“Can Do” is one of my mantras. I adopted it from Claudia Taylor Johnson, more commonly known as “Lady Bird” Johnson, the wife of President Lyndon Baines Johnson. Lady Bird Johnson was our First Lady from 1963 to 1969. On her desk was a paperweight with the “Can Do” motto on it, to signify that she was ready, willing, and able to do whatever job came her way. While visiting the LBJ Presidential Library in Austin, Texas, I saw the paperweight on Lady Bird’s desk, then I bought one for a friend of mine, who is a JAG lawyer in the Army, as well as one for myself. My “Can Do” paperweight is prominently displayed on my desk, where it serves as a constant reminder that, when clients request something of me, I, like Lady Bird, am ready, willing, and able to accept the challenge, doing anything and everything I can do to fulfill their request and exceed their expectations. I believe “Can Do” is a great philosophy for every small business owner, particularly an owner of a client driven service business such as Magnus Research Consultants. Other than refusing clients’ requests for me to do something unethical or improper, I have always tried to be responsive to their needs. Select a jury on a Monday following a holiday weekend? Can do! Travel to a cold climate to conduct mock jury research on the coldest day of the year? Can do! Cancel long time personal plans, including giving up concert tickets, missing a family reunion, etc. because a client needs my help? Can do! Travel far and wide, for the past 30 years, to help my clients? Can do! I am always ready to help my clients; at Magnus, our clients come first. Just as Lady Bird Johnson had many causes to which she was dedicated, and which she helped largely because of her “Can Do” attitude, I am dedicated to helping as many people as I can possibly help. When a client asks for my help, I “Can Do.”
It is refreshing when the can do attitude is demonstrated by a stranger, a store clerk, a server in a restaurant, and of course, an employee. I was once complimented by a customer to whom I was selling a camera in a retail setting. I didn’t think I was doing anything special, but he noticed, gave me a card and said “call me if you need a job.” I was actually too shy to ever do so, but it took me aback that someone said something. Since that time, I started paying attention and indeed, I could tell when someone was doing more than going through the motions. That is, doing more than the minimum to keep from being fired. In some jobs there is an incentive to excel, such as a gratuity or commissions. But, in many jobs, the financial incentives are not present, therefore, when one encounters a bank teller or a friendly fast food worker, it is noteworthy. Unfortunately. Unfortunately in that it seems often to be an exception, not a rule. In our small business environment, the can do trait is something we seek in new hires. We have tried to formulate interview questions to ask prospective employees for examples of this trait in themselves. That helps a little, but overall, this trait seems to be present in some people, and not others. I am not sure how easily it can be learned. I equate it with wanting to get an A on every quiz, paper, or major exam. People who are content with merely passing grades or other minimal measures of performance probably don’t score high on “can do.” I suspect this can be encouraged in some environments, and rewarded publically, such that others may emulate the behavior. But, it is a critical factor for the success of any small business in which each employee has a crucial role.