Max and the Little Extras
In this latest abstract from Ed Wallace’s book, Business Relationships That Last, Ed and Max, the remarkable taxi driver, remind us that it’s all about the experience that we create for our customers and colleagues and many times that experiences is manifested in doing all of the ‘little things.’ “Max and the Little Extras” is a great reminder of that.
Three weeks later, on the morning Max had agreed to pick me up, I was running a few minutes behind schedule. I kept checking out the front window, hoping to catch him before he rang the doorbell. At exactly 5:00 a.m., I heard a gentle tap on the screen door. As I walked to the taxi with Max, I imagined how many people had probably ridden in his taxi over the previous three weeks, yet despite that large number, he had remembered I had an infant son who was most likely sleeping at such an early hour. Max’s thoughtfulness and ability to remember details about my life impressed me.
During my next several rides to the airport in Max’s marvelous taxi, we talked almost entirely about my life. (Notice that I was no longer driving myself to the airport!) He asked about my work, where I was traveling to, my ambitions, my family. I could hardly believe how at ease I felt opening up to him. I was more comfortable telling Max things about myself than I was telling people I had known much longer. The more time I spent with Max, the more interested I became in learning how he was able to make me—and most likely all of his customers—feel so comfortable.
When asked, he told me a few things about himself, his business, and his day-to-day schedule as a taxi driver and small business owner. His clients could not be easily categorized. They were local CEOs and their colleagues. They were sales professionals going to the airport and elderly people going shopping. They were groups of ladies going to the city for a day at the art museum, lunch, and a nice tour of the historic district. I finally asked how he had developed such a long list of loyal customers, hoping he would provide me with a “secret to success” that most client-facing professionals dream about. “Simple, Ed,” he answered, holding his thumb and index finger about an inch apart. “It’s the little extras that turn fares into friends.” I thought about what Max meant by the “little extras.” Sure, it was great fun riding around in his taxi; it was the only one of its kind in the area and attracted a lot of attention. But that was only a “It’s the little extras that turn fares into friends.” That’s a small part of what made Max a success—and he was a remarkable business success.
After a few minutes, I realized that his entire business philosophy was based on friendship, and the little extras that friends would do for each other. So, I asked, “What are these little extras? Are they the on-time arrivals? The courtesy and warmth? Treating everyone equally? The impeccable upkeep of the taxi and the quiet environment it provides? The bottled water? Listening, remembering, and having a genuine interest in the riders’ lives? The gentle tap on the screen door at five o’clock in the morning?” Max answered, “Yes.” “Which one?” I asked. Just as the words were coming out of my mouth, I got it. Of course, how could I not get it? Max was skilled at identifying and aligning with each rider’s specific needs and situation. But how did he do this? I believe that Max woke up every morning thinking not that he was going to work but that he was going to spend the day with his close friends. This is obviously a very different approach from viewing business as a series of transactions in which both parties want something from each other. If we define friends as “parties who help one another,” and if you consider everyone you interact with your friend, then adding the little extras in your business relationships would be as easy as including them in your personal life, which you do naturally. On the simplest level, Max’s job was to provide a ride from one place to another. Any driver could do that, and do it on time, safely, and courteously. But when you rode with Max, the quality of the relationship, the conversation—the whole experience—was so enjoyable, supportive, enlightening, and pleasant that you didn’t want the trip to be over. He had mastered the art of taking his so-called simple business from a merely transactional level to the It’s the Little Extras!
The Time is Now