Since publishing his book “The Business of Gratitude” in 2017, Del Mar resident Steven A. Littlefield has spent the last two years teaching its system for writing hand-written thank you notes that can help lead to longer-lasting, more fulfilling relationships and better business prospects.
After a jail sentence on cocaine charges derailed his medical school aspirations, Littlefield turned to sales and became a mortgage loan officer. Over the years, thank you notes have been one of his integral tools for standing out from the crowd. He said he’s working on two followup books to complete the “Business of ...” series.
This interview has been edited for clarity and conciseness.
Q. What inspired you to write “The Business of Gratitude”?
Three weeks after my birthday I was rushing to the hospital, the emergency room. My surgeon came in with tears in her eyes, crying that this happened to me. Turns out that a staple had popped and my body went septic and she wasn’t sure if she was going to be able to keep me alive. As I was in the hospital, I said, ‘What’s going to get me out of here alive?’ And my idea was to write a book. The second thought was, if I could only write one tool ... if I was going to share one tool that made the difference in this business and my life, what would it be? And it was the hand-written thank you note. And “The Business of Gratitude” comes from understanding that the gratitude mindset determines everything you do.
Q. How did you develop your system of writing thank you notes?
I framed the book in the mortgage world, because that’s where I built my career. And every person I met, I would write thank you notes to. Every transaction I did, every transaction I couldn’t do. And it was a tool that allowed me to make a great second impression without the fear of rejection. It takes eight to 10 contacts to make a sale. And a sale can be developed in a relationship, a sale can be selling insurance, selling a car, selling an idea, selling whatever it is. When you meet someone for the first time, say you just want to play golf. When you meet them, you go ‘Oh, you play golf? I play golf.’ Well, there’s got to be a followup sequence to that. So you send a note ... and then what that does is it opens up the communication to where that person sends you an email or a phone call or a text.
Q. What kind of feedback have you been getting from people who have been using the teachings in your book?
Everyone that implements it gets immediate impact, immediate results. When I do my talks, I have people pull out their phone and I teach them the system. Because the biggest challenge with writing thank you notes, people do it backwards. They write the note and then they put it in the envelope and they address the envelope, or they start to write the note because they don’t know what to say, then they get confused and then it doesn’t get done, then it’s one of those things that I should do but then I don’t do. If you set up a way for your brain to win, where just doing a task allows you to be successful, then it will follow through to the next step. So when I do my talks, I tell everyone, ‘Pull out your phones. Can you think of one person you’re grateful for, that you just want to say thank you to?’ Alright, let’s address the envelope.
Q. Are personal gestures such as thank you notes lacking in today’s society?
We were all taught to write thank you notes when we were little kids. Your parents, thank grandma for your Christmas present, thank you for your birthday. We now do email. Email is more convenient, which is better than nothing. It’s the next step. So now, I meet someone, I can send them an email, it’s instant. Then I write my thank you card which comes a week later, three to five days later, which responds with another email, which sets up a phone call, which sets up a coffee, which sets up a lunch, which sets up a relationship. You have to go through that. That’s how human nature is.
Q. Is the book geared more toward cultivating professional or personal relationships?
Business is personal. People do business with people they know, like and trust. It’s about you developing a personal relationship.
Littlefield’s book is available on Amazon. For more information, visit stevenalittlefield.com.