THAT ADVICE FROM MOM STILL APPLIES

Whose mother hasn't said it? You know, ''Wear clean underwear. You never know when you might be in an accident.''

Mom had lots of good advice for us as children, for us as adults and for us as business people. That's the contention of business columnist Rhonda Abrams, the author of ''Wear Clean Underwear'' (Dell Publishing).In her short paperback, Abrams pulls together a baker's dozen of homilies from her mother and mothers everywhere. By applying these principles to the everyday business world, she says, you can find fruitful approaches to your problems and opportunities.

Look at several of the sayings and how they apply:

* ''I don't care how you made this mess. Just clean it up.''

''Mom wasn't interested in your excuses or finger-pointing. She didn't care who made the mess, and she didn't care how it all got started. She just wanted the house cleaned up. Now!'' Abrams writes.

She uses an example of an outstanding company in customer service, Nordstrom. The tale goes that a woman came into the store dissatisfied with a set of tires she had purchased. The clerk refunded her the money - even though Nordstrom doesn't sell tires.

Finding a way to make the customer happy is a way of life at Nordstrom. Abrams suggests the happiness and satisfaction of the customer is much more valuable than a set of tires or something else. Don't look for excuses; look for solutions.

* ''If all your friends jumped off a bridge, would you jump off one, too?''

Just because a competitor is doing something doesn't mean everybody should be doing it, Abrams contends.

Herb Kelleher, the much beloved head of Southwest Airlines, is the oddball in the corporate world. His concern for his employees has made his company one that is envied worldwide. Other airlines' CEOs are more business and less personal. He acts like he cares for his people, because he does.

Abrams cites an example from a number of years ago. Southwest was being challenged by an advertisement from Northwest Airlines. Northwest was contending that it was No. 1 in customer service. Kelleher took out a simple ad that said, ''After lengthy deliberation at the highest executive levels, and extensive consultation with our legal department, we have arrived at an official corporate response to Northwest Airlines' claim to be No. 1 in customer satisfaction. 'Liar, liar. Pants on fire.' ''

* ''Wear clean underwear. What if you get into an accident and someone sees it?''

This advice has nothing to do with Fruit of the Loom.

Abrams writes, ''Integrity - that's what this book is all about. Integrity and character. That's what constitutes our moral and ethical underwear: the values we have at our core, underneath the outer layers we consciously show to the world.''

* ''It's not the end of the world.''

How many times do we tell ourselves this every week? Accepting, anticipating and even applauding failure should be a part of everyday business, Abrams writes, not just reserved for the creative process.

She tells the well-worn story of 3M's Post-it Notes. Spence Silver had invented an adhesive that, well, didn't stick very good.

Co-worker Art Fry realized that he could use it to ''stick'' a removable bookmark in place. Spence's ''failure'' turned into Fry's success.

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