Martin Smith Blog: The Dexter Principle30 September 2018
At University I shared digs with a roommate called Dexter. We were great chums, as you are at that stage in life. I recall Dexter once telling me that he was descended from one of the oldest Royal Navy families and that there was one of his ancestors, an Admiral, who was on the poop deck with Nelson when he was shot but this may not be true. (We were both prone to talking bollocks especially when drunk. We were students, for goodness sake…)
In 1974 sugar was rationed as Britain faced a severe shortage following a serious reduction in cane imports from the Caribbean. Sugar costs rose dramatically. One weekday evening Dexter and I faced a serious dilemma – buy more sugar and other provisions for the communal store cupboard, or give up sugar, skip supper and go to the pub instead. We chose the latter to get drunk and I’ve never taken sugar in my tea since.
I loved Dexter but he was not the most refined character. His social skills were limited. He rose late and studied sporadically. He grunted an answer to most questions. He drank copiously and smoked. He dressed in the same grubby black jeans and top at all times and seasons. His interactions with the opposite sex were always clumsy and usually careless, but nevertheless he was never short of female companionship. He dated a series of beautiful young women who stayed over in our digs in a haze of flowing, diaphanous 1970s dresses, flowers in their hair and adoring looks on their faces. I, however, struggled even to get a date.
The sexual revolution was in full flow but the closest I could usually get was hearing it take place all around me, especially on Sunday mornings! I was always impeccably mannered with the ladies, opened doors for them, stood up when they entered a room. I was the Jacob Rees-Mogg of Leicester University, dressed in an Arran sweater hand-knitted by my mum. Only decades later did I truly come to appreciate that girls really are always drawn to the bad boys, never the good guys.
One day, in conversation, I asked Dexter how it was that he always had a pretty girlfriend but that I did not. He looked at me surprised. “I get out a lot” he said and carried on watching tv and eating cold baked beans straight from the tin. That comment has stayed with me since and I use it every day in one way or another. I wasn’t going to get a girlfriend sat in my room wondering how I was going to get a girlfriend, I’d only get one if I went out looking. This didn’t mean I would find one but I sure as hell wasn’t going to otherwise. Sitting on my backside was not an option. Getting out would increase my chances infinitely.
This, my “Dexter Principle”, has become a huge driver in my life, and a bedrock of my business success. Everyone in my team knows the Dexter principle and uses it, all the time. It means reaching out to people, it means communicating clearly all the time to customers and suppliers and prospects. It means working closely with colleagues, sharing ideas with peers, even cooperating and collaborating with competitors whenever and wherever possible. It means never turning down a chance, a lead, a meeting however seemingly remote – you just never know.
“Getting out a lot” doesn’t have to be taken literally. It just means seizing every opportunity to interact with everyone in your commercial ecosystem upwards, sideways and downwards, becoming known to them and vice versa, trusting them and being trusted in return, treating them with respect and being so treated in return. If you do indeed “get out a lot” then sales will come.
Every time we make a sale I always insist we analyse just exactly how we came by the lead, by what route did the opportunity cross our bows. Almost always, if we look back enough, we’ll see that Dexter played his part. Someone somewhere in either SASIG or TSC “got out” and made the occasion happen. I owe a lot to Dexter. I wonder where he is now…