Extend your influence by extending trust: a social story

A stranger walks into your store and tells you about his problem. After asking him a few questions to help you understand the problem, you hand him a brand new pair of shoes and tell him to try them for couple weeks. “If they work,” you say, “just come back and pay for them. If they don’t, we’ll try a different pair.” Typical? Probably not.

That’s exactly what Jeff Milliman, the 1980 NCAA cross country champion, did in 1998 for Olivier Blanchard. Olivier wrote about his experience with Jeff in a 2005 blog post called That Bond of Trust. I caught up with Jeff today at his new home at Go Run, a part of Go Tri Sports, in downtown Greenville, South Carolina.

Social Story: Tell me about Olivier. A story of trust. from Trey Pennington on Vimeo.

Please note a few really cool things about this social story:

  • Jeff just did what he always does: listens to people and then applies his knowledge to try to help solve their problems.
  • Jeff is willing to take a risk in order to fulfill his passion.
  • Jeff did the unexpected and went the extra mile and SEVEN YEARS LATER the object of his generosity, Olivier Blanchard, wrote about it. (How many shoe salesmen have people writing glowing stories about them seven years after the sale, or seven hours?)
  • Jeff’s act of generosity and Olivier’s act of gratitude enabled an long lost friend to reconnect with Jeff after nearly 20 years apart.

That means you never can tell when the harvest of your generosity will come.

Olivier wrote about Jeff five years ago. I’m writing about Olivier’s 1998 experience with Jeff today. Olivier says he’s sent many people to see Jeff. I’ve already sent several folks to him, too, because of Olivier. Jeff’s generosity and trust makes him incredibly influential. However, if you go see Jeff, you will KNOW he doesn’t care at all about how much influence he has. He doesn’t need a score, or his avatar in a magazine, to tell him he’s influential. He just doesn’t care about his influence—he just wants to make sure you have the shoes you need to do whatever it is you want to do. That’s all.

Seems like a good way to extend one’s influence is to take a risk to ensure customers succeed.


To see Olivier Blanchard in person and hear more about developing and delivering memorable stories, register to attend the September 24th Social Story Conference in Greenville, South Carolina.

To get the perfect running shoes for you, visit Jeff Milliman at Go Run, 400 E McBee Avenue, Greenville, SC 29601 or call him at 864-232-9400.

Thank you to Verizon Wireless for helping make video vignettes of Social Story available.