Columnists, Tyler Mahan, V7I2

Customer Connections

Customers are an unending source of entertainment. 

As general manager for the past five years, my focus has moved from the physical labor of building sheds to the mental struggle of managing our staff, supplies, and customers. 

We try not to hire wackos (although one does occasionally get through) and our suppliers are great people. However, customers can be a real trick. 


Ms. Beverly has been a saleslady at Better Barns since January 2010. She had been in the newspaper industry most of her adult life, working for a couple of different local papers before starting her own rural weekly newspaper. 

We hired her originally to be a secretary, but she connected so well with people that we moved her into sales. Ironically, she had told Dallen upfront that she would do anything we asked but was NOT good at sales!

She tells me stories very often about her encounters with the public. She has a few favorites, but one she tells me often goes like this: The phone rings, so she waits professionally until after the second ring to answer it. “Thanks for calling Better Barns! This is Beverly. How can I help you?” 

A man’s voice replies, “I live in Durant (a medium-sized town near Lake Texoma) (total ADD moment—when Kevin Durant left OKC for Golden State, there were people in the town who talked seriously about changing the town’s name to Westbrook). Is that okay?” Then silence on the other end. 

Thankfully, she remembered her professionalism and handled the question well, but she wanted to say, “No, sir. I think you should move,” and hang up. I still get cracked up thinking about how that would have gone. 


One of my favorite conversations with a potential customer started something like this: Phone rings, I answer. “Thanks for calling Better Barns. This is Tyler. How can I help you?” 

Customer: “Yes, sir. How much can you fit into a 16 by 40?” 

Me: “Well, that depends on what you are storing in there. You can fit an awful lot of M&Ms, but not very many elephants.” Or some similar phrase I’ve used a lot. 

Customer: “How much are the payments on that?”

Me: “$625 per month” or whatever it was at that time. 

Customer: “What can I get for less than $100 per month?”

This customer ended up purchasing an 8 by 8 from us that day. 


We’ve set displays at our local OKC Home and Garden Show the last few years and that is always an adventure. Typically, we see 25,000 to 40,000 people over the course of the three-day show. 

The first show we worked was an experience! With our very small staff, we could only afford for Vance and me to be at the show for those three days. We set the show up, worked the booth all day long, then entered potential contacts into our Excel spreadsheet so we could follow up the next week. 

One of the contacts we made was an interesting man and woman who purchased a fire pit from us that year. They were very talkative, and I had a great time visiting with them. 

The next year, as I was talking to a potential customer, I looked up to see someone that I thought I recognized. Sure enough, it was the same couple! We caught up on the past year and they told me about their plans to get married. I thought it was kind of neat to see the same couple two years in a row. 

The next year, late Saturday evening as the crowd thinned out, I thought I recognized a gentleman walking down the aisle. Yep! Same guy. This time he sadly told me that he and his partner were having troubles and he was probably going to be single soon. 

He told me a lot of stuff—and I only knew him from seeing him at a show two different years! Then, she walked up and we all visited a little while, but the joyfulness was gone. 

Then, last year, as I worked the show, I noticed them again. They walked up happily, and we had another great visit. I guess things are well with them. I don’t know why they connected with me as they did, but I’m going to be disappointed if they don’t show up to the next show.

Remember, sometimes our connection with customers may mean more to them than we realize. Don’t just treat people as another transaction to be made. Every life that crosses our path could be someone we could impact for eternity. 

My high school’s motto was “Carpe Diem” (because you cannot just have an English motto). So, my fellow shed builders, let us go out and seize the day!

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