The CEO of a breakdown business has a major breakdown in thinking.

By Jeremy Blake on January 26, 2024

My car broke down on New Year’s Eve. It wasn’t late. I was coming back from Oxford with my family, and it just stopped working, I was able to glide to a stop in a layby on the A34, phew!

A few days later, having relayed the vehicle back to my house, a lorry came out again and I found myself next to a very chatty chap taking me to the garage. We talked about a variety of topics and then he proudly told me that he had won the Customer Service Award of the Year for one of the breakdown companies his firm served.

This man was working for a business that supplied trucks at all the major breakdown companies, and yet one company had had so much good feedback about him they wanted to reward him. He was invited to London to be presented with his award and shake hands with the CEO.

Imagine him now, relaying the tale to me, and yet I see in his expression he’s keeping something back and there’s going to be a plot twist, as my teenage daughters would say. He starts to stress certain words and is keen that I follow every detail he’s unfolding, there’s going to be a punchline arriving, and he’s really enjoying himself. He tells me about the handshakes and photographs and that’s it, there is no certificate or an award or even vouchers or anything given to him. After the last photograph is taken the CEO says to him, “If there’s anything I can do for you, just let me know?” He replies, “Well, I suppose there is. I would just love free breakdown cover with you for year, how about that?” Big chief immediately replies, “I’m sorry we can’t do that. We don’t do that for anyone.”


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Now, this is where I realise the huge challenge with the fixed mindset of the corporate employee. Even if they have a policy, and I know it’s obvious to many of you readers, but bear with me for those who haven’t picked it up yet, even if they have a policy where they can’t give a free breakdown policy to anyone working or connected to this particular organisation, the CEO simply needed to say, “Yes, absolutely, I’d love to do that, it’s yours!” Either open his wallet and give them the money, send the man the exact money from his own bank account to pay for a year’s worth of the policy, or get his details and sort it out.

The CEO has a salary that I think can afford paying for one year’s cover with his organisation and yet he jumped straight to the rulebook. The man who picked me up loves telling the story to every single person who gets in his truck. It is such a brilliant example of the lack of entrepreneurial thinking, or intrapreneurial thinking. Staggering that the most senior ‘leader’ was unable to come up with a solution to the ridiculous policy held by the organisation.

But there is something about certain people that we all work with, whose brains are unable to slip the bonds of policies. It reminds me of the time when I was working in telesales at Yellow Pages. I hadn’t hit my Talking Pages target. I was a couple of hundred pounds off reaching it. I worked out that if I bought a year’s worth of Talking Pages service for a friend of mine who was a builder, the money I would pay for it was way less than the bonus I would receive in return. I simply bought him a contract for a year. My friend was happy and got enquiries and I got the bonus.

So where does that thinking come from? Is it my ability to do basic maths? No. Is it my ability to work out what is in the greater good? Perhaps. If your thinking is so stuck and you revert to the rulebook each time, I promise you your game isn’t going to be as exciting and varied as it could be.