Being in Customer Success is a reflection of where you came from

Who are the people in your lives that have helped you persevere when things looked their bleakest? What drove you down the career path you’re on and who were the ones that have influenced you the most? As you progress in the world of Customer Success, it’s helpful to take a moment and reflect on those people that have helped shape who you are. I’ve had the chance to do this myself and found it to be very insightful. 

A life in Customer Success isn’t easy. I used to warn new Customer Success Managers (CSMs) that this will be one of the most rewarding positions you will ever have and it will also be one of the toughest. In one moment you can feel like you are on top of the world with your entire company admiring you. In the next moment, you’ll get that dreaded “I’m not renewing” email from a customer and you’ll feel completely gutted. This is the life of a Customer Success professional. 

Who helped make you the person you are?

So how are you able to deal with these types of highs and lows? It’s important to take stock of the people that have influenced you over the years as it can give you an idea of what you’re made of. Who is someone that you’ve admired and tried to emulate? Who is that one person that always supported you? Who is that person that pops into your head when you need some professional advice? Who is that person that helped you discover your Customer Success super power? It could be a parent, a grandparent, a sibling, a professor, a mentor or a manager. 

While I’ve had many people in my life that have guided and mentored me over the years, my thoughts are with my dad who recently passed. My dad and I didn’t have the best relationship but it was one that was based on love. While I strove to be a very different person than him, I realize now that he influenced me more than I would ever know. Take a moment to think about those people that influenced you. At a minimum write down the name of one person. 

What did that person teach you?

Now that you’ve identified at least one person that has influenced your Customer Success career, it’s important to think about what they’ve taught you and the impact it’s had on you.  

What did they do that you admire? How have you emulated some of their qualities? How have you modified what they taught you to make it your own? What mistakes did they make or traits did they have that you try and avoid? Now write down some of the traits, qualities or characteristics that they are known for. Try and identify three items at a minimum. 

Here are some of the things my dad taught me that influenced my career in Customer Success:

  • Look for the positives. My dad used to say “If you go to a conference and you learn one new thing, it was worth going.” This was such a good approach to many things in life. Set your expectations appropriately and look for the positives in any situation. 
  • Feed your clients. My dad used to say “take your clients to dinner. It will remind them of how their mother would feed them”. My dad was very old school. While I don’t know if that’s how my clients perceived these dinners in their subconscious minds, these dinners did forge life long relationships, hilarious memories and helped secure some tough renewals. 
  • Be personable. My dad was a realtor and he would store every detail he had about individuals in his old ACT database. He was like a prehistoric Facebook as he would always call friends, family and clients on their birthdays and anniversaries when his ACT reminders would notify him. He also did this in a very genuine way with an abundance of energy – no matter how many calls he had made that day. He made people feel special. This personal touch was very much admired and something I try and emulate with my network. Social media makes this much easier but you can always personalize your message and go that extra mile like my dad did. 
  • Laugh. My dad tried to use laughter to break the ice and to engage others. Many of his jokes were really bad (another trait I picked up from him) and of poor taste but they were his. You either liked them or you didn’t – he didn’t care. My sense of humor has helped defuse many tense situations both as a leader and as a CSM and is definitely one of my super powers. 
  • Keep reading and learning. Even in his 70’s my dad was taking social media classes to try and increase the number of leads he generated. I’m a lifelong learner and aim to read about 40 books a year. 
  • Be skeptical. My dad’s favorite sarcastic remark to me when I told him something I found interesting was “well if it’s in the paper, it must be true”. He pushed me to look at my sources and to question what I read. Of course when he told me something his sources were always ironclad. 🙂 
  • Be helpful. Yes he was my dad so he may have been obligated to help me but he would go that extra mile based on his experience. I remember asking for recommendations for a home renovation job I needed. He would give me a few names and then tell me to expect that the work they do will be 20% higher than the estimate. He always loved to give advice. My dad also volunteered his time for causes that he was passionate about. I’ve started down this path my donating my time to organize local Customer Success meetups and mentoring people. This is an area that I know I can improve upon. 
  • Have a passion. For my dad, it was sailing. He loved it. He would always say “I would rather be sailing”. I admired my dad for this and he taught me to find hobbies you are passionate about and that will make you happy. 
  • Push through adversity. My dad was laid off in the early 90s from Dupont and took his sales skills into real estate as an agent. Once he was in his late 70s he switched careers again and started to drive a school bus which he did until he died. My dad seemed to have this permanent chip on his shoulder which led to him blaming people for his problems but he always seemed to persevere and keep going. I’ve definitely developed an unstoppable drive that has keeps me pushing for larger and more complex challenges.
  • Stay true to your values. My dad refused to work on Jewish holidays and refused to let these days off count towards his vacation days. He didn’t compromise on this and it led to problems with some of his bosses. I’m also a value driven person and admired my dad for this. There are certain values that I just don’t compromise on. 
  • Set high standards. My dad was maniacal about certain things.  Some of his classic sayings were: “elbows off the table,” “sit up straight,” and “don’t talk with your mouth full”. He would repeat these like he was on a never ending loop when I was growing up. It’s good to have high standards but you have to accept that not everyone will live up to them. He had a tough time doing this and I suffer from this as well. You have to find that balance with friends, family and colleagues. Especially consider this with your customers. Remember that not all of them will be successful. You need to focus your time and look to make progress and not be fixated on perfection.  

These are just some of the ways my dad influenced me. After going through this introspective phase of my life I know that my dad helped prepare me for this career path that I’m on and I’m forever grateful for that. My resiliency and desire to keep improving is a direct reflection of how I was raised.

A picture of my dad in me in Philadelphia when he received a prestigious “good deeds” award for his volunteer work.

Reach out and thank that person

I highly encourage you to document how others have influenced you. Once you’ve jotted down your thoughts, share them with that person. It doesn’t have to be anything elaborate. A simple thank you with an example of how your life has been affected by them is enough. 

Use this opportunity to either reconnect with someone who you haven’t spoken to in a while or as a reminder to not take the people that are closest to you for granted. Take the time to express your gratitude or recognize them in some way. 

You will learn a little bit more about the person you are today and at a minimum you will feel better about yourself. If the person is still alive you also have an opportunity to make someone’s day. Your future self will thank you – trust me on that one. 


PS – thanks dad

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