My grandmother turned 100 years old last month. Nanny, as she is affectionately called by family and close friends, celebrated the day with around 200 of her closest friends. She has been an inspiration to me for as long as I remember. But it was 20 years ago that she opened my eyes to two of the most important lessons in life – both for personal and business: 1) always work at making someone’s day better and 2) never stop learning.
For Nanny’s 80th birthday her two daughters, my mom and aunt, decided to throw her a surprise birthday party. At the time, she was still living on her own up in Sudbury, so the daughters reached out to key people in my Nanny’s network to spread the word about the upcoming event. I was young, recently engaged to Trish and was looking forward to being shown off by my beaming Nanny to all of her friends. I even tried in the days leading up to the party to toughen up my cheeks to weather the pinching they were going to receive.
The amount of people in the hall we rented was my first surprise. More than 130 people attended the event. My Nanny was way too busy greeting people and mingling to show me and the other grandkids off, so I made a point of introducing myself to as many of the guests as possible. No word of a lie, every single person I spoke with talked about the profound impact Nanny had made on their lives – from Girl Guides to Eastern Star, her work associates to the church. Just writing this now, I got goosebumps thinking about how sincerely people were talking about their great experiences with my Nanny.
She had so much fun at her 80th birthday that when she was about to turn 90 she said she wanted to hold another big bash. At least this time I knew what to expect in terms of what I was going to hear and learn about my Nanny. However, what I truly didn’t expect was the number of people. More than 160 people attended her 90th. Being the smartass, I am, I pulled her aside at one point and said, “You know, I don’t mean to be rude, but when we had your 80th ten years ago, most of your guests were no spring chickens. I certainly didn’t expect to see more people at your 90th.” “Well,” she replied without missing a beat, “I have had 10 more years to meet new people!”
And truly, it wasn’t that she just “met” new people. She connected with them and became part of their memories and experiences. The people at the parties weren’t there just for the cake. Don’t get me wrong, it was good cake and all, but really, they were there to share these memories and experiences with others and to celebrate together. There were no surprises at her 100th birthday party. I knew from experience that she could meet a lot of people in 10 years and I was prepared to hear the stories about the difference my Nanny made on people’s lives.
Wanting to make a difference in people’s lives can make your business more successful. When you give your customers a great experience and make a connection with them, your business becomes Nanny, and your customers become the people at the party wanting to share their memories and experiences with others. Pat’s Prime Cuts in Georgetown is a great example.
The first time I went in, Pat asked my name and we had a good talk about kids sports and activities because he had just moved to town and our kids were roughly the same age. As my kids have aged and continue down the rep sports path, I have less and less money for his incredible products but even now when I walk in after a year or more being away, Pat greets me by name. It’s not just me either. He seems to know everyone by name and now has a full staff of people serving his guests so that he has time to stay connected with them.
Even at GlowZone 360, I am often asked why we stand out. My answer is always, the staff. There are lots of places that you can play mini golf. Lots of places to play laser tag. And a myriad of places to host a child’s birthday party. What sets us apart is the experience our guests have because of our incredible staff. Word-of-mouth is still an incredible advertising medium and the best part is, it is free!!
Next month, Central Counties is launching a new Tourism Ambassador webinar which I highly recommend you, and your staff, take the time to watch. It will remind you of ways to engage with your guests and provide them with a positive experience in your location, your municipality and your region. We will be sending out an eBlast with the link once it is ready and uploaded.
I think I am going to end my ramblings here. Next month, I will tell you about how changing my Nanny’s phone from a party line to dial up 20 years ago has made me lose hundreds of games of Scrabble. Let me finish with one final thing about Nanny and her parties. As Nanny’s 100th party was winding down I was able to maneuver in to talk with her. I leaned in and said, “Wow, that was quite a turnout! What a great party!” With a sly look she replied, “Just wait until my 110th!!” We may need to rent a bigger hall…