No matter how old we get, wouldn’t it be nice if we could just have our parents back for a little while to ask them a few more questions? And THIS time, we would listen to them ! What brought this to my mind is that Martha and I just got back from an annual four day meeting I have at the Ponte Vedra Inn & Club in Ponte Vedra Beach , Florida. Having been in the resort and service business all of my adult life, it’s very difficult for me not to be critical of things that I see in the service business.
Well, these folks do it right, and always have. I watched how friendly and attentive the entire staff was from housekeeping on up. That kind of service does not happen by accident. Someone is constantly preaching and training on customer service to achieve that level of service. I’m always an early riser, and enjoyed watching the maintenance people adjusting the sprinkler heads at daylight because the patterns of spray were not perfect. It is just one of the many things I observed, and is one of the reasons we have held our meeting there since 1994. We also have no intentions of changing locations.
That got me to thinking of so many of the things my parents taught me about the service business when I first came home, and thought I knew everything. I will never forget my Dad saying, ” Son, don’t worry about the big things. You will never let those big balls drop, but it’s the little things that make a difference”. Folks have a tendency to notice the little things more than you can imagine. I can’t walk by a piece of trash on the ground without picking it up. When your employees notice you doing that, they will do the same thing.
Dad also taught me that the sweetest sound in the world was the sound of a man’s own name. From 1971-2013, I could call every guest by name after meeting him. I would learn 32 names, three times a week, and call them by name when they walked in for breakfast. That’s Cader IV’s job now, and it’s a good thing because I think that the hard drive on my brain circuit is full. If I could dump out useless information such as ,” Mary had a little lamb, it’s fleece was white as snow”, I might have room up there to store more information. However, until they learn how to do a brain dump, my storage capacity is full.
From my mother I learned the importance of smiling and laughing. Mom told me years ago, “When faced with adversity, you can either laugh or cry. You might as well laugh because neither choice is going to change the outcome”. I firmly believe people who laugh a lot live longer. And in the people business, you sure as heck need to learn how to laugh because some of the things I have been asked over the years reminds me of another of my Dad’s favorite sayings when frustrated with someone–” He’s just breathing oxygen that someone else could have used”.
But the most important thing that I learned from my parents, and the one that I fervently hope that I have passed on to both Cader IV and his two sisters, is that all of business is about relationships. Your customers have to know that you care about them as human beings rather than as just a potential income source. I told Cader IV when I was running Riverview that I wanted any guest who came here to think of my name when they thought about quail hunting. It was OK for them to think about Riverview in the next thought, but they needed to think about me as a friend first, and then his thought would logically flow to calling here for a hunting reservation.
I have been blessed to have the finest guests and friends in the world. They have taught me a lot over the years–including how to laugh at some really crazy questions and suggestions ! We are having a great summer, and hope y’all are also.