In 1977, I answered a newspaper ad that promised to help me start an exciting new business. As one of the first steps, I had to get some business cards made. This was back when business cards were white, with the cool glossy black raised text on them, and maybe a spot of stock art in one corner. At the local printer, I ordered 1000 basic cards, for $13 and change.
A week later I got the call that they were ready, and went down to pick them up. A couple of days after that, a note card from the printer arrived in the mail. The hand-written note thanked me for trusting them to print my business cards, and wished me the best of luck with my new business. I was amazed that someone had taken the time to write a note, address the envelope, stick a stamp on it and mail it, to me, an 18-year old kid whose new ‘business’ would in all likelihood never amount to anything. It made me feel special. And I guarantee you, if I had ended up having additional printing needs, I would definitely have gone back to them. I felt a connection to them.
In the intervening 40+ years, I have written hundreds of notes, based on how that first note made me feel. I can trace lifelong friendships and multi-million dollar deals to hand-written notes. Notes have also played a key role in my 40 years of marriage. 100 years ago, hand-written notes were a normal component of everyday life… they were expected if you had manners. Today, with emails and texts, the hand-written note stands out. It says you care, that you took the time to assemble a note and compose some thoughts, and to put a pen to paper to express those feelings.
When I started Pacific Rim Engineering in North San Diego County in 1985, I had postcards and notes printed with the company name and our PRE logo. Each staff member was required to have a small stake of postcards visible on their desk at all times. This way, when they hung up the phone from talking to someone at the city who was particularly helpful, they could jot them off a quick card while it was fresh in their mind. I was in the City of Vista one day, asking to see a city staff member about some problem on some plans. That person wasn’t around, but as I was walking out, another staff member happened to be walking by and saw me. He told me to come with him and he would see if he could help. I dutifully followed him back behind the public counter, into the ‘staff only’ portion of the building. As he stretched out the plans on his desk, I looked up and noticed a PRE post card pinned to the wall above his workspace. I knew things were going to get worked out.
I never expected special favors, and our plans were always good designs that conformed to all standards. But when people have a list of calls to return, and only time to return a couple of calls, they will naturally tend to call back the people they have relationships with, the people who they know appreciate the work they do. I have many more card stories, and have written three note cards this week. If you think this is a practice you want to incorporate, I recommend you check out the creations of my friend Alexis at Curio Press (another friendship that started with a hand-written note).