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Published:November 9th, 2005 07:49 EST


By Terry Sumerlin (Mentor/Columnist)

Not too long ago, I saw an interesting bank ad on a billboard just off Interstate 37, near the Alamodome. It read, "Enthusiasm runs rampant in bank lobbies."

My thoughts began to run rampant.

What I began thinking involved the popular concept of enthusiasm. So I began to visualize the bank president, the vice president, the loan officers and all the tellers running around wearing party hats and blowing on party favors, while throwing confetti everywhere. After all, they have enthusiasm at their bank!

However, we know that what I imagined is not enthusiasm at all. It's excitement. And, there's a difference in the two. A big difference!

This difference can be seen at a local high school football game. Enthusiasm is when players grind it out on every play, even when the body starts rebelling to the will. Excitement, however, comes when a team scores the winning touchdown. The band plays, the cheerleaders jump up and down and fans go wild. It's brief, it's intense and it's temporary.

Enthusiasm, on the other hand, lasts much longer because it's rooted in a cause or a belief system. Unlike excitement, it goes beyond the moment and springs from deep within the individual. Some have described it as a "fire in the belly."

However it's described, it is so vital to success and, yet, so rare that you wonder how so many businesses have survived without it. Others, recognizing the problem, have turned to solutions that have been less than satisfactory. Thus, we wonder what can be done to create enthusiasm.

Some think that the solution is possibly a weekend retreat where employees or managers go to some exotic place, and brainstorm to come up with a mission statement that can be prominently displayed (and then forgotten) when they get home.

However, though I'm not opposed to such weekends or to mission statements, they seem to be merely Band-Aids at most.

A less expensive and more effective solution might be to start at the top, with leaders who have a mission in their hearts and who are able to transfer that commitment to followers. Then the task becomes one of finding and nurturing good people who share the mission. These people, in turn, find it natural to demonstrate their enthusiasm.

For example, if our barbers actually believe they are providing an invaluable service to others, then such easily transfers into remembering customers' names, giving customers what they want, being kind and courteous and generally treating customers as truly special people. Then enthusiasm runs rampant at J.B.'s Barber Shop.

Yet, if barbers sense that, as the owner, I take no pride in the business or I don't believe in what we're doing, then the business has a real problem. And no amount of rah-rah or gimmickry will provide a solution.

BARBER-OSOPHY: Enthusiasm is an inside job that starts at the top.

© 2002 American City Business Journals Inc.

Terry L. Sumerlin, known as the Barber-osopher, is the author of "A HUMAN BECOMING - A Life Changing Voyage," and is a columnist for the San Antonio Business Journal. He speaks nationally as a humorist/motivational speaker. Visit his website at