Character – What Is It?!

Thinking of the times growing up, having to learn chores…and how difficult some of them seemed, at the time, or the first job, learning something new, and difficult, but wanting to learn. Was told, many times, during those seasons, it is tough, and you are learning, and it is building character. Not been easy, but can be done.

No different than you, just different activities at different times. Those words of “it builds character” echo through our lives. When we get dumped or ignored by someone we think we love, we hear the whisper of “it builds character.” When we are way behind on writing a term paper or preparing for a test, we hear the chant of “it builds character.” When we have the horrible boss experience again, we cling to the words of “it builds character.”

It builds character.

“It” is really just a fill-in-the-blank space to add in:

  • Conflict
  • Hard work
  • Civil debate
  • Solving problems
  • Parenting
  • Managing
  • Leading

Each builds character. Just plug it in.

What Is Character?

Character. We know it when we see it. Maybe more importantly, we know it when it is missing.

Headlines fill us in with the individuals lacking character. The headlines feature more than the common criminals. Politicians and business leaders make the front page with many counts of bad character. Bad character knows no boundaries.

The good news is good character knows no boundaries, too. Good character is exemplified every day and too often goes unnoticed. Media attention gets attracted to the obvious places too often.

But character is more than visual. Character is engraved within us. The engraving isn’t always planned and clean. The word “character” comes from the Greek kharakter that means “engraved mark.” The character trace goes back to another definition of “to scrape or scratch.” For me, the combination of engrave, scrape, and scratch fit well with what character really means. Here are my thoughts on why:

  • Engrave – An active art of determining what builds our character – honesty, courage, and the like.
  • Scrape – Learning from the challenges that come our way (or those we create) and then proving what we learned by doing much better than before.
  • Scratch – The act of working our way back when we fall down and gaining strength of integrity from what we experience.

Character is all the good traits we think it is. However, character is much more. Character is a verb, demonstrated in what we do, how we do it, and why we do it. Character is also how we recover.

Character Over Time

Character builds over time. Character is additive. We cannot waste our youth pursuing things that neuter or subtract from our character. Equally true, we cannot spend our older years tearing down the character we built. In both cases, we are wasting time and, most importantly, damaging relationships. Legacy and trust carry a high lifetime value.

Each choice and action we take adds or detracts from our character. Any given day, we should have more positive character choices and actions than negative ones. Getting character right is not a balance exercise. Not even close. We should build character through our good choices and actions as often as we can. We are imperfect. How we respond in our imperfect choices and actions can add to or subtract from our character. This is the choice of our character.

No matter our age, we should never dig a big hole in our character in which we spend a lifetime trying to recover. The younger we are, the longer the lifetime of recovering. And this is why trying to make the best choices possible and take the most appropriate actions as often as possible early in our lives can make a very big difference in the quality of our overall life.

Time-Tested Character

Time matters. Time tests. Character erodes or grows.

Our character is developed through time. More accurately, our character is developed through our experiences and what we choose to learn and do from them. Trials and tribulations are tough. We all have them in some way. We can mask them, pretending they are not really there. We can tackle them, risking relationships and results. What I know is we cannot ignore them, and we must face them.

CHARACTER IN MANY WAYS IS A COMBINATION OF OUR MIND, SOUL, AND BACKBONE.

Character in many ways is a combination of our mind, soul, and backbone. We need to work through our thoughts and pick the ones that matter. We need to understand how the trials are impacting our soul and take the necessary steps to protect and grow. We need to know when to stand up, move on, or protect. Character is tested. How we respond and learn will determine the legacy of our character.

In times of success and prosperity, our character is at risk as well. Just because everything seems to be going very well and we are rich in what we have in our abilities and worth, too often character falters in these good times. Laziness creeps in. Thinking we are above what is normal and right invades our actions. Character loses our attention because we think we have it all.

The only time we have it all is when our character remains intact and grows in strength.

In good times, we need to continue to add to our character by what we say and do. We need to pass on our lessons learned and share our wealth of experience along with whatever else we give. People will remember your stories of character, and these stories deliver much more meaning than a name on a building. Legacy of character carries forward like folklore.

What Builds Character?

Each year, we begin with a ritual with little lasting impact: Resolution-making. Instead of making resolutions, maybe we should do things to build our character every day. Imagine what a year’s worth of character-building could produce.

We should never ignore our habits, though. Habits effect character. Eating right. Exercising frequently. Reading often. All these elements provide the nutrients for a clear mind, activating spirit, and strong backbone. Good habits feed our inner goodness.

With this disclaimer now complete, we return to what can build character every day. I have thought about my own life work experiences, and these seven character activities came to mind:

1 – Work hard to build, create, survive, and excel (in purpose).

Laziness achieves nothing. Work for work’s sake creates little. Whatever our responsibilities, we need to do the work. Whatever our purpose, we need to do our important work. Getting our tempo right will take time. Through doing the work, our time will rise up, and our character will show its strength in purpose. Keep focused on your purpose horizon and do the work.

2 – Engage in tough conversations with empathy and action (don’t put them off).

The easy thing is to sidestep the tough conversations. We need to take deep breaths and determine how to engage in meaningful conversations that make a difference in what we say and what happens next. We cannot control what may happen next, but our character will be stronger if we interact with empathy.

3 – Nurture relationships that matter through good and challenging times (staying power, the power of love).

Too often, the first thing to go when times get challenging are our relationships. They have become almost disposable. Relationships that are damaging physically or psychologically are different. In those, safely leaving is the first step, and these times take strong character as well. Absent the damaging relationships, we need to try hard to make them work, no matter the place. Whether in our homes, neighborhoods, or workplaces, we need to nurture our relationships and find better paths forward.

4 – Exhibit humility in achievement and success (giving credit, giving back).

Be humble in all you do and say. Humility is not permission to be run over. Quite the opposite. See number 2. Humility is knowing we are stronger together than apart. Humility is giving all we have and doing it again.

5 – Be nice when everything tempts you not to be nice.

Being nice is not permission to be run over either. A quiet strength of character exists in being humble and nice. Build this character strength. One of the best professors I had was one of the nicest, kindest guys, but you did not want to skip the work. Being nice doesn’t mean low expectations. Too often, we want to play to the crowd and say outrageous things to incite or fit into one. Instead, we need to stand out by saying and doing things that are helpful.

6 – Always get up, no matter what, to create something better than the day before.

We will get knocked down and stepped on. Two things to remember. First, there is an old political adage that says “what goes around, comes around.” If someone is stepping on us, holding us back, or ignoring us, nature has a way of dealing with this, so focus on what you can do and do so with a strong sense of character. Second, keep getting up and creating what you are meant to do. After all, this is the only way your purpose will take root and begin to bloom.

7 – No task is too small and no person is too ordinary or extraordinary to extend a hand and help.

Never think or do things that make others feel small. Always pitch in no matter the task. Our hands are meant to be extended in a helpful way; it is why we have arms and elbows! We are designed to do the work, hug each other, and extend a helpful hand.

These are the things I know will build character. Each come from my experiences on the farm, school, college, work in politics and business, and family. How you build character may differ, which is okay. The point is to understand what builds your character and go do those things as often as you can.

David Brooks wrote an important book, The Road to Character, and I recommend it highly. I like this telling statistic and point he made in this NPR interview:

“My favorite statistic about this is that in 1950 the Gallup organization asked high school seniors: Are you a very important person? And in 1950, 12 percent said yes. They asked again in 2005 and it was 80 percent who said they were a very important person. So we live in a culture that encourages us to be big about ourselves, and I think the starting point of trying to build inner goodness is to be a little bit smaller about yourself.”

We need to remember to be big in our character and reduce the size of our personality. Personal brand chatter focuses too much on superficial things and too much on self-importance. If you want to build a sustainable personal brand, focus on your personal character early and often. Determine what will stand.

Develop a Life of Integrity…

Life moves at the speed of light, and it can be hard to stop and think about our actions as they are flailing out of us, also at the speed of light.

Some people don’t ever stop to think about how they are acting, while others, those people who have true integrity, take the time to reflect on their actions to learn from them and become a better person as a result.

Love or hate them; they are out there doing good where the rest of us are pushing people out of our way to get to the top of the ladder. Here are 7 signs of people who have true integrity.

1) Taking Ownership for Their Actions

In all aspects of life, people who have real integrity are recognizing the impacts of their behavior and are adjusting it accordingly. That doesn’t mean they are bending to everyone’s will; in fact, it means the opposite. They just want to be the best version of themselves.

A good example of this is when parents who are overworked, underpaid, and suffering from sleep deprivation take the time to apologize to their small children when they fly off the handle.

It’s easy to take your frustration out on those you love the most, but people with real integrity realize when they’ve crossed the line and apologize to even the smallest people in their lives. They know it’s important to set the expectation that people take responsibility for themselves.

2) They Praise the Accomplishments of Others

People with true integrity will always talk up a coworker or colleague before themselves. They know that praise goes a long way to lift people up, and it helps them feel good about themselves as well.

Time is well spent when it’s spent building people up instead of breaking them down. People with true integrity also realize that they can learn from those around them and don’t assume they know everything.

3) Keep it Clean During an Argument

You can always tell when someone has more integrity than you because they won’t diminish themselves to name calling or finger pointing during an argument.

They are cool, calm, and can clearly articulate their feelings and thoughts in a way that doesn’t make other people feel bad about themselves.

Because they can take ownership of themselves (see sign #1), they are more likely to be good at winning an argument because they are focused on the solution and not the problems.

4) Road Rage Restraint

While road rage might feel good at the moment and help you blow off some steam, people who have real integrity can just sit and use the time to reflect, think about dinner, or do anything besides freak out on the highway.

Not only is road rage dangerous in a physical sense, but it can also hurt your mental awareness, and capacity to get on with your day because you’ll be so wound up from yelling and flipping the bird on the road.

People with real integrity know that the traffic will move or that stupid people can’t be taught how to drive, so they just let it go..

5) Putting Others First

People with true integrity don’t put others first in a way that takes away from their sunshine, but they do put others first in a way that makes them know their time is valued.

For example, when a person with true integrity takes the stage to give a speech to colleagues or coworkers, they will apologize for keeping them waiting.

They recognize and acknowledge that people are busy and their time is valuable, so while they make every effort to get on stage as fast as possible, they will still acknowledge the time people have waited.

6) Asking to Hear the Other Side of the Story

People with true integrity will always give someone the benefit of the doubt when things are unclear. They never assume anything and understand that are always two – or more! – Sides to a story. They will take the time to ask questions and find out as much information before making any decisions about the information. This shows real character and is thought to be a sign of strength and integrity.

7) They Volunteer

Even though our time on this planet is short, people with real integrity know that time is best spent in service of others.

Whether that’s pouring soup at a local food bank or organizing the holiday concert at their children’s school, giving away their time is one of the best uses of their time they can think of, and we would agree.

So, now is the time to develop the integrity that is needed to help you grow and move forward in life.

No need to wait, just make it happen. “Do It!”

Positive Self Talk – Can Make A Difference

Keep It Simple

Each of us has a set of messages that play over and over in our minds.  This internal dialogue, or personal commentary, frames our reactions to life and its circumstances.  One of the ways to recognize, promote, and sustain optimism, hope, and joy is to intentionally fill our thoughts with positive self-talk. 

Too often, the pattern of self-talk we’ve developed is negative.  We remember the negative things we were told as children by our parents, siblings, or teachers.  We remember the negative reactions from other children that diminished how we felt about ourselves.  Throughout the years, these messages have played over and over in our minds, fueling our feelings of anger, fear, guilt, and hopelessness. 

Try the following exercise.  Write down some of the negative messages inside your mind that undermine your ability to overcome your depression.  Be specific, whenever possible, and include anyone you remember who contributed to that message. 

Now, take a moment to intentionally counteract those negative messages with positive truths in your life.  Don’t give up if you don’t find them quickly.  For every negative message there is a positive truth that will override the weight of despair.  These truths always exist; keep looking until you find them. 

You may have a negative message that replays in your head every time you make a mistake.  As a child you have been told, “You’ll never amount to anything” or “You can’t do anything right.”  When you make a mistake—and you will because we all do—you can choose to overwrite that message with a positive one, such as “I choose to accept and grow from my mistake” or “As I learn from my mistakes, I am becoming a better person.”  During this exercise, mistakes become opportunities to replace negative views of who you are with positive options for personal enhancement. 

Positive self-talk is not self-deception.  It is not mentally looking at circumstances with eyes that see only what you want to see.  Rather, positive self-talk is about recognizing the truth, in situations and in yourself.  One of the fundamental truths is that you will make mistakes.  To expect perfection in yourself or anyone else is unrealistic.  To expect no difficulties in life, whether through your own actions or sheer circumstances, is also unrealistic. 

When negative events or mistakes happen, positive self-talk seeks to bring the positive out of the negative to help you do better, go further, or just keep moving forward.  The practice of positive self-talk is often the process that allows you to discover the obscured optimism, hope, and joy in any given situation. 

Why is it good for you?

Self-talk can enhance your performance and general well-being. For example, research shows self-talk can help athletes with performance. It may help them with endurance or to power through a set of heavy weights.

Furthermore, positive self-talk and a more optimistic outlook can have other health benefits, including:

  • increased vitality
  • greater life satisfaction
  • improved immune function
  • reduced pain
  • better cardiovascular health
  • better physical well-being
  • reduced risk for death
  • less stress and distress

It’s not clear why optimists and individuals with more positive self-talk experience these benefits. However, research suggests people with positive self-talk may have mental skills that allow them to solve problems, think differently, and be more efficient at coping with hardships or challenges. This can reduce the harmful effects of stress and anxiety.

Yes, positive self talk can really help you to move forward, on this journey we call life.   And when you bring in our Creator in this avenue of self talk, you begin to experience a freedom from the negative at a, seemingly, much quicker rate.  Self talk is great, praying self talk with scripture can be even more effective and powerful.

How Can I Walk in The Spirit

Keep It Simple

How can I walk in the Spirit?

Paul writes in Galatians 5:16, “I say then: Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the fleshSin is anything that goes against God’s will and His laws. To commit sin is to transgress or disobey these laws. The lust to sin dwells in human nature. In other words, it is contaminated and motivated by the sinful.”

The flesh is the expression the Bible uses for the dwelling place of everything in a person that opposes God and His will.

Our ego is like a command center, sending out countless signals and actions. The signals and actions from this command center all revolve around taking care of yourself, preserving your ego, getting honor and favor, and exalting yourself at others’ expense. This is the desire of the flesh, which has endless demands and expectations. We can usually control our flesh to a degree – at least when the impulses of flesh do not benefit our ego. For the most part, however, our human nature is subject to the powers of the flesh. Therefore when the negative characteristics we inherited through generations present themselves, we often hear, “We are only human.”

However, Paul wrote that by walking in the Spirit you no longer need to fulfill these lusts. When you walk in the Spirit you think and act differently than other people in the various situations of life.

 “Walk in the Spirit!”

When you walk, you go forward. You go from point A to point B. To walk in the Spirit you first need to receive the Spirit. The Spirit we are talking about here is the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is a real force—just as real as when a crane lifts a shipping container from the boat to the pier. If you get this power in your life, a new day begins; it is the start of a new and immensely interesting chapter of your life.

Most people who receive this Spirit would prefer to bask in it and enjoy themselves like a child who just wants to play. But the Holy Spirit is not a plaything. He is a help for people who want results in their Christian walk. The Holy Spirit has every conceivable good quality. He gives us power to bear the greatest burdens and adversity. He is also a guide. He knows the way Jesus opened when He was on earth—the way which leads you away from everything harmful and negative, and toward what blesses and benefits your neighbor, filling you with joy and peace. You become thoroughly happy and those around you notice this.

The Spirit will “bring to remembrance…” and give us power

We all meet adversity. Who has not felt that what is happening now is “tragic and pointless?” You lost your mobile phone or your money, or perhaps a good friend. Maybe someone at work has backbitten you. You applied for a good job, but did not get it. There are many examples. What happens if you walk in the Spirit? Jesus says that the Spirit will bring to remembrance all the things He said to us. (John 14:26) Read for example in Matthew 6:34, “Therefore do not worry about tomorrow.” Worry is different from planning your day; worry is what oppresses; it steals your energy and joy.

The Spirit also brings to remembrance what Peter wrote, “casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you.” 1 Peter 5:7. When you walk in the Spirit, these words go straight into your heart and mind and become a pillar of strength by which you say “no” to all the other thoughts that arise and want to cause anxiety. The Spirit gives you power for that in the same way as a crane that lifts many tons of goods from a ship to the pier.

A walk of obedience

Walking in the Spirit means being obedient to the Spirit—to the laws and commandments which the Spirit brings to your remembrance when temptations come. Being tempted is not the same as sinning, but in a temptation you come to a point of decision. When someone says something spiteful or rude to you, everyone knows what sorts of temptations arise: to retaliate or get even in one way or another. If you do that you break God’s commandments. That is sinning. But what does the Holy Spirit say? “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” Romans 12:21. If you walk in this Spirit, you overcome temptation. You resolve the situation in a positive way, which gives you joy instead of releasing a destructive domino effect.

To walk in the Spirit produces fruit

By walking in the Spirit, something incredible happens. What the Bible calls “fruits of the Spirit” begin to grow in your life—peace, joy, love, faithfulness, and goodness, among other things. (Galatians 5:22) You who were so restless, anxious, and often unhappy, will get a more healthy outlook on life. You become stable and develop the ability to create peace around you. You become happy, and it becomes a natural part of your life. You are no longer envious of others. Love frees your thoughts from the endless demands of your ego so you instead think about others and what might be good for them. Faithfulness becomes a part of your personality. You become trustworthy in everything you say and do. You become a new person. It is no longer accurate to say, “We are only human.” Something completely new is born into your life so that you think and act differently than before.

This makes you a winner. All these qualities grow when you walk in the Spirit.

This is the life that Jesus lived on earth and which you can live as His disciple. Walking in the Spirit takes practice. Occasionally you can take a misstep, particularly at the start of your Christian walk, but you must not lose courage or think it is useless. The Spirit is also called the “Comforter” in one translation. He comforts us and gives us more boldness and new courage when we need it. The Spirit is with us on our walk and gives us the right nourishment when we need it, when we love the truth.

In 2 Timothy 1:7 it is written, “For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.” Walk in this Spirit. Then you will have a fulfilling life. This is not philosophy or theory.

There are many people alive today who have experienced this, and the people around them can confirm that it is true. Just being a so-called believer, and being a member of a church, a religion, or religious group will not solve your problems; but walking in the Spirit solves your inner conflicts as well as conflicts with other people. A better life—a better offer cannot be found.

The Cornerstone of Trust

It is easy to be filled with doubts of all kinds.  If we trace those doubts to their roots, they are doubts of whether God really loves us, doubts on God’s knowledge of our situation, doubts on God’s wisdom in allowing our situations, or doubts on His power to control absolutely everything for our good (and His glory).

In these times, it is important to place our feet firmly on the ultimate solid ground, the Rock, Jesus.  His resurrection is the ultimate proof of God’s existence – through demonstration of His power to raise someone from the dead.  Man in all his haughtiness and self-achievement is absolutely unable to do what only God can do.

Because of this, acceptance of Jesus’ resurrection as a fact, and not merely a “belief”, is an important foundation stone of our ability to trust God.  The Desiring God website has a good article on the proof of the resurrection.

If in fact God went to the ultimate extreme to solve our biggest need – reconciliation with Him through the death and resurrection of Jesus – why would He not be “for us” in everything else?  It wouldn’t make sense.

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Romans 8:31-39

What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who is against us? 32 He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him over for us all, how will He not also with Him freely give us all things? 33 Who will bring a charge against God’s elect? God is the one who justifies; 34 who is the one who condemns? Christ Jesus is He who died, yes, rather who was raised, who is at the right hand of God, who also intercedes for us. 35 Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? 36 Just as it is written,

“For Your sake we are being put to death all day long;
We were considered as sheep to be slaughtered.”

37 But in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us. 38 For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

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His death is the ultimate proof of His love, and His resurrection is the ultimate proof of His existence and power.  If He is with us in our biggest need, He will surely be with us in life’s daily needs.  Because of this, we can “overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us”.

Autism & Diabetes Service Dog for Tyler…

Say, “Hello” to Tyler.

For the past two years, we have been raising funds for our Son’s Service Dog.

The funds for the dog have been accomplished and raised, and happy to announce he is now being trained. We are now in phase two of raising funds, in this phase, we are raising funds to go to Ohio to pick up our Service Dog for Tyler. For your see, our son, Tyler, he is 10 years old, and he on the Spectrum, non-verbal Autistic, and he is also Type 1 Diabetic. This Service Dog will be an amazing addition to our family and will help Tyler cope with everyday living. We are very excited about this, and whatever you are able to contribute, we would greatly appreciate it.

Tyler’s Service dog is NOW in training.

Our Service dog has been trained through: 4paws

Our family needs to get to Ohio to train with and bring home my 10 year old, Tyler’s, Service Dog From 4 Paws For Ability. Tyler suffers from severe non-verbal autism, type 1 diabetes and seizures. Costs include RV rental (Tyler can’t fly), gas, food, and lost income during the 3 week trip (2 to train, 1 to travel).

https://www.facebook.com/donate/913051345734063/

Here is the link to our fund raising campaign.

And here is the link to Tyler’s Facebook page as well:

https://www.facebook.com/TylerRenfro4PawsDog/

Provide Excellent Customer Service…

Keep It Simple

Excellent customer service creates loyal customers for life who are willing to refer your business to friends, family, and colleagues. Providing this type of excellent customer service starts with a genuine desire to delight your customers, but you also have to think beyond selling your products or services. You need to consider the cumulative experience your customers have when they visit your store or website, what they think and feel, and what you can do to make it better.

Learn more about your customers to create a pattern of excellent service in your small business.

Keep It Simple

01

 Know Your Product or Service

To provide good customer service, you need to know what you’re selling, inside and out. Make sure you and your customer-facing staff know how your products or services work. Be aware of the most common questions customers ask and know how to articulate the answers that will leave them satisfied.

Keep It Simple

02

 Be Friendly

Customer service starts with a smile. When you are in a face-to-face situation, a warm greeting should be the first thing your customers see and hear when they ask for help. Even when handling customer service requests via telephone, a smile can come through in your voice, so make sure you’re ready to be friendly.

Keep It Simple

03

 Say Thank You

Gratitude is memorable, and it can remind your customers why they shopped at your store or hired your company. Regardless of the type of business you have, saying thank you after every transaction is one of the easiest ways to start a habit of good customer service.

Keep It Simple

04

 Train Your Staff

It’s important to make sure all of your employees, not just your customer service representatives, understand the way they should talk to, interact with, and otherwise assist customers. Provide employee training that gives your staff the tools they need to carry good service through the entire customer experience.

Keep It Simple

05

 Show Respect

Customer service often can involve emotions, so it’s important to make sure you and others you have handling your customer service tasks are always courteous and respectful. Never let your own emotions overtake your desire to see your customer walk away happy.

Keep It Simple

06

 Listen

Listening is one of the simplest secrets of customer service. It means hearing what your customers are saying out loud, as well as what they are communicating non-verbally. Watch for signs that they are displeased, while listening to what they say to you directly.

Keep It Simple

07

 Be Responsive

There may be nothing worse than nonresponsiveness to a customer who is trying to get help, resolve an issue, or find out more about what you’re selling. It’s important to respond quickly to all inquiries, even if it is only to say you are looking into the issue and will be back in touch. Some response is always better than none so the customer doesn’t feel ignored.

Keep It Simple

08

 Ask for Feedback

You may be surprised what you learn about your customers and their needs when you ask them what they think of your business, products, and services. You can use customer surveys, feedback forms, and questionnaires, but you also can make it a common practice to ask customers first-hand for feedback when they are completing their orders.

09

 Use Feedback You Receive

You need to do something with the feedback you receive from customers in order to make it useful in your customer service process. Take time to regularly review feedback, identify areas for improvement, and make specific changes in your business.

Excellent customer service often comes down to consistently checking in with your customers and making sure they are happy with the products and services you’re selling and the process of purchasing, ordering, working with you. If you do that successfully, you are on your way to becoming known for providing excellent customer service.