Before Jeffrey became the founder of Select ‘n’ Start on a mission to help make Jamaica, and the world a better place, he was and still is many other things. He is a Businessman, Entrepreneur, Martial Artist, Toastmaster, and Game Changer are just a few of the titles held by Mr. Azan. He possesses over 18 years of experience in the retail industry having been raised in his family’s business, Azan’s. Upon completion of his Bachelors in Business Management at Boston University, he stepped into a top tier management role as a Director for Azan’s and served in that position for 6 years. In his own right he has also been a franchise owner in Organo Gold, and Amway, a café owner under the brand Café Moments, a consultant on the Brand Profit team, General Manager of the brand solution company, It’s Pixel Perfect, and the organizer of the live music show, A Moment of Jazz. Jeffrey currently spends the majority of his time working through his passion for the development of others in an effort to see a better Jamaica and a better world. He does this by providing motivational keynote speeches, group skill training, and one-on-one coaching. He founded the self-development brand, Select ‘n’ Start back in 2013, with a vision of it becoming the number one personal development brand to be birthed out of the Caribbean. The brand has taken to titling its coaches and speakers as “Game Changers” which is a title Jeffrey holds proudly. His motto is a simple one, “Change your game, Change your life.”
- Tell us a little bit about yourself and your journey
- How do you believe customer experience has been for you over the years with so much experience that you have under your belt, what is your definition of customer service/ experience, do you find that it’s different in the Caribbean versus in the first world countries that you’ve been exposed to and if there’s any short comings or limitations that we’re faced with in Jamaica, what do you think they are and how do you think we can overcome them?
- What are 3 characteristics that you think any human being would need in order to be truly a server?
- How do you stay motivated everyday?
- What is the one online resource, website, tool or app that you absolutely cannot live without in your business?
- What are some of the books that have had the biggest impact on you?
- What is one thing in your life right now that you are really excited about – something that you are working on to develop yourself or people?
- Where can our listeners find your information online?
- What is one quote or saying that you live by or that inspires you in times of adversity?
- Jeffrey Azan shared that his years in retail was specifically in the housewares industry, as a toastmaster which is one of the other many things he does, he has not just been a toastmaster in terms of speaking but he has also been a competitor and recently he accumulated a win of the Caribbean Championship of Public Speaking in the category of “Impromptu Speaking.” As well as competing in Martial Arts he recently went to Curacao and represented Jamaica at the 31st Pan-American Games hosted by the WKF which is the first Olympic qualifier in this region and that was a big honor to represent Jamaica. In all the titles and all the jobs, he can say at the core he tries to be all that he can be in each of those categories and so far putting his all forward, he has reaped many challenges and he manages to turn those challenges into either successes or learning opportunities and if anybody wants to know Jeffrey, that’s one of the key aspects to know is that if you involve with him, he’s going to be full force, he’s going to be full of passion, he’s going to expect you to deliver and there’s not going to be any challenge that isn’t going be for the benefit of himself or for the team. Jeffrey stated that he grew up in a very interesting household, he was a big Ninja Turtles fan as a kid and that led him to look into Renaissance, all the ninja turtles were named after Renaissance Men and it led him to look into what the renaissances was and when he looked into Leonardo da Vinci, he found that he did it all, he was a Sculptor, Painter, Doctor, Scientist, Inventor, Engineer, Martial Artist and covered so many areas and he said to himself, “If one man can do so much, what can’t I do.” So it’s really just discovering each talent that he has and working to bring those talents to full fruition through whatever means necessary.
- Jeffrey Azan stated that it is so interesting to look at customer experience and really analyze it because just in the very sense that we are placing a label on it creates the first problem in his understanding. When he worked in retail he always told his staff that, “The customer is never right”, that was the first key, they are coming into the store, they don’t know what they are looking for, they don’t know how to describe it, they don’t know the function of it and it’s this guessing game to kind of figure out what it is that they want and what he tries to push is that base knowledge knowing that the customer isn’t right, what he was trying to do is pre-empt the frustration with the customer and so in getting them in that thinking to know that the customer isn’t going be right, it gives them almost an added bonus to service to a higher level, it’s not that anybody is going to come and say, “Oh, I want a green curtain for a blue bathroom” you’ll have to say, “What shade of blue it is? What type of curtain do you want? How tall is the window? How far from the ground is the window?” and all of these questions would have to come in because the customer isn’t right, you cannot give them a green curtain because that’s what they say they wanted. And from there the idea evolved and he heard it best at a customer service workshop he went to where the speaker there said, “The customer is king” he paused and reflected on that and he had to question it, and he said, “Please explain it.” And he gave him his thought process on the customer is never right and what the speaker said to him is that he agreed with him that the customer is not always right but it doesn’t change the fact that the customer still has the power, the customer is still the final boss, they are the king of the domain, if there are no customers, there is no business, nobody gets paid. What he said is that if you think of the customer as king, then what happens is no matter how wrong they are, you still have a duty to service. He stopped and really reflected on that for a long time and he thought, “Wow, what an amazing little concept that if you always think of the customer as king, you will always be of this higher level of service.” But here’s the problem with that, is that we draw this huge distinction between two (2) humans. In regards to his experience internationally, he did not just go to school overseas in the USA, but he had fortunate opportunities to be apart of programs and summits and conferences that have carried him around the world. He has been to Australia, Western Europe, he has been all over the Caribbean, all over North America and he’s sure that there’s plenty more to come. One of his most eye opening experiences in customer service was when in Australia walking on the pier, somebody soliciting business for their food stall and as he was passing, he didn’t push a sale, he engaged him as a person, he immediately recognized that he was a tourist and began having a conversation with him and they had a big conversation about Jamaica and what he was doing all the way from Jamaica over there in Australia and because he engaged him as a human having a conversation, Jeffrey was quicker to look into what he does and what’s his business and that was the first step. We as both the customer and the one serving the customer needs to remember that we are not dealing with a uniform, we’re not dealing with a title, we are dealing with a person and he hates seeing when he goes to a restaurant and somebody deals with the waiter like garbage because they’re the waiter, they’re supposed to serve, they are human, they have the same trials, same tribulations, they went through the same schooling system that you went through in a many cases. Maybe they have been dealt a hard break, maybe they have not made the best of decisions but at the end of the day, they’re still a human and real customer service starts there in recognizing that the other person is another human and if he’s going to serve that other human as the server, as the person providing the service, that’s step one on an international scale and very often, especially here in Jamaica and the third world countries that he visits is that we don’t serve humans, we serve uniforms, we serve titles and we are treated accordingly. There are some doctors that he met who are probably first class doctors but they are horrible people but the point is that they expect a certain level of service because, “I am doctor so and so”, “I give you all props and credit for being doctor so and so, I’m sure it wasn’t easy to become doctor so and so, however, at the end of the day, I am still Jeffrey, I am not server number 2, I am not in the back credit of a movie as staff number 3, I am Jeffrey.” And the second that we as the customer or we as the server forget that element, the whole interaction and relationship has gone out the window because at the end of the day that’s what it is, a relationship between two people, it just so happens that one is providing service and one is in need of that service.
Yanique stated that what she took most away from all of what Jeffrey said was that we’re all emotional beings regardless of where we are from, regardless of our background and at the end of the day, if we all look at each other as people with the same level of feelings and emotions that the customer would have, that the employee would have, that the employer would and employ that level of understanding to really see where the other person is coming from, treat them with the same level of courtesy and respect that you would treat anyone else, the quality of our relationships would improve which by default would improve customer experience.
Jeffrey stated that in Select ‘n’ Start, what they tell people they provide is motivation, inspiration and personal development and at the very root of it all, that is what it is. He stated that he cannot serve you if he’s not willing to connect with you and what you’ll recognize as humans is that we’ve grown this very disgusted outlook of a sales person because we feel like a con is coming and yet the greatest sales people in the world are some of the best humans he has ever come across. They take the time to build that relationship and in building a relationship, he has had a customer who bought nothing when they came to buy, they took 3 hours of his time and he genuinely thought it was wasted, the next time they came to the store, they came with their entire community and they only wanted to deal with him and that happened because they had a connection, he asked about the family, he asked about the home, he wasn’t just providing a product but he wanted to really understand what he needed and in understanding what he needed, he could make suggestions, in fact, there was a particular item that they had in the store at the time but based on the situation that he was in and he explained and he told him where he could get it cheaper and he couldn’t believe that he was sending him out of the store and because of that one comment in trying to help another human, he brought the whole community and he said, “What ever the prices are in here, this is where you should shop.”
Yanique shared that she did business with a company recently and the sales representative took the same approach. He said, “We don’t have that item at the moment but I know that this particular organization has it.”And he took up the phone and called them and sent her to someone specifically after calling and telling them to expect her and she thought that was really awesome because it wasn’t a branch of their business, it was a completely different company, their competition and he was willing to ensure that she got served, even if it meant her going to the competitor and she really appreciated that and she would go back again because of that experience.
Jeffrey shared that some characteristics that a person would need to truly serve. He stated that Select ‘n’ Start provide customer service training and he developed the customer service program when he had the café, so he ran the café with a partner of his for about 1 ½ years and when they got into it he was coming from the retail background and he has never done anything other than retail at the time and his partner said to him, “You’re great with people, you should train the team.” He did have a clue of what he was about to do, he knew how to sell, he knew the intrinsic knowledge but he never taught sales and what came to him through that is that the root of sales is relationships and people. He recognized that if somebody’s going to be a fantastic sales person, a great customer service person, the key of that is just to be a better person. If you’re a better person, if you have done all that you can do to keep your life in check and put it on a path of improvement, naturally you’re going to be more pleasant, naturally you’re going to want to serve more, naturally you’re going to be willing to engage with another person because you have taken care of your own problems you can now help another. You can never help another if at the forefront of your mind you’re thinking, “How is this going to benefit me.” And so what they came up with is what they call, “The Select ‘n’ Start Core” and these are things that anybody can apply and if you can work on these things and fall back on them, some people have taken it as their ethical and moral compass in life as somebody has called and told him that, is that by utilizing these things, it’s not a one size fits all but it’s a guideline to say, “Am I improving, am I getting better?” and if they do that, then everything else starts to fall into place. What those five principles are, the first one is “Real Recognizes Real”, open up yourself, be honest, he’s not telling you to go out and tell everybody your story but don’t put on a show either, people only like a show when they know they’re going to a show. Nobody likes a show spontaneously in a store, so be yourself and what will happen is, in being yourself people naturally open up to you. One of the great ways he does a motivational speech is that he shares his pain and in sharing his pain and his genuine belief, other people come and share theirs. The next logic is that “You Can Learn Anything From Anything at Anytime”, a lot of people think education is only in the book but education is around us in all sorts of interactions and stories and sharing’s and observations and if your going to be a great customer service representative then that’s what you need to do, you need to be a great observer, “What can I learn?”, you’re serving a elderly person and you’re realizing that they can’t keep up with you, get them a chair, if you’re just aware of that observation and that observation comes with the desire to learn, you’ll know that they need a chair because they can’t keep up with the pace you’re moving at. If it’s a mother with a child, he has had mothers handing him their children on a first meet basis because he engaged and he recognized and the child would even reach and the child reaches because that realness, they know it’s not a show, children are way more intuitive than we give them credit for. So by just having the desire to learn, we develop the skill of observation and if we develop the skill of observation, we’ll naturally know what to do in a situation. The third one is, “You Can Never Be Kind Enough to Somebody for Them Not to Hurt You”, so you can give the best customer service to somebody, you can take all day and sell them a $1.00 at the end of the day and anybody who’s in customer service and sales know that that’s the most frustrating sale and that person can still come back and say you gave poor service. No matter how kind you are to somebody you can never be kind enough for them not to hurt you but the flip side of the coin is that it should never stop you from being kind. In that sense, don’t worry about what the other person is going to do, don’t do it to get their reaction, don’t do it for the consequence to come from them, do it because you know you should do it and because it’s right, you don’t need a manager to tell you that but what happens is that you have 2 bad sales experiences for the day and your manager is upset with you so guess what, “I’m not serving anybody else for the day because it’s going to lead to a problem.” But the fact is that those people, no matter how good you are to them they have no reason to be kind to you. If they chose to be kind, they’ll be kind but you have that choice as well and so he always says, “You can never be kind enough for somebody not to hurt you but that shouldn’t stop you from being kind.” The last 2 points is, “Level Up”, always seek ways of improving yourself, people hate being pushed, people love being pulled, so if you stand on top of something as the expert, as the champion, people want you to pull them up, nobody wants you to be underneath them or behind them pushing them forward, so if you’re going to really serve somebody, you need to be a champion in the particular industry, you need to pull that person up to your level of understanding and expertize and anything you say, they’ll follow. Jeffrey shared that the last thing is, “Always Share What Is Uniquely Yours”, all of us have gone through life with particular stories and troubles and challenges but those stories, troubles and challenges have built a certain perspective that only we have, that only each individual has their perspective, you could have a twin and your twin can be totally different from you, same mother, same father, same school, same opportunities, same education and yet you’re 2 totally different people because of one little change, one little biochemistry and those changes create unique perspectives and it’s in unique perspectives we create unique connections, so you must always be ready to share what’s uniquely yours which goes full circle back to “Real Recognizes Real.”
- Jeffrey shared that for motivation, they serve inspiration, motivation and personal development and it took him a long time to figure out the difference between the two. Motivation is the target and it’s easy when you have a target, when you say, “I’m going to get fit” and not just say you’re going to get fit but print out an image of what you want to look like, write down the measurements you want to have, see a picture of yourself, put a mirror, buy the gym clothes, get the membership, all of that can help to motivate you but if in your core, if in your soul, your root, your gut, whatever you want to call it, there isn’t a fit person there then no amount of motivation is going to help you. You must believe that you are called to be a fit person. What happens with motivation is that very often motivation is set as a goal and once the goal is achieved…loose sets in, so you have people who are world class athletes, they’re the champions, they’ve won the belt, they’ve won the medal, they’ve won the trophy and so they reach number 1 and very soon after they’ve reached number 1, somebody took it away from them. It’s because they were motivated to be champions, they weren’t inspired to be the best because if you’re inspired to be the best then every challenger, no matter your position, is a challenger that’s stopping you from being the best. And so what he had to find in himself was that inspiration and that inspiration came during that time of all the businesses that he was going through and all the changes he was making, at that time he was looking for motivation, he was looking for gold, he said, “If I get more money, I’ll get the better girlfriend, I’ll take care of the girlfriend, I’ll drive the car I want, I’ll live in the house I want.” All of that was great motivation but it was on bad days it wasn’t enough, on rough days it’s not enough and for a lot of us, we don’t recognize how rough it is sometimes for people. Depression is a real thing and depression is never depression of finances, it’s never depression of lack of food because when you lack in food your not thinking about depression, you’re thinking about lack of food. So what happens is that your soul, your gut, your being, your entity, your spirit is lacking and many people aren’t making the conscious effort to fill, they’re trying to distract, they’re trying to achieve and in achievement they will find happiness but money doesn’t soothe the soul, money can create opportunities, in fact, the bible says, “Money is the solution to all things.” A lot of people like to quote the bible and say; “Oh, money is the root of all evil” but literally couple verses down from that one it says “Money is the solution of all problems.” Jeffrey says, “I am not saying don’t go after it because you can take it and create something from it but money won’t soothe the soul” and that was what he was looking for at the time as he said he grew up with a big fascination with the renaissance men and he grew up with this idea that he can and could do anything he wanted to do, if he decided to be doctor, he would be a doctor, he had no question whether he could or couldn’t be a doctor but it doesn’t soothe the soul and what came is on this journey and consistently searching and fight. He had a vision and it was clear as day and he was parked in his car at a red light and he saw himself on stage speaking to an audience, he was so clear, he was wearing a black suit, white pinstripe, it was a night show, open air venue but when he looked out on the crowd, he couldn’t see the end of the people, the people met the horizon. And in that vision he found his inspiration, so on the day when he’s not motivated because a lot of us are trying to use motivation to keep going, what he does is that he has to fall back on that inspiration, he has to fall back on, “Jeffrey, what is your soul calling you to do?” “Oh, I can’t sprint today, I haven’t eaten right, I haven’t slept right, I haven’t train right, I haven’t stretched right, I cannot sprint today but I can walk.” And if he can walk, then he can move into the direction to which his soul is calling him and the funny part about that story is that happened to him at 25 years old, he had that thought when he was 8 years old and many of us have that same thought around the same time as well, when you get asked the question, “What do you want to be when you grow up?”and many of us throw out these phenomenal ideas like Astronaut, Scientist, Leader, Prime Minister, President, own my company and for one reason or another we give up on it and then we settle, we become employment seekers rather than value creators. What happened to him was that when he was 8 years old, he decided that he wanted to be a teacher and he told his mother and his mother said to him, “That’s great, that’s noble but just remember that teachers don’t make a lot of money.” And he went in his 8 year old brain and said, “Well if I can’t have money, then how am I going to be happy?” and gave up on the dream of teaching, fast forward 17 years, what did he turned around to do again? Teach, what more is a teacher than a single individual standing before an audience sharing knowledge, information and inspiration.
Jeffrey stated that once he acknowledged that…that was his calling, he has never not been able to take a step no matter how poorly, demotivated, no matter how much in the hole he is, his finances at some points are abysmal, you look at the books and go, “Jeez, how am I going to get out of this one?” and all it really is, is a challenge to say how bad do you really want it and what happens is a lot of us are pursuing goals and motivation that we don’t really want, we are not answering our true calling and the thing is, if we answer our true calling, we’re happier, we’re going to find other people interesting in it and if we do it long enough, you’ll become experts in it and people will pay for our expertize, it has been proven time and time again as abstract and as cliché as it sounds, it is not easy, if it was easy and Eric Thomas says this all the time, “If it was easy, everybody would do it.” So he’s not going to jump up and say it’s easy but he is going to say, everybody can do it, it’s can you dig into that grit to push through the challenges because life is going to consistently ask you, “How bad do you want it?” And that’s what gets him going in the morning; it’s that inspirational thought that he searched 17 years actively looking for, unfortunately many people haven’t even spent half an hour looking for it.
- Jeffrey shared that Youtube is one of the tools he cannot live without. He stated that a business partner of his, Fred Robertson and Fred asked him one time, “Jeffrey, you put out so much, you’re always willing to share, you’re always willing to contribute, who gives Jeffrey? Who puts into Jeffrey?” He had to pull on other speakers, he had to pull on other motivators, he had to pull on other lines of thought and the best place for that kind of collection is Youtube. There are certain magical qualities about a video, it doesn’t allow the imagination as engaged as reading would because with reading, the brain goes into over drive and does the imagination. He does his best to read a lot but immersing the senses, the hearing, the sight and the colors, you can almost feel certain peoples videos and those boost mean push him in a big way and teaches him a lot. He has learnt so much listening to other speakers just on Youtube alone much less when he goes to actual conferences and workshops, so if he has to jump on one thing off the bat and before the interview he was listening a speech on Youtube.
- Jeffrey shared that one of the books that have had a big impact on him is “Who Move My Cheese by Spencer Johnson” he would recommend that book to everybody, anybody that comes and say, “Jeffrey, what’s a good reading?” that book for sure, you cannot move forward without reading Who Moved My Cheese. It was the book that created the business, it’s the book that took the vision and made the business. He went to a mentor of his at the time and told him about the vision and he told him about the desire, the calling that he had and his mentor said, “Okay, what’s next?” and he told him, “I don’t know”and his mentor gave him his copy of Who Moved My Cheese, he doesn’t know where that copy is, he past it on to the next person who was in his situation and he hopes that it’s still making its rounds. The book is about being resolute and just taking action as you see, if you’ve never read it, he strongly recommend that book. It is about making a decision and taking action which is where the company name got its idea, “Select ‘n’ Start”. It sets such a solid mindset, you can’t do without it. Jeffrey also recommend “Acres of Diamonds by Russell H. Conwell” It is about finding wealth where you are, too many times we look at our situation and it’s such abysmal situation that we say we must go somewhere else to find it. Acres of Diamonds go through a number of stories that shows that wealth is right where we are if we have the open mindedness and the creativity in which to extract that value. So making a decision, taking action and doing it where you are, he couldn’t recommend bigger lessons for people starting out and as he said this goes right back to customer service because a lot of the time we blame people for poor customer service or we say they are poor customers so both sides of the coin have the complaint and yet what it is that we are not mining the opportunities that we have right there. Jeffrey shared a story that a elderly woman goes into a outlet store and she looks like she can’t afford and so nobody pays her any attention except for one young man who truthfully, he’s not even a server in the store, he’s more an errand and clean up guy but he takes the time and he serves her, she buys nothing, about 3 months later she comes back and she comes with a long list, they found out that she is actually European royalty and she’s looking to buy for her parcel and the only person who she would allow to sell her was the young man and she insisted, not only does he get full commission but he gets a service fee to come to the castle to make sure it’s properly installed. That’s the kind of opportunity that lay around us and we let them slip because of poor customer service, so if you’re going to serve, go for it full force because you never know that you maybe uncovering a acre of diamonds.
- Jeffrey shared that when he was 13 years old, he spent a lot of time questioning what’s wrong with Jamaica and spoke to many people double, triple, quadruple his age, got a lot of input, got a lot of thoughts and you’ll hear all sorts of answers, corruption, education, poor health facility, poor services, poor government agencies and what he boiled them down to was two major factors that any country in the world having problems, it’s probably these two factors as well. The education system and family unit structure, what happens is no matter how good you make the education system, if you have a poor family unit, the family unit undoes what the education tries to do in many cases. The teacher tells you that you can do anything you want, you go home and your mother tells you that you’re not going to amount to anything. He recognizes those two from a very young age and he still holds that strongly today that those are the two major factors holding back any third world country and so the big project Select ‘n’ Start is working on in summary is to fix those two things. When they started Select ‘n’ Start, the mission is to help people maximize their potential in an infinite number of ways, digitally, mentally, emotionally, physically, unlocking potential and they recognize that they can fix those two systems, they’ll accomplish the mission. Jeffrey stated that if they get other contracts and speaking engagements, establish people, coming up people, entrepreneurs, they’ll going in, they’ll motivate, they’ll share, they’ll develop and for the big part, that may be the bread and butter but the mission is how do they get everybody to unlock their maximum potential and that can’t be done by doing one off corporate gigs, it must be a project bigger than him, it must be a project bigger than Select ‘n’ Start, it must be a project bigger than Jamaica and that’s what they are working towards.
- Jeffrey shared that listeners can find him at –
Jeffrey Azan Instagram – @jj.azan
- Jeffrey shared that he has a lot of his own quotes that he reverts to in times of adversity. He stated that sometime when you do a speech as a speaker and you didn’t intend to say something and it flow together and he has two things that keeps him going and that is, “If I depend on others for my success, I’ll only have myself to blame.” He doesn’t want anyone to misconceptualize that he’s saying that does everything by himself, he knows he not a master of everything, he’s trying to be but he’s not. The point is if he depends on those doing the other jobs, if he makes his success sit in their hands then if they fail, he can’t blame them, he can only blame himself because his success is his responsibility. The second one is, “Your story matters.” It speaks to the knowledge that even your most minuscule action can change somebody’s world, some of us don’t recognize that when we make somebody smile in what was a nonchalant exchange to us but we made that person smile, it might have been the first time they smile for the day and it might be the only smile they get for the day, so we must be very conscious that all of our minuscule actions, from the smallest action, the smallest interaction, the smallest exchange, it matters and those small exchanges bill our story.