FamilyLife Today®

Winning Where It Matters Most

with Louis Upkins | June 4, 2010
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What good does it do you if you win at work but lose at home? Businessman and father of two Louis Upkins shares how he’s learned to treat his best customer – his wife, with love and respect.

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  • What good does it do you if you win at work but lose at home? Businessman and father of two Louis Upkins shares how he’s learned to treat his best customer – his wife, with love and respect.

What good does it do you if you win at work but lose at home?

Winning Where It Matters Most

With Louis Upkins
June 04, 2010
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Bob:  Are you successful in the marketplace and less successful at home?  Louis Upkins says, there are things you can learn from your marketplace success that may help you win at home.


Louis:  The reality is people view a customer in a profit-loss scenario.  They don’t necessarily view their family in that way.  But, the cost of a broken family, the cost of divorce, the cost of kids going through counseling—that cost is significant.  And, often it doesn’t show up right away.  It shows up later in life because of unforgiveness or because of lack of being present, all of these various things.  It does cost you, and it can also save you just by being available and being present—just as present as you would be with your customers.


Bob:  This is FamilyLife Today for Friday, June 4th. Our host is the President of FamilyLife, Dennis Rainey and I'm Bob Lepine.  How would things be different around your house if you treated your wife and your children more like they were customers?  We’ll talk about that today. 

And welcome to FamilyLife Today, thanks for joining us.  We’re talking this week, really about high capacity individuals, people in positions of influence and power, and where there’s money, and how that can be harmful to what’s going on with the family, and what’s going on in your life spiritually.  I guess I’m wondering, Dennis, if you were sitting with a guy who, has maybe listened to the program this week, and he says, “I see myself in there.  I just don’t know how to get off the treadmill I’m on.  I don’t know how to rescue the situation, because I’m just stuck where I am.”  What would you say?

Dennis:  Well, I think he needs to be like our guest on today’s program, Louis Upkins.  In fact I have it on good reputation that Louis, who wrote the book, Treat Me Like a Customer:  Using Lessons From Work to Succeed in Life, and he’s primarily focusing on marriage and family life.  I have it on good record that Louis has always prided himself around selecting thoughtful gifts for his wife.


Louis:  (Starts laughing.)


Dennis:  You know where I’m going with this don’t you?


Louis:  I do know. (Laughs more)


Dennis:  He’s always thought about it well in advance of having just the right gift for his wife.


Bob:  Somehow, I sense you may have slipped up at some point along the way.


Dennis:  One Christmas Eve… go ahead Louis.  You put your name on a book, this is what happens.


Louis:  Well, here’s the deal.  Prior to getting married, I always shopped mentally for Charita.  I would think about what I was going to get.  I’d start thinking about it in August, or whatever.  But, I would have a visual of what I was going to do.  Whether I was going to have a painting done or whether I was going to do something cool. 

So, we’re married, year one.  I’ve thought through the whole year, but I just don’t like running to the mall.  So, I would wait till the last day, a few hours before the mall closes, go in, get it, get out, get it wrapped, and get home.

Bob:  I was going to say, there is a difference between shopping mentally and actually making the purchase.


Louis:  Well, mentally, I know what it is that I’m going to get.  But then going to execute…


Dennis:  Here’s the question, do you get a point for shopping mentally?


Louis:  (Laughing) No.  And you don’t get a point for shopping at the last minute, and getting caught by the local television station, being asked, “Sir you’re in the mall, can you tell us why you wait till the last minute to shop?” 

So, I’m not thinking, I start answering the question saying simply this, “I shop mentally.  I knew what I was going to get my wife, and just wanted to come in, and get out and…”  Well, Charita happened to be watching television.


Bob:  (Laughs)


Louis:  (Laughing) That did not go over well.  So I learned a valuable lesson, and the lesson is:  it wasn’t the quality of the gift, it was the time and attention put into the thought of the gift, and how I executed upon it.  So, the lesson to me was, “Louis, you have to treat that like you would if you were getting a gift for a client.  You wouldn’t go and get it in twelve seconds.”


Bob:  You wouldn’t do it at the last minute thing there would you?  No!


Louis:  You wouldn’t do the last minute thing, you would have thought it out well, you would have planned it out well.  It meant a lot more to her when she saw time and attention to the details.


Bob:  When I saw the cover of your book, Treat Me Like a Customer, I thought, this is a business book.


Dennis:  Yes, I convinced Bob to bring you in here for this interview because he said, “This is a business book Dennis.” 


Bob:  But, then all of a sudden, I thought just that title, if a guy takes that title and mentally stops and thinks, “If I was going to treat my wife the way I treat customers, the way I value people in the business world,” that could be revolutionary in their marriage.


Louis:  Here’s a great example.  There was a guy who read the book a couple of weeks ago.  He sent me an e-mail and shared with me, the following day his wife sent him to the store to get a sandwich.  He lives in Washington, D.C., he goes out, gets the sandwich, comes back, he’s pulling in the driveway and he realizes, “Oh no, I got the wrong sandwich.”  Immediately, he thinks, “She’ll get over it, she’ll just eat it.” 

Then he thinks about this book he just read the night before.  He said, “If this was a customer, I’d turn around and go get the right sandwich.”  So, he makes a U-Turn, and goes back, buys the right sandwich, comes back home.  He’s a little inconvenienced.  But now he says every morning to his wife, “How’s my best customer doing, and how can I serve you?”  So, he took that small opportunity to value her, the way he would value if he brought back the incorrect sandwich to the client. 

It doesn’t take a lot of money; it doesn’t take a lot of bells and whistles.  It’s really simple things, like turning your cell-phone off.  What’s that off button for?  That’s my favorite thing on the iPhone, “off,” turn it off.  Why?  Because, if a client were sitting at my desk, and I was having a conversation, I would turn the phone off.  Why can’t we do the same thing at home over the dinner table?  Why do we have to be checking out Blackberry or our e-mails while the kids are trying to talk to you?  So, it’s little things like that.

Dennis:  One of the things I appreciate about you is your honesty.  You share in writing the book, how you started out your marriage with some bad habits, in terms of communicating, and when you would have an argument…


Louis:  I would just leave!


Dennis:  Bail out, you’d bail out?


Louis:  Yes, and I thought I was doing the right thing.  Let me tell you why.


Dennis:  Why did you think you were doing the right thing?

Louis:  Because, I thought I was avoiding conflict.  You can shoot me through the radio but—it was learned behavior.  I watched my father do it, my father used to bail out.  So if it got heated, I would think, “Well, I’m not going to argue, because I don’t want to argue, I’ll give myself time to calm down, give her time to calm down and we’ll come back to it.” 

But, what I realized in that bad habit was, I was demeaning her.  I was making her feel like she wasn’t valued.  When she shared that with me, then obviously, I made a very big adjustment, so I don’t do that anymore. 


Dennis:  I love the list you made besides bailing out.  Others are:  blaming others when you’re criticized, rehashing past offenses that may have nothing to do with what your wife’s talking about at the present.  The next one is, using sarcasm, or pouting—which is similar to bailing out.


Louis:  Sarcasm, for example, if a customer says something that we don’t necessarily agree with, we have a way of masking how we feel, and we have a way of responding in a respectful way.  But, we would never say to a customer, “I assume it’s your monthly cycle.”  Or …


Dennis:  (Laughing)


Bob:  I hope not, I hope we would not say that to a customer.


Louis:  We would never say that to a customer. 

Bob:  No!


Louis:  Nor, should we say that to our wife, because it’s insulting. 


Bob:  Yes.  I do remember.  I just have to be honest here—there were times early in my marriage when things would be a little tense around the house, and I would say to Mary Ann, “Is your back hurting you?”  And I’d just say that gently, and quietly, and we developed this—


Dennis:  Did you smirk, as you just did?


Bob:  No, no, I did not smirk.  I learned not to smirk.


Louis:  It sounds to me like he was patronizing her.


Bob:  Just trying to help her identify what might be at work here.  Sometimes it worked, sometimes, I ducked.  So, that’s how that worked.


Dennis:  All right Louis, in your book you talk about a number of communication principles that I think men could really benefit from.  I like some of your language here.  The first one you talk about is “Perform a communication audit and inventory.”  What are you talking about there?


Louis:  Well, in our business, we would have a framework of how we would communicate with a customer, whether that’s on a weekly, or a monthly basis, etcetera.  You went down your checklist of the things you wanted to make sure were proceeding and that you wanted to make progress on. 

We should do the same thing with our families.  Actually take some time to sit down and say, “Let’s check in with the family calendar.”  But, really have a way in which we can establish a communication protocol.  This doesn’t have to be business.  This is just a tool in which we take what we do at work and bring it home.  It can be fun, as we think about mission statements and things of that nature. 

We’re working on that with our kids right now.  It’s been really cool.  It has taken longer than it would probably take at a corporation, but it’s been really cool watching the words that our kids are coming up with as we’ve asked the question, what does our family stand for?  So, they’ve come up with a list of things.  We’re going to incorporate all of this into a mission statement that will be our mission statement as a family, just as you have a corporate mission statement.

Dennis:  One of the other principles you talked about in how a man can better communicate with his wife, that Barbara absolutely loves…

Louis:  Which one?


Dennis:  I’ve never told her that she really loves it, but she really does.  It’s when I take notes.  When I take notes on what she’s saying and I write it down.  Then when I keep those notes and I pull them out and refer to them, that’s worth two points.


Louis:  That’s huge!  Because, the deal is this, in a business meeting, you come with a pen and paper.  Why? Because you want to capture what’s been said and what’s been communicated.  The same premise if you’re sitting down with your spouse or your husband and you’re having this type of exchange, to say that I value what you’re saying, I’m going to make note of the things that I’ve heard you say. 

I’ll listen to Charita over the course of the year.  In the early days, I would go out and think about the best gift for Christmas or Valentine’s.  Now I’ve got this little cheat sheet.  She’ll say, “Oh, I like this.”  “I love this.”  Or “I like that.”  I’ll just make note to self, note to self, note to self, then everything I show up with is really the things she’s identified that I would have missed if I had just relied on memory.  But, I’ve made note to make sure I make her happy.


Dennis:  What do you mean by this, “Don’t just talk, connect.” 


Louis:  Many times with men, we just say words, but we don’t listen.  We don’t listen well.  We almost take the approach that if she’s talking, then I’m checking out, and when I have something to say, I’ll check back in.  I think that when we are talking to our spouses, we have to connect, we have to give them the undivided attention and respect that we give to those that we are serving as customers, and we hear what they say.

So, simple practices, repeat back what you think you heard.  Say, “This is what I think I heard you say.”  And you may have it right, or you may have it wrong.  But, just that exchange gives them a sense that you’re listening. 


Dennis:  If you do check out, and your mind wanders away, don’t fake it.


Louis:  (laughing) Don’t come back with the wrong answer.


Dennis:  Yes, exactly.  Don’t try to provide an answer when you haven’t been listening.  Instead just say, “You know sweetheart, I’m sorry.  My mind started thinking about this thing I’ve got to do over here, or this matter I have to attend to, would you restate that again.  It really is important.  I’m sorry.”  So, head it off at the pass.  Don’t get caught giving a wrong answer to a question.


Louis: That’s a very valid point.


Bob:  The way I do that is I just say, “You know what you just shared was so beautiful, would you just share that again?”


Dennis:  (Laughs)The same grin.  Did you see it? 


Bob:  It is important too when you’re listening.  I had an experience one time where I was talking to Mary Ann long distance.  I’m in the hotel room, and we’re on the phone.  I’m smart enough that when I’m on the phone with my wife in the hotel room, I put the TV on mute.  But, somehow she could tell, in the conversation that something else was…


Louis:  You checked out…


Bob:  …vying for my attention.  Because in the middle of it when I was going, “Uh huh,  uh huh,”  She just said, “Ok goodbye.”  And I went, “No, no I’m listening… I’ll turn the TV off.”  We really do have to listen with the kind of attention that we would give to a valued customer.  You wouldn’t leave the TV on mute with a valued customer.  You’d say, “I need to pay attention to what this guy is saying, because it could cost me the deal.” 


Louis:  And it could cost you the deal in your marriage.  The reality is, people view a customer in a profit-loss scenario.  They don’t necessarily view a family that way.  But the cost of a broken family, divorce, and kids going through counseling that cost is significant.  Often it doesn’t show up right away.  It shows up later in life because of unforgiveness, or because of lack of being present, all of these various things.  It does cost you.  And, it can also save you just by being available and being present.  Just as present as you would be with your customers.


Dennis:  It may seem to a man that being totally transparent or full-disclosure to his wife may cost him more than it’s worth.  But in reality, it could cost him his marriage as well.  You actually had a text one day where this was put to the test.


Louis:  I did.  Interestingly enough, I had a text from a number I didn’t recognize, that asked me to call.  And I did.  When I called the number, first I stared at the number and thought, “Who is this?”  Because I didn’t recognize the number.  Once I placed the call, I realized it was a girlfriend from back in college.  She was involved with a business that was selling frozen food or steaks and stuff to your community.  Someone had given her my information, because we had a mutual friend. 

One of the things that Charita and I are really true to one another about is full disclosure.  That was a very innocent, incident.  But had I just kept that to myself, it could have found itself later and caused problems because I didn’t disclose it.


Bob:  But, didn’t you feel a little—Just to come home and say, “I had a funny thing happen today.  I got a text message from an old girlfriend.”


Louis:  I had nothing to hide.  So it was easy for me to say that.  It was easy for her to respect that.  Versus let’s fast forward and use a different scenario:  two months later, “Hey I just saw this text on your phone.  Blah blah blah… And now you have to explain why you didn’t talk about it two months ago.”  I think those are some of the same things in business, particularly in the 50123 space.  They expect you to be full disclosure, and have ethics, and integrity and things of this nature. 

The same thing is applicable at home.  Cut some of the problems off on the front end.  So you don’t have to have a wastebasket of unnecessary issues because you’ve chosen to keep things to yourself. 

Dennis:  Another avenue where that’s occurring today is on Facebook. 


Louis:  I think I read a report recently that it is quoted as, I think 20% of divorces in the divorce dock, Facebook is quoted as one of the problematic issues in the marriage.  Where, people were establishing new lifestyles.  Getting with old girlfriends or boyfriends, and all this kind of stuff in that closed community, because they are not sharing passwords, they are not making their spouse accessible to their world of friends and new friends that they have.


Bob:  As we’ve talked about all of the principles that you’ve learned in the marketplace, and how you’ve learned to apply them at home as the CEO of the Upkins Family Corporation, what you’ve written in your book really applies whether you’re the Chief Executive Officer, or the Chief Operating Officer, in the family. Whether you’re the husband or the wife, these principles apply don’t they?


Louis:  Absolutely.  I think that more so today than in any other time, because we have a society of busyness where you’re finding just as many working moms or over-committed mothers that are just doing so many things, focused on the community, volunteer activities, and all these different things that they are finding themselves missing out on the significance of family.  That has proven itself in several instances where women have come up and said simply, “Not only does my husband need this, but I need this book, because I have the same issue.”  So, I think it’s really validating.  It’s a challenge across the board. 


Dennis:  I think one of the big problems in our culture is that there just aren’t a lot of men like you speaking truth into marriages and families today.  You’re calling people to do something different from what the culture is mandating. You want them to be different from the drumbeat of success where they are being the pied piper and following along and taking promotions without evaluating what that promotion is going to do to them.  You actually had one guy who had a promotion in front of him and he knew it might cost him his family.  Right?


Louis:  Yes.  This gentlemen, for example, he’s actually a relative.  We saw him at a church event.  He was sharing his excitement about this new job.  I said, “Congratulations!”  He said, “But, they’ve got me a corporate apartment,” and he begins to describe what this new promotion is going to look like.  They’ve bought him a corporate apartment because he’s not going to be home.

He said, “We’ve just bought our dream home,” and all these different things.  As he’s standing there talking about this new promotion and the revenue around it.  Then you look at what he’s going to lose as a result of the revenue around it.

I said, “Man, don’t take the job.  This is not worth it.  You’ve built your entire life to have a great family, not to have a lot of money paying for two households.  Because you’re going to lose them, and they’re (the company) helping you to do that.”

Bob:  If you went up to most people and you said, I’ll give you a hundred thousand dollars for you to live away from your home for a year, you won’t see your kids or your wife for a year.  I’ll give you a hundred thousand dollars.”  I think most people would say, “That’s not what I got married for.”  I want to see my kids some time.  Yet that’s what companies are doing.  They’re saying, we’ll pay you $X amount if you’ll just stay away from your wife and your kids.  Guys are taking the bait.  And, women are taking the bait.


Louis:  Everybody’s taking the bait.  But, I think we’re also approaching a time where, when you look at the economy and the change of culture, I think people are beginning to look back and say, “What matters most to me?” 

I think the timing of this message is timeless.  This is not just the fruit of the hour but I think that people are really taking a hard, strong look, at the end of the day, what matters to me?  Is it that I make $40,000 a year, or $400,000 a year?  Is it that I have three beach houses or one house?  I think at the end of the day, people are simply saying, “I want significance.  I want family I want values, and I want memories.  And, I don’t want to spend the balance of my life regretting the best days of my life.”


Dennis:  Louis, I think you’ve captured that in your book in challenging both men and women to march to a different drumbeat.  To really go back and evaluate what their values are, where they’re going to end up, and what kind of legacy they’re going to leave.  Bob, I feel like we’ve met a new friend here on FamilyLife Today.  One who I hope will come back and join us again to put the cookies on the lower shelf.  I really appreciate just straight talk.


Louis:  I thank you for that Dennis.  I think at the end of the day, we as a culture are searching for the tools.  I think we’re hungry for answers, and I think what you’ll find in the content of this book, is the simplicity of that answer.  It’s not rocket science; it is something you do every day.  Like a bad camera shot, you focus the lens a little bit.  The picture has always been there, but if you focus the lens, you’ll get a greater shot.  I think that’s what we have to do for our families, is focus a little bit. 


Bob:  The book helps us do that.  We’ve got the book in our FamilyLife Today Resource Center.  You can go online at  The title of the book is Treat Me Like a Customer from Louis Upkins.  Again, the website, or call if you’re interested in a copy at 1-800-FL-TODAY.  1-800-358-6329, that’s 1-800 F as in “family” L as in “life” and then the word TODAY.

One of the things that is encouraging for us here at FamilyLife is when we get notes or e-mails or comments from listeners.  We’ve had a number of those recently from those of you who’ve dropped us a line just to let us know how God is using the ministry in your life.  On our website at, there are transcripts of each day’s program.  At the end of those transcripts oftentimes people will write a note and reflect on a particular program and share how that program has been used by God in their lives.  We do appreciate that kind of feedback.  We appreciate the partnership we have with you as we seek to make every home a godly home.

We appreciate those of you who help support the ministry of FamilyLife Today.  You’re the ones who keep us on the air on this station, and on our network of stations all across the country, when you provide financial support for the ministry.  We do very much appreciate that. 

This month if you’re able to help with a donation of any amount, to help support FamilyLife Today, we’d like to send you a copy of a book by Truett Cathy, the founder of Chick-fil-A.  A book called, It’s Better To Build Boys, Than Mend Men.  Some wise common sense practical advice on how to build into the lives of boys.


Again, the book is our gift to you when you help support the ministry of FamilyLife Today with a donation of any amount this month.  If you donate online, type the word “BOYS” into the key-code box on the online donation form.  If you’re donating by phone at 1-800-FL-TODAY, just ask for a copy of the book It’s Better To Build Boys when you make your donation.  Again, thanks for your partnership with us, and for your support of this ministry. 


And, we hope you have a great weekend.  I hope you and your family are able to worship together this weekend.  I hope you can join us back on Monday, when we’re going to talk with Tim and Darcy Kimmel about a fun way that we can better understand our children and their personalities.  That’s coming up on Monday; I hope you can be with us for that.


I want to thank our engineer today Keith Lynch and our entire broadcast production team.  On behalf of our host, Dennis Rainey, I’m Bob Lepine. We will see you back Monday for another edition of FamilyLife Today.

FamilyLife Today is a production of FamilyLife of Little Rock, Arkansas.

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Episodes in this Series

Commitment Day 2
The Legacy You Leave
with June 3, 2010
Who will be most indebted to you after you’re gone – your company or your family?
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