The Surgeon and the Chauffeur

As some of you know, I have a long history in the appliance business, starting in Phoenix working for a small appliance distributor, and eventually moving on to a builder distributor, specializing in selling appliances to home builders. Finally, I worked regionally and nationally for some of the nation’s largest appliance brands. Maytag, Jenn-Air, KitchenAid, and Whirlpool.

For several years, I was the Western Regional Marketing Manager first for Maytag and Jenn-Air, and continuing after we were acquired by Whirlpool. I also was responsible for training of the distributor sales forces that we had throughout the Western States. We had a training center in Atlanta, that was fully equipped with live appliance kitchen displays, as well as meeting rooms and a classroom. I’d arrange for sales associates from our customers throughout the West to Atlanta for a first class experience that included hands on training in our live kitchens as well as some classroom training, and of course some R&R in Atlanta.

My good friend, and boss, Gary Stoner was usually there, overseeing everything. When it came time to do the classroom training I would do most of the training, while Gary would sit in the back of the room with his laptop open, doing paperwork, and answering emails, and keeping an eye and ear on my performance in the front of the room. It usually went well, and it was good to have him there as a backup. Nevertheless, I felt that our customers found it a little odd with me up front doing the heavy lifting, while the “REAL” expert was in the back of the room.

So, I would begin the meeting this way:

You may be wondering why the boss, Gary Stoner, is sitting in the back of the room, I’m going to explain his presence with this story:

There was a heart surgeon who was famous for developing a very advanced surgical procedure that saved many lives.It was so successful that there was a great demand for him to teach this procedure to other doctors. So, he went on the circuit, flying from city to city, visiting the nation’s biggest hospitals and medical universities, and delivering lectures on his methods and procedures. However, he didn’t drive. Therefore, the surgeon would take his chauffeur with him wherever he went. And while the surgeon lectured, the chauffeur would stand dutifully in the back of the room wearing his chauffeur jacket and cap.

One day, the chauffeur said to the Dr. “You know, I’ve heard this lecture so many times, I think I could deliver it as well as you do.” The Dr. was taken aback. “It’s quite a complicated operation. Do you really think you could teach these other doctors, as well as I do?” “Without a doubt!” replied the chauffeur. “OK, we’ll try it!” said the surgeon.

When the next lecture took place, the surgeon stood in the back of the room wearing the chauffeur’s jacket and cap. And the chauffeur stood at the lectern and delivered the speech flawlessly. When the speech was over, one of the Doctors in the audience stood up and said, “I have a question.” And he asked this very difficult and complicated question, that only a highly trained professional would be able to answer. The chauffeur hadn’t a clue. He thought for a minute and then he said:

“That has to be the dumbest question I have ever heard. I have a notion not to bother with it, but just to prove to you how ridiculous it is, I’m going to have my chauffeur answer it for me!”

Now, if you have any questions that I can’t quite handle, I’m going to ask my chauffeur in the back of the room, Gary Stoner, to answer them for me.

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