Tanveer Naseer

Leadership Coach, Speaker, and Writer

A Tale of Two Businesses – Some Lessons on Improving How You Manage Your Company

Image courtesy of Life Magazine

Recently my wife and I took advantage of the school summer break to take our kids on vacation at one of our country’s most popular tourist destinations. As it was the first time we’d taken our kids there, it was only natural that we wanted to check out the various sites and attractions found throughout the area. Going from one tourist activity to another, it was interesting to note the subtle, as well as not so subtle, differences in how these different attractions were managed and the resulting lasting impressions each one made.

Granted, the issues facing companies in the tourism/entertainment business can differ greatly from those experienced in other industries. However, like all businesses, these companies also have to grapple with the challenge of not only encouraging repeat business, but fostering good word of mouth in order to attract new customers as well.

With this in mind, I want to share with you two stories from our family vacation and through it, the lessons businesses can apply today to better manage their companies, both in terms of their employees and their customers.

Story #1 – A lesson in leading others from a theme-restaurant manager
During our vacation away from home, we ate at several restaurants, including one that our kids were eager to visit – a theme-restaurant that was designed to look like a rainforest/jungle, featuring various animatronic animals, a live shark/tropical fish aquarium, and a light and sound show that added to the jungle-environment feel of the place.

A few minutes after we were seated, a woman stopped by our table and introduced herself as the restaurant’s manager. She pointed out how my wife, sitting at one of the table’s outer chairs, had put her purse in a place that might not be very secure and that perhaps it would be better to leave it next to our children sitting along the wall of the restaurant. After we thanked her for her attention and help, she invited us to contact her if we needed anything during our stay and then went off to check on other areas of her restaurant.

As we didn’t see the restaurant manager again, it wouldn’t be surprising that such a brief encounter would be soon forgotten. And yet while the interaction itself was nothing significant, it still illustrates a key point about how leaders should manage their teams and along with it, their business.

Having the manager of the restaurant stopping by our table to address this minor, though potentially costly issue if my wife’s purse was stolen, demonstrated to us that the management of this business cared about their customers’ experience while visiting their establishment. More importantly, her conduct showed her employees that looking out for their customers was not only important, but critical to their success. By choosing to get out from behind her desk and walk around and engage with the customers at her restaurant, she demonstrated to her employees that taking care of their customers was as important as any of the other tasks or responsibilities that she had to deal with from within her office.

Of course, this didn’t mean that this manager stepped in whenever there was a hint of trouble or concern. Indeed, the fact that she faded back into the background demonstrated that she trusted the ability of those on the front lines to manage the needs of their guests. In true leadership fashion, she stuck around long enough to serve as an example to her team before she took a few steps back in order to let her staff take over the reins.

While our visit to this jungle theme restaurant turned out to be one of the more expensive meals we had during our vacation, the care and attention exhibited by the restaurant’s staff – no doubt in large part a result of the example their manager was presenting – made our time and experience well worth the price. Witnessing this lesson on effective leadership was an added bonus, if not also a welcome surprise.

Story #2 – A lesson on the importance of taking your customer’s perspective into account
Like most kids, our children love seeing animals either by visiting local farms or nearby zoos. As such, one of the other attractions we visited during our vacation was a marine zoo which my wife and I hadn’t been to since we were kids ourselves. Naturally, we both assumed that this marine park must have grown since then, both in terms of the number of activities it now offers, as well as the overall size of the park.

What we hadn’t expected, though, is that the park owners would choose to spread out these new activities over such long distances – especially when one considers that it’s a main attraction for younger kids – with few signs offering directions or even some side activities for families to pit-stop at along the way.

The other issue my wife and I noted was the complete lack of information being provided about the animals in their facility, information like the animals names, what they ate and and how old they were. It wasn’t too surprising to see several families stopping to take a few photos and after a bit wandering off to find something else to do given the lack of information or staff being present to answer any questions visitors might have about the animals.

Of course, if one looks at the attendance numbers for this park, it would appear that this business is doing very well. And yet, herein lies the problem with relying solely on certain metrics to determine your company’s health, as it doesn’t necessarily offer you insights on how your product or service is viewed or regarded by those who use it.

I’m sure if the park owners were to visit their facility as a guest and not as the proprietor, they would notice very quickly themselves the lack of signs offering directions or displays providing information about their animals, not to mention to large amount of dead space found between activities. They’re simple measures to be sure, but sometimes it’s those little details that business owners tend to overlook which end up having a significant impact on the overall health of their business.

As in the case with the first story, it’s understandable that many leaders find themselves stuck behind their desks, getting lost behind all the paperwork and calls for their attention. But making the time to check out how your products/services are being used and perceived by those who use it can not only help you build loyal customers, it can also provide you with insights on how you can improve your products or services to better meet the needs of those you’re trying to serve.

There’s a lot of discussion these days about the need for dramatic change. After seeing the differences in how various businesses manage their offerings and their team, I think perhaps what’s needed more is the understanding that sometimes little changes are all that’s needed to see those dramatic differences we all strive to make.

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  1. On August 16th, 2010 at 11:28 AM Richard A Marti Jr said:

    Yes Tanveer, change does not have to be radical. In both of your examples you highlighted the important point around change must revolve, the customer and their experience. Yes it is important that we keep an eye on our business. That focus must today include a view from the perspective of our clients and customers. Are we meeting or excceding their expectations?

  2. On August 16th, 2010 at 4:09 PM Tanveer Naseer said:

    Thanks Richard. That’s an important question you end your comment with, about whether companies are meeting or exceeding the expectations of their customers. It can be a challenge at times to meet the expectations of your target audience, but once you do, it’s important to remain vigilant to not simply coast once reaching that level. Instead, knowing that you’re meeting the expectations of your customers should motivate businesses to see what changes can be made to exceed them, in order to make sure you keep your existing customer base while at the same time potentially gaining some new fans along the way.

    Glad you enjoyed this piece, Richard. Thanks for sharing your thoughts on it.

  3. On August 17th, 2010 at 7:37 AM Kirstine Vergara said:

    I work in a service industry and I’ve learned that a client’s perception is reality. A client would not be able to think of a concern without having any basis. It may not be 100% accurate, but it was definitely perceived out of something. My point here is that, aside from listening to your client’s feedback, you should also learn how to read between the lines. A client may not be saying it directly to your face, but in all possible means he is trying to tell you something.
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  4. On August 17th, 2010 at 7:45 PM Tanveer Naseer said:

    Hi Kirstine,

    I always find it amazing how companies still don’t understand the importance of paying attention to what their customers are saying. Even Apple recently started turning a deaf ear/blind eye to its customers when it refused to acknowledge the problems users were having with its latest iPhone version. Granted, they ultimately provided a solution to the problem, but I can’t help but think for a company that many hold up as an example of how to create a fantastic customer experience, they really dropped the ball on that one.

    Thanks for sharing your experience with this, Kirstine.

  5. On May 1st, 2012 at 8:55 PM Harvey Baker said:

    What ever happened to customer service? It's the little things that customers remember and it doesn't take that much more time or effort by employees. Customers appreciate a business that cares. Today, that's what separates one business from another.

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