just starting out in business, I met a gentleman from Worcester, Massachusetts who attended one of our training courses in Cincinnati. He was a nice guy and I actively worked with him during the class. Two weeks later, we held a customer conference in French Lick, Indiana where I happened to run into him again, this time on the golf course. My mind went totally blank as to what his name was, thus creating an awkward moment as we greeted each other (he, of course, remembered my name, but I was blocked). After some clever maneuvering, I finally got him to say his name which I instantly recognized. However, to make matters worse, I mispronounced the name of the town he is from which, if you are not from Massachusetts, is easy to butcher (look up “Worcester” in the dictionary and you’ll see what I mean). All in all, I didn’t score well in front of my customer that day. Consequently, I was determined not to let this happen again.

Following this episode, I started to take introductions more seriously and made a concerted effort to learn a person’s name, how they liked to be addressed, where he or she was from, and their interests. At the time, I developed a Rolodex file with this information printed on it. If I had to leave my office and visit customers on their premises, I would be sure to take pertinent cards from the file with me. Today, of course, I keep everything in a Personal Information Manager (PIM) which I can take with me anywhere on a flash drive, but the principle is still the same. This little intelligence has served me well over the years and I have impressed many customers with what I remembered about them, even years later. It’s not that I have developed a great memory, I haven’t, it’s just that I recognized the usefulness for remembering little details about people, cataloged them, either in my head or written down somewhere, and used it as needed to develop a good rapport with my clients.

Customers find it very comforting when such detail is remembered by their vendor. It gives them a sense of security that their interests are being maintained, which helps to develop trust and a bond between customer and vendor.

These days though, few people take the time to remember your name. As a small example, when you go to the drive-up window of a local bank, tellers are typically hospitable, but rarely do they take the time to remember your name. I hate it when they try to be pseudo-flirtatious with you when they don’t know who you really are. No, it doesn’t endear me to the bank.

It is these little observations that go a long way. As an example, perhaps the best secretary I ever saw was a lady named Myrna who worked for an I.T. Director in Chicago. The first time I visited the office, Myrna warmly greeted me and asked if I wanted a cup of coffee. Saying Yes, she then asked me what I wanted in it. I said cream and sugar, which she then made for me. Months later when I returned to visit the I.T. Director, Myrna greeted me by name and presented me with a cup of coffee with cream and sugar. Frankly, I was startled that she not only remembered my name but how I also liked my coffee. Later I found out that Myrna also maintained a simple card file; whenever someone visited the office, Myrna would record their name and the type of coffee they liked. Sharp. Very sharp.

It’s these little details that make a difference in customer relations. As Michelangelo said, “Trifles make perfection, and perfection is no trifle.”

As an aside, it has been many years since the incident with the customer from Worcester, MA, but to this day I can still vividly recall his name. It’s…ah…ah…

Keep the Faith!

Note: All trademarks both marked and unmarked belong to their respective companies.

Tim Bryce is a writer and the Managing Director of M&JB Investment Company (M&JB) of Palm Harbor, Florida and has over 40 years of experience in the management consulting field. He can be reached at

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Copyright © 2017 by Tim Bryce. All rights reserved.

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NEXT UP:  REMEMBERING NAMES – “Trifles make perfection, and perfection is no trifle.”

LAST TIME:  TAKE HIM AWAY FOR REGROOVING  – What happens when you find yourself out of step with the times.

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4 Responses to “REMEMBERING NAMES”

  1. Francis Dryden said

    I think the worst I ever had was I ran into a chap I had met who had the same first name as me… So I thought, how could I forget that, even after he said Francis a couple of times! What a dope I felt like when he had to say, “Not often when you meet another Francis is it”.


  2. Tim Bryce said

    A W.H. of Boulder, Colorado wrote…

    Just a quick (hopefully anyway) story about “memory.”

    When I was at Naval Postgraduate School in around 1974, our Admiral came out to visit the 27 students from the Naval Security Group that were in the school – most of us pursuing MSEE, Computer Science, or Operations Research degrees. So, we dutifully had a reception at the Officers’ Club and everyone was expected to bring their wife to meet the admiral. Now at that time, we all were required to wear civilian clothes (coat and tie or coat and turtleneck). During class, our nametag had only our last name on it (the theory was you didn’t want a senior officer as a student being taught by a junior officer – having to deal with the rank issue – so no ranks, no command identification of any kind etc.

    We’re all mingling at the O’club waiting for the admiral to arrive after a discussion with the superintendent of the school (another admiral). We’re all wearing our nametags. Suddenly, the “senior officer” (a Lieutenant Commander, as most of us were Lieutenants) comes in and suddenly shouts “everyone, quick, take off your nametags. The admiral HATES nametags.” So, we all take off the nametag and put it in our pocket. Now, MOST of us know who the admiral is by name and face but we’ve never actually met him in person. He walks in with his aide (whose job it is to introduce the admiral to us – so he has been provided with our names and a photo by someone at the HQ in DC beforehand), and begins to mingle with the group. He would walk up to you and your wife – the aide would introduce YOU to the admiral, and you were to introduce your wife. At that point, the admiral would make about 4-5 minutes of small talk with the both of you – asking you where you went to school, where you grew up, did you have kids (how many, what sex, their names) and so on. Then he would politely excuse himself and move on to the next person until he had worked the entire crew. Then we would have dinner, and afterward he would get up and give us a little pep talk.

    OK, so he goes away, we all go back to normal and resume our studies. A year later, the admiral comes out to school again. Now, this time, about 1/3 of the previous years’ group has graduated and gone elsewhere, replaced by a new group of officers in the same curricula. This time, the previous senior officer is gone, so SOMEONE who was at the first meeting reminds everyone to take off the nametags again. The admiral and his aide walk into the room, but this time instead of the aide having to introduce everyone to the admiral, the admiral walks up to us, shakes our hand, calls us by our first name, looks at the wife and addresses her by her name, starts asking questions about how it’s going in our studies, if we’ve had a chance to go home on leave and visit parents in our home town, if we had new kids or how they were doing in school – including their names – whatever. Spends about the same 5 minutes with each, and moves on.

    He had what we call an eidetic memory – and he had a memory “trick” that he liked to exercise to remember the “little things” like that whenever he traveled and met with groups about our size. We never figured out how he did it,

    Admiral G. P. “Pat” March was a Naval Academy graduate (rare in our discipline), an NCAA champion Squash player, and widely admired and liked by just about everyone in the group. In fact, a few years ago when he attended a reunion in Savannah in his early 80’s, he was physically trim and fit, looked good, and remembered a lot of the names of not just the officers but many of the senior enlisted that he served with over the years. He was still playing squash and routinely trouncing younger men on the court at 82! Sadly, he died suddenly of a brain aneurism a couple of years later, but we all remembered the admiral with his fantastic memory.




  4. […] TIME:  REMEMBERING NAMES  – “Trifles make perfection, and perfection is no […]


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