Are Your Policies Killing Your Opportunities?

By Bill Stainton

Back when I was in high school (or it might have been shortly after; I don’t really remember, and it doesn’t really matter), I got a part-time job at the Don Randall Music Store in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. It was on my very first day that Mr. Randall-in a move that seemed almost like magic to me-taught me a great lesson.

It was the end of the day, and we had just closed the store and locked the glass front doors. There were just three of us there-myself, another employee, and Mr. Randall-and we were busy with the typical “end of the day” jobs: sweeping the floors, tallying the registers, etc. All of a sudden, I heard someone knocking at the door.

He was kind of shabby looking, and he was carrying a beat-up guitar case. I, trying to be a good, policy-following employee on my very first day, told him through the glass that we were closed. He said he just wanted to get some guitar strings. I was about to repeat that we were closed but that he could buy some guitar strings tomorrow when Mr. Randall came up behind me and asked what was going on. Shabby Guy repeated his desire to buy some strings.

Instantly, Mr. Randall unlocked the door, saying, “Let’s get this young man some guitar strings.”
Okay, now here’s the part that blew me away. I went back to sweeping the floor, while Mr. Randall and Shabby Guy went to the guitar section of the store. About twenty minutes later, Shabby Guy leaves. Did he have new guitar strings?

You bet he did. They were attached to his brand new Fender Stratocaster guitar… which he would be playing through his brand new Fender Twin Reverb amplifier.

I looked at Mr. Randall like he was a wizard. In twenty minutes, he had turned a $5 sale into a $500 sale-from a guy whom I wouldn’t have guessed had more than fifty bucks to his name. Mr. Randall looked at me and said, “Never let policy get in the way of opportunity.”

Never let policy get in the way of opportunity.
That’s good, don’t you think?

What Mr. Randall taught me seems obvious, doesn’t it? The purpose of the Don Randall Music Store was to sell musical instruments-not to close on time.

What’s the purpose of your business? Do you, or any of your team members, every short-change that purpose under the guise of “following policy”? Are each of your team members crystal clear on the purpose of the organization that they work for? Are you?

A recent survey showed that only one employee in seven could name even one of their organization’s most important goals.

Job #1, then, is educating your team on the organization’s goals. Don Randall’s goal was selling musical instruments.

Job #2 is to not let policy get in the way of achieving those goals.


For 15 years, Executive Producer Bill Stainton led his team to more than 100 Emmy Awards and 10 straight years of #1 ratings. Today Bill helps leaders achieve those kinds of results–in THEIR world and with THEIR teams. His website is