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The Fred Factor

Updated: Dec 19, 2021

You can make an impact. It doesn't matter what you do, who you are, or where you are at. You can choose to be the person who changes the lives of those around you. You can be a FRED.

This summer, I am taking a class called "Biblical Ministries Field Work." The class requires me to complete an internship of at least 10 weeks (10 hours a week). This may seem terrifying to you. 100 hours of unpaid work! How awful. To me, it is just an opportunity to finally get back into youth ministry after a year away (In self-quarantine, ugh. Thank you COVID).

Anyway, I started that internship up last week (17-23 of May) having met with my "supervisor" the week before to discuss what the internship would look like and I was blessed with a copy of a book he wanted me to read.

The Fred Factor.

The Fred Factor is a reasonably short book (only about 112 pages long) and a pretty easy read even for people who might not read a lot (though perhaps someone who doesn't have a goal of reading 100 books in a year should make that statement).

The main basis of the book is this: everyone can (and should) be a Fred.

It is here that I should quickly explain what a "Fred" is. If you read the book, you will get this explanation in the first chapter but really, before reading the book, I'll admit, I was a little bit thrown off by the title. Who would name a book "The Fred Factor"? What does "Fred" have to do with anything?

What I didn't realize (and discovered reading the book) was that the author (Mark Sanborn) had been speaking to audiences about Fred and "the Fred factor" for years before publishing the book. So the title really did make sense. He had an audience for it.

So who was Fred? And what is "the Fred factor"?

Well the original Fred, as Sanborn explains in the first chapter, was a mailman who went above and beyond to make his customers happy. He introduced himself when new people moved in on his route. He tried to get to know his customers to understand what they needed. He never overfilled their mailboxes when they were away (so that robbers didn't know that they were away) and if he found packages delivered to the wrong address by other services, he corrected the mistake.

So what is a "Fred"? A Fred is someone who, like the original Fred, goes out of their way to impact the lives of others. In their jobs, they try to provide the best services and/or goods possible. In their lives, they try to serve others however they can.

A Fred is the waitress that provides excellent service when you ask for a new meal made because your's came out with something you asked to be removed (because you're allergic). Maybe she even gives you a complimentary lemonade! A Fred is the clerk at the craft store who knows there will be a sale on the t-shirts you want to buy next week and suggests you come back then. A Fred is the high-schooler who stops to pick up that trash that someone dropped on the pavement or who kindly waves at the freshman walking to their classes alone.

Being a Fred doesn't take a lot and thus, Sanborn suggests we can all do it if we change our mindsets and search for ways to be that person.

I enjoyed the book. Mostly because I truly believe what it is teaching. I have never had a name to put to the "factor" that Sanborn labels the "Fred factor" but I have been taught to believe in and act out the "Fred factor" for most of my life. I grew up with parents who are now both pastors. I went to Christian school from 3rd to 8th grade and I attended church almost every Sunday for pretty much my entire life. By the time I was choosing to attend Midweeks at the church I had come to love (not the someone as my parent's church) I had grown a love for service and been taught that to love God is to love others. Sanborn's book The Fred Factor truly embodies this ideal though he never mentions God or Christianity (and I have no idea if he is a Christian).

I was also taught these same ideals at one of my first jobs. Though I did have a job at Westside Pizza (best pizza in Redding if you are ever near here) for a short while, I will always be aware that my dad knew the manager of the store and helped me to get that job. I got my job at In N Out on my own.

In N Out teaches their employees to have the "Fred factor" though they certainly don't call it that. They want their employees to work with a smile on their face, treat customers with respect, and give customers more than what they are paying for. At In N Out, the goal is not to get the burger into the customer's hand as fast as possible. The goal is to keep the place clean and sanitary as possible, keep things moving as quickly as possible, and to give customers not only what they ordered and paid for, not only what they wanted (which is sometimes different than what they ordered, let's be honest) but what they need. In N Out associates try to be Freds as much as possible to customers and to each other. The store even has an award they give to associates who do all this: "associate on fire."

I would definitely suggest reading this book and applying it to your business, family, and life. The ideals in this book are spot on and the book is a really easy read.

P.S. - There are a few Freds in my life that should be mentioned though I won't mention them by name as I have not asked for their permission. My mother and father of course are Freds every moment of every day. My Senior High pastor and ministry assistant are Freds not only to me but to every student who has been in their care. My two best friends are Freds and have supported me and made me laugh more times than I can count. An employee at In N Out (on Dana Drive) is a Fred and is not only the best Fred that the company has (to the customers) but was a great Fred to me. There are so many others as well but it would take years to name them all so I will leave it at that. Go be Freds, everyone!

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