It is interesting how much you could learn from tradespeople. I was in Sydney last week – it was wonderful to feel the cold nip in the air again. I have always felt the Australian pride with their R.M. Williams boots – over the years, they had become part of my wardrobe as well. This Craftsman boot, however, was feeling quite tight, and I decided to get it set right.
I headed out to the Strand, a 1891 Victorian style building on Pitt Street, to find another customer ahead of me in the store. It gave me the opportunity to observe the store owner in action. This customer had a Louis Vuitton cloth bag from which he took out a sneaker to complain about a biting sensation around the heel. I observed that this customer was nattily dressed and exuded an aura of money – surely, an opportunity for the store owner to levy a hefty bill.
What happened next surprised me – the store owner pulled out a small cushioning pad from his shelf, adjusted it within the heel of the shoe and told his customer that his problem should now be resolved. The customer pulled out his wallet to pay, but the owner declined. He would only charge if it was a bigger issue. The surprised customer smiled, thanked him, and left.
It was now my turn. I smiled at the owner and said, “Did you observe how happy that customer was, when he left?”. The shop owner introduced himself as Robert and said that he did that often to his customers – surprise them with genuine service and never charge for trivia. Robert was curious to find out what I did for a living, and I told him that I had the pleasurable vocation of coaching leaders.
Robert shared that he had been a Rugby coach for 27 years before opening this shop. He coached the cerebral kids at Sydney Grammar to stand up to the stronger, faster kids from other school districts. His mantra was not to push but to use the art of the nudge – 1% better every day. I smiled as I recalled Atomic Habits by James Clear: 1.01 to the power of 365 equals 37.8. A 1% improvement every day yielded 38 times better results by the end of the year, and Robert knew this instinctively.
It was now his turn to examine my boots, and he said that it would take at least 3 days to get it fixed. I was leaving the next day, so he promised to send the shoes to Singapore. He took down my address, shared his contact details and I pulled out my phone to pay. He said that I could pay only after I have received the shoes and it met my satisfaction. I was taken aback and asked him how he could trust a stranger so much. He said “Sir, After all, it’s only a pair of boots!!”. We smiled warmly at each other, shook hands, and I took my leave.
On reflection, I realised that here was a tradesman who lived the truism of “Go Givers get more”. He invested in his customers, led with trust, and acted with integrity – making every customer visit memorable. I wonder how all of us can make every customer meeting memorable every day.
How could your art of giving, beget you more?