Goldfish and Business Myths

My dad went to the pet shop and purchased 15 goldfish over the summer. He doesn’t have an aquarium; he’s never been into ‘fish,’ but he thought his grandkids (who happened to be spending a lot of time at his house over the summer months while out of school) would enjoy swimming in the hot tub with the fish! As you could guess, in Georgia, in the summer, the family hot tub becomes a cold tub and is used more for a grandkid splash pool on the deck. 

I saw a few Facebook posts of him showing off the goldfish and watching certain grandkids with goggles paddling around in the tub – heck, it looked like fun – and naturally, I couldn’t wait to get my two girls (ages five and three) over to visit for their turn of fun. 

Their turn of fun came, and at the end, the tantrums began. Who would want to load up in a car to go home? Who would want to obey their mother and leave a ‘swimming pool filled with fish?’ Sigh—the exaggerations of a child’s mind. 

Grandpa quickly gauged what was happening and swiftly chimed in, “Oh no worries, girls! You can each take a fish home with you!” as I dramatically shook my head ‘no!’ in the background. 

Naturally, I sent the two fish immediately to the “other grandparents’ home” so when the kids were there after school, they could spend time with their fish – and the other grandparents fed, cared for, and kept the fish alive until one day, one died.

But there was still one fish left – a goldfish, and he or she, I’m not sure which gender, was white. And quite ugly at that. 

Fast forward, the other grandparents went out of town, and somehow, the solo white goldfish ended up at my house, in its bowl with pink rock pebbles decorating the bottom. 

At first, I refused to care for the fish – I told my daughters each day, “Feed your fish!” 

I taught them to simply use one small pinch of their fingers to drop the food in the bowl each evening. “Careful now, not too much; if you overfeed a goldfish, it will die; its stomach will explode.” And then, each week when the water was too thick to see through, I’d set out another bowl of water overnight and move the fish to the new bowl the next morning – why? I don’t know. Somewhere along the way, I’d heard as a child that it would kill a fish to put them in cold water immediately, so you had to let it sit overnight to achieve ‘room temperature water’ before transferring the fish into the clean ‘tank.’ 

I don’t even recall owning a pet fish as a child, so how did I have such opinions as to its care? 

And of course, I knew the myth we all know: “Goldfish can only grow to the size of their fishbowl.” 

Want a bigger fish? Get a bigger fishbowl! 

Sound familiar? 

“Want a bigger company? Just hire more techs!” 
“Want to be at $100 million in revenue? Easy! Just get a bigger building; be a bigger company!”


Myth busters, according to a goldfish, would laugh in our faces. 

What really stunts a goldfish’s growth is not the size of its bowl but the poor water quality and improper care. 

There’s more than meets the eye. Under the right conditions, goldfish are a fantastic species of fish to keep. They are hardy, adaptable, long-lived, and have an extensive and interesting history, just like us service providers. 

And they’re smart, too. Goldfish can be taught to pull a lever for food! In a lever experiment involving goldfish, they were even able to realize within an hour that if the lever stopped producing, it wasn’t worth pulling anymore. 

My non-fish owning years as a child also taught me that goldfish don’t have memories – no big deal if they have dirty water and die easily; they don’t remember their day-to-day. Wow, what airwaves was I listening to? In my research today about goldfish, I’m learning their memory lasts up to three months – so swimming around in a fishbowl all day, lapping circle after circle is indeed very boring. 

In a matter of weeks, I went from being a cold-hearted, busy working mom with an irritation towards goldfish to a mother who enjoys sitting quietly by the fishbowl in the mornings. Not only do I now call the fish my own, but I turn the lamp on above his or her bowl in the mornings when it’s quiet and the children aren’t pulling at my hem; I nestle in while it’s still dark outside underneath the lamp on a grey couch in my den, and slowly sip my coffee. I’ve become obsessed with keeping the fishbowl clean, and in those mornings, I’m noticing how pretty the ugly duckling actually is. In fact, I think I’ve actually named the fish—Ginger.

And wouldn’t you know it, I’m starting to know when Ginger is hungry! When I walk by, and she gives me those eyes while opening and closing her mouth, I’m reminded of feeding time. 

I’ve changed from a fish hater to a fish appreciator – I now have the habit engraved in my morning schedule to spend time with my fish. 

As business owners, how much of our marketing, our management, our day-to-day, is run out of the myths from our childhood? 

Hear me out— this is really deep stuff here, no fish-bowl-deep-water pun intended. As the daughter of a contractor, how many perspectives did I gain because of my father that were good? How many habits for running a business did I inherit that was priceless? And on the other hand, how many myths did I also receive by generational pass down? 

Dirty water and poor filtration stunt a fish’s growth because it affects their health – an unhealthy fish becomes deformed and dies young. Healthy goldfish have been known to live for up to 49 years. 

Goldfish can grow big even in a small fishbowl if the water is clean, filtrated, and the fish is properly nourished. Is the nourishment of our business based on myths we believed as an early manager or young owner? As Charlie Greer says, “Evolve or Die.” 

So, in case you are fishing for a few simple takeaways, here’s the list:

1. The health of your business is only as good as its environment. 

2. The only way for your business to stay alive or grow is for you to nurture it and take care of it.  

3. The things you have always been told about being in business or about the industry might actually be myths; don’t be afraid to research, change, and grow when your business gives you “those eyes,” telling you it’s hungry for something more.

4. Try to re-see your business as you did on the first day, stuffed to the gills with those childlike exaggerations and dreams in your head again.


P.S. I’ve got a bunch of extra coffee cups—I’m serious—from a recent over shipment – can I send you one? Shoot me an email requesting a cup, and you’ll receive it in the mail along with a one-page myth-buster report on Goldfish, simply because it’s cool. Looking forward to hearing from you. 


Written by Danielle Putnam, President of The New Flat Rate and Immediate Past President of Women in HVACR

Service Roundtable is dedicated to growing your bottom line and helping your business maximize its full potential. These groups of contractors work together to assist you with marketing, sales, business, and so much more. Twice a month, seminars around the United States and Canada are held to network and further assist your business. Visit Service to see if there are Success Days in your area!

Did You Find Everything You Wanted?

Within a four-mile radius of our house, there are 17 grocery stores. Of those, I frequent three. Not because I want to, and not because I like shopping, but because none of them carry everything I want. The three I go to most are Sprouts, Tom Thumb, and Trader Joe’s. All of them have the plusses and minuses, each has their idiosyncrasies, but there’s one thing all have in common: when I check out, the checker always asks, “did you find everything you wanted?” or some variation of that question.

When I was young, I don’t remember anyone asking me, “did you find everything you wanted?” I think they were more concerned with getting me the hell out of there before I broke anything. But at some point, some retail consultant must have figured out that to maximize the dollar purchases for each visit, you need to ask people, “did you find everything you wanted?” It’s a good way to increase sales, keep in touch with the customer, and take care of the customer. Every checker in every one of the 17 grocery stores in my area knows to ask every customer that question.

Have you ever had the experience in a long line at the grocery store where the person in front of you with a million groceries in her cart suddenly pauses and says to the checker, “oh, I forgot peanut butter. I’ll be right back.”? The 30 people in line behind her all roll their eyes as she meanders off to find the peanut butter and maybe pick up a few other items. You don’t want to be THAT person, right?

So I had this really interesting experience at Trader Joe’s. I’m in line, checking out, busy time, several people in line behind me, and the checker asks the question, “Did you find everything you wanted?” I said I did, and then, with a painful flash of memory, realized that I hadn’t. “Argh,” I slapped my forehead, “I forgot flour – my wife asked me to get flour.” I looked at the line behind me – I don’t want to be THAT person – “But, I can get it next time,” I told her.   

“It’s no problem,” the checker said, “we’ll get it fast.” She rang a little bell. Instantly a young man appeared. “John,” the checker said, “this gentleman needs flour.”

“What kind of flour, and what size,” John asked me. I told him, and he jogged off. (Not exaggerating here – he jogged!)

He returned with the flour even before the checker finished ringing up the rest of my groceries. No rolling of the eyes behind me, Trader Joe’s got at extra seven bucks, and I made my wife happy (priceless).

An Interesting Fact

One of the key performance indicators (KPI’s) of grocery stores is sales per square foot. Guess what, in that measure, Trader Joe’s is number one. In fact, they’re number 1 every year. Number two is so far behind that Trader Joe’s should win the number one place, the number two place, and the number three place.   

A Funny Story

Again, I’m at the grocery store. This time it’s Tom Thumb. I cannot find graham cracker crumbs. I’m going to make a Key Lime Pie for my mother-in-law, who loves my Key Lime Pie, and I need graham cracker crumbs for the crust. I can’t find them, and there’s no employee to ask. I give up, grab a box of graham crackers, gonna pound the crackers, and make my own damn crumbs. While I’m in the checkout line, it occurs to me: the checkout clerk is going to ask THE QUESTION, and I’ll find out where the graham cracker crumbs are. Furthermore, there is no one in line behind me, so I don’t have to worry about being THAT guy. Sure enough, the cashier asks, “Did you find everything you wanted?” I beam. “I did not,” I reply, “I couldn’t find graham cracker crumbs.” 

The clerk looks thoughtful and then says, “Yeah, I don’t know if we carry that.” I wait expectantly. I arch my eyebrows and cock my head, waiting for some kind of resolution. Waiting for the follow up that never happens. Nothing. Nada. Zero. He continues ringing up my groceries, reads me the total. I pay and leave…

The Interesting Fact Corollary

Tom Thumb does not lead the grocery industry in sales per square foot.

The Lessons 

There are so many lessons from this story. Here are two that I got:

  1. Incremental sales are important. There are many reasons why Trader Joe’s leads the industry in sales per square foot, but one of them is incremental sales. They make it easy for their customers to buy more. If you want incremental sales, then make it easy for your customers to buy more.
  2. Training and Processes. Training is important. Processes are important. Training to processes is REALLY important. Tom Thumb has training. The cashier knew to ask the question. He didn’t know what to do if the answer was “no” and probably had no supporting process if the customer answers “no”. Trader Joe’s has training. They have the processes. They train to those processes. If you answer the question “no”, the cashier knows to ring the bell. If stock runner hears the bell, he knows to drop everything and get to the customer, and get his product quickly, so the customer doesn’t feel awkward, and the people in line don’t roll their eyes. Result: increased sales, happy customers, and industry-leading KPI’s.
How About You?

What’s your takeaway from the story? What did you learn? What will you do differently? I’d like to know. Email me and let me know…


Service Roundtable is dedicated to growing your bottom line and helping your business maximize its full potential. These groups of contractors work together to assist you with marketing, sales, business, and so much more. Twice a month, seminars around the United States and Canada are held to network and further assist your business. Visit Service to see if there are Success Days in your area!


We have all heard the expression, “don’t try, just do.” So, “try” many times has a negative connotation. 

Especially when knowing that doing, and not just trying, will have a positive outcome. For example: “I’m going to try to eat healthier” or “I’m going to try and exercise more.” In both cases, doing it will have great health benefits, so “don’t try, just do.”

I would suggest that when it comes to taking risks, “try” can have a more positive connotation because the outcome may result in success or failure, and that is not as predictable. So when taking risks, “you can do it if you try.”

Taking risks doesn’t mean that you will succeed every time. The risk may lead to success that you can celebrate or failure that you can learn from. Either way, it is better to have tried and failed rather than having never tried at all.

Risk-taking involves thinking outside the box and may stretch you beyond your comfort zone. It may involve hiring that person from outside the industry, looking at acquisitions to expand, or adding plumbing to your HVAC company. All these risks need to be calculated and planned for, and not just treated as “risky behavior.” If planned for, risk-taking can become very rewarding. 

Once again, risk-taking is not as predictable as the results achieved from eating healthier or exercising regularly, so it may make you uncomfortable, which may cause you not to try. The uncertainty may make you uneasy, yet the rewards can be great. The fear of failure will keep you from succeeding and achieving your dreams and goals.


“Ever tried? Ever failed? No matter. Try again. Fail better.” – Samuel Beckett


You see, risk-taking in and of itself is not about achieving a positive outcome from every chance; rather it’s a process of learning and adjusting until you succeed. The key to success is learning from your failures and moving past them.


“Many of life’s failures are people who did not realize how close they were to success when they gave up.” – Thomas Edison


Failure should not be viewed as a negative, but as a learning experience that leads to wisdom. It makes one stronger and persistent. Your desire for success in anything that you do should always trump your fear of failure.

Yes, taking risks does involve failure. If it didn’t, and you were successful every time that you tried something, then it wouldn’t be a risk at all. It’s OK that you don’t succeed every time because you learn from every failure, which makes you a better person by improving your ability to recover faster the next time a difficult situation comes your way.

The worse thing that can happen is that you stop taking risks due to experiencing failure. When this happens, we become stagnant, and growth becomes difficult. When learning from failure and moving on, one becomes humbly confident. That may sound contradictory, yet failure teaches us to be humble, and learning from it will build confidence to overcome the fear of the next risk.

Fortunately, according to many psychologists, confidence is a learnable skill. 

In an article written by Marelisa Fabrega, “Daring to Live Fully,” she describes “a mantra that will change your life”:


      “Everything is Learnable.”


She proposes a question:

“Look at the following phrases:

  • I wish I were…
  • I wish I had…
  • I wish I knew how to…

How would you conclude each of these phrases? There are hundreds of ways to do so, and nearly 100% of them are learnable.” 

Then she cites 20 examples of how skills can be learned, and confidence is one of them.

Marelisa concludes with, “If you want to learn something, go learn it. You don’t need anyone’s permission (except for your own). 

Live your best life by understanding that everything is learnable. Make it your new mantra!”

So, the takeaway here is that you can learn to have confidence when taking risks. You can learn to overcome your fears. And you can learn to be humbly confident.

No matter what the outcome is, failure or success, we grow and learn from it either way. Learning these skills will help you take more risks, which in turn will increase your chances of success in achieving your personal and business goals.


Steve Mores is the Vice President of Training and Sales at Dynamic Air Quality Solutions

Service Roundtable is dedicated to growing your bottom line and helping your business maximize its full potential. These groups of contractors work together to assist you with marketing, sales, business, and so much more. Twice a month, seminars around the United States and Canada are held to network and further assist your business. Visit Service to see if there are Success Days in your area!

Your Candidate Lost, Now What?

I’m writing this at 7:35 am on November the 3rd. Which means I have no idea if your candidate won or lost. What I do know is that some people are very happy right now, and some are very upset.

And, I imagine that social media is being set afire with very strongly worded opinions about the results.

This short message is meant for the leaders of the world; the entrepreneurs that set the tone; the managers, CSRs, techs, sales pro, and administration members that are to lead-by-example.

Hopefully, this will help you.

If Your Candidate Won

Show grace today. I’m sure that you are feeling tremendous about the outcome. You are probably very excited. You may even feel like your party has won a literal battle!

You may feel like this battle deserves some type of social media battle cry.

“We won! You lost! SUCK IT!” for example.

Now, that wouldn’t be very gracious. In fact, it would be the start of a huge waste of energy and time. Because, not long after your post, you are greeted with 97 comments of opposition and confirmation. You now get spun up in the game of a social media battle. You waste time, and you make some enemies. It’s just not worth it.

If Your Candidate Lost

I promise you it’s not the end of the world! Every election is a hype machine of doom and gloom. Politicians play way more on our fears than they do our hope. Each side believes the other guy is an enemy to their hero.

But guess what? The next president isn’t going to save you. The presidents of the past didn’t save you.

You save yourself. You and your people are going to make the next great thing in your life happen.

If policy changes or taxes go up, or restrictions get tighter, then you will pivot and make it work.

So, it will be ok! And, I give you the same advice that I gave your political opposition…. “Show grace today.”

We Are In This Together 

Aren’t you just sick and tired of all the backbiting and fighting between Americans?

I really am.

We are the greatest nation on the planet. We are the greatest nation because our experiment of Democracy and Unity works. Well, most of the time it works. We are also known to have moments of intense civil disruption.

Civil disruption is normal for a young nation. It’s a reflection of growing pains and working out the kinks of our system.

Yet, we are not an infant nation any longer. We have matured into young adulthood.

We are a mighty power with the economy and the resources to change the world.

A mighty power demands a mighty leader. And a mighty leader needs wise counsel and the support of the people.

“United We Stand, Divided We Fall.”

This idea of power in unity is older than the US. In fact, you can find similar references in Matthew, Mark, and Luke of the Bible.

So, on this day, I encourage you to take a moment and reflect in silence. Pray. Meditate. Take a walk. Do what you need to do to prepare for the future. Be calm, and lead the people in your influence with Kindness, Power, and Hope.


Todd Liles is the Founder of Service Excellence Training and creator of the PRESS PLAY Training System.

Service Roundtable is dedicated to growing your bottom line and helping your business maximize its full potential. These groups of contractors work together to assist you with marketing, sales, business, and so much more. Twice a month, seminars around the United States and Canada are held to network and further assist your business. Visit Service to see if there are Success Days in your area!