I'll never forgot the business lessons I learned while eating steak with Alberta's best beef farmers.
My good friend Kent has been talking about buying his first house for a while. His parents Lorne and Sandi Zentner were in town last week checking on the city wing of their family business, Silver Sage Beef. It only took a few nights of Sandi sharing her son’s bed and Lorne on an air mattress in the living room of Kent's tiny apartment for them to tell my wife (on her weekly visit to pick up steaks, ribs, and meatballs), 'we're ready for Tim to find us a house'.
Within a few hours, the conversation had escalated to plans for a dinner party. And that evening the Zentner family walked through our door with a package of their best steaks, a ribeye for me and New York strips for everyone else.
So there they were, not just friends and clients, but the farmers that raised the beef I was about to grill. These were steaks I couldn't overcook. Beer. Now.
I fired up the barbecue and Lorne joined me in the yard. He talked condo fees, home offices, and a wide array of other details that someone who's never owned a home in a city needs to know. By the time I'd nailed medium rare, we were well on our way to a great evening. Take a couple of dudes from different worlds and different generations, give them beer, beef, and barbecue and you've got common ground, conversation, and budding friendship.
Later on, still working through the last few bites of my salivatingly buttery ribeye, I had to know...
'So, Lorne, excuse my ignorance, but what makes your beef so much better than what we get at the grocery store?’
‘Well Tim, I'm asked this a lot actually. And it's not one thing. It's more like a hundred things.'
Which lead to a bottle-of-wine-long conversation that taught me more about commitment to running an exceptional business than any seminar ever could.
It seems like an oversimplification to say, but they truly care. The Zentner family is fully committed to offering the best possible product. A product customers will love, enjoy, and be loyal to. I never thought that would go as far as DNA testing and ultra sounding the musculature of a bull before they purchase it. But it does, and more.
Silver Sage treats beef like a craft. They didn't find a secret shortcut. They didn't stumble upon some super cow out of luck. Running an authentically exceptional business takes effort, intelligence, personality, and a certain amount of trial and error.
The lightbulb went on. I can identify with that. That’s the type of business I want to run and the commitment I have to my craft. I invest in technology that creates great resources for buyers and makes the buying process easy to understand and a wonderful memory. I leverage great professionals, use ahead of the curve technology, and, quite simply, spend a little more time and effort into selling your home smoothly and at a great price. I work hard at it. I'm always trying to grow and improve. One day, I hope to deliver a service as exceptional as Silver Sage and earn my own loyal following.
That evening gave me perspective: life is about great homes, great friends, a legacy you can be proud of, and really, really great beef. So next time you're at the Calgary Farmers' Market and need something to barbecue, drop in and say hi to Kent. He'll take good care of you while Lorne and Sandi are raising beautiful animals out on the ranch.
If you want to learn a little more about the Zentner family and what makes their beef so incredible, check out the blog my wife Leilani wrote for the Calgary Farmers’ Market.