You Just Can't Polish A Turd

When I was younger I ran a car and truck club for a group of guys with lowered trucks and cars. Yes, this was around when Hammer Pants were cool so it was a while ago. However, we loved our trucks and took great pride in customizing them with beautiful paint, solid (loud) sound systems, and custom interiors. We were the guys with the fancy cars booming down the road pissing everyone off at 1 am.

One year we we partnered with another club and put on a local car and truck show. Hundreds of beautiful cars and trucks showed up. They compete in various categories for cars, mini-trucks, full-size trucks, etc. One class of judging was called “under construction.”

The under construction class was for the cars and trucks that weren’t finished. The owner would show it even though it wasn’t completed (painted).

There was one guy who went from show to show in his “under construction” truck. It had dozens of modifications and there was something new welded or fastened on to make it more customized.  Each show there was another change but it still wasn’t painted. And, it kept getting more bizarre looking.

While we were judging it, I commented to another judge that even if it had the best paint job it would still be an ugly truck. He said to me, “So true. You just can’t polish a turd.”

That’s stuck with me ever since and, I think you’ll agree, it applies to so many areas of business and life.

Here are two examples of turds you just can’t polish that I’ve learned to stop letting bother me and let go. It’s made a huge difference in my life and business.

1. The Magical Marketing Wand

When I was in the cemetery business, There was one area of the cemetery where we couldn’t sell the property. They were cremation niches and the location plain sucked. There was a lot of traffic nearby, it was noisy, it was hard to walk to, and it seemed to always be in the sun (In Arizona, that’s a big deal).

We would offer sales on the spaces and lower the price but people always wanted something else. They wanted something in the shade, near the stream, away from traffic, whatever. It had to be somewhere else.

The problem wasn’t the sales message or the marketing. It wasn’t the pricing. The product was a turd and the cemetery will have to live with it.

Every business is overflowing with great ideas. Unfortunately, not all are going to be winners. When that happens, they come to their marketing and sales department. They think we’re Harry Potter and can take our magic wand to turns a pile of crap into a piles of cash.

What happens? No matter how much marketing magic we apply, it’s still a pile of crap that stinks once it’s in the customer’s home. You’ll get a return. You’ll get complaints. You’ll pay for not cutting your losses.

When you run into this problem, let it go and move on. There’s no pride gained in chasing failure.

2. Some People Just Stink

You know that customer from hell? Have you had one of those before? Maybe two?

Maybe you have a friend or coworker that just can’t get it together. All they can do is make big promises and even bigger excuses.

When selling, dealing with customer service problems, or friends, there’s that person who always blames every problem the run into on someone else. A customer expresses interest in your product (or bought it) and makes every excuse why it’s not for them. Or, they can’t figure out how to work it because there’s fighting in the Middle East.

These are they type of people that will apply for jobs but won’t show up for the interview. They talk about all the great things they’re going to do but don’t do them. You try to follow-up after they call and never return your calls. They keep emailing about problems but won’t listen to any advice you want to give them. So, if you’re smart, you call them on their bullshit and they keep leading you on.

You don’t need the stress and anxiety. If you’re a salesperson, stop chasing dead leads. If they’re a customer that gives you headaches, refund their money and ask them to never contact you again.

I’ve spent almost half my life learning how to get people to change behaviors. It can be done. You need to have have enough time and patience. But, why would you spend weeks or months with someone when you can let them go and free up the time and emotional energy so you can take on 2, 3 or 8 other customers that want to work with you?

Clean The Stench From The Air

You can’t polish a turd. It doesn’t matter how much perfume you put on it, it still stinks. If it’s a crappy product, let the learning fertilize your new ideas.

If it’s a crappy prospect or customer, cut them loose and let them fertilize someone else’s problems.

I’ve had to do this with friends. I don’t think they’re bad people they’re just heading in the wrong direction and when someone doesn’t want help, I’m not going along for their tortured ride.

Where in your life can you let these things go?

What difference will it be in your life and business when you do?

Image credit Phil Thirkell at Flickr.

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