Photo from Tyersall on Flickr
What started off as a typical Monday morning, ended up being a real-life class in how to conduct business.
I was out with my dad for breakfast (which by itself is pretty rare considering that he works, and we seldom eat out for breakfast) at our nearby 'kopitiam' (coffee shop), when we decided to replace our aging water heater that no longer works.
We stopped by a local hardware store that seems to be running for as long (or more) as the number of years I've been breathing. The owner, Mr Quek, is a 70+ year old chinese man, who commands a sense of bubbly grandfather-ism in his exterior.
Now anyway, back to the 'class'.
There are some quick lesson to be learnt
Knowledge of domain
As we were discussing with the proprietor whether or not we should purchase a bigger storage tank for the heater, another customer walked into the shop picking out some hardware. The proprietor immediately recognized him as someone he knew when he yelled, "Is that for your apartment at Keningston Park" and then goes to explain that that particular hardware will not work there.
Which also brings to the point of:
The proprietor knows who you are, where you're from and recommends you what you need. The customer feels relieved, saves time explaining his situation and gets what he needs. And there's no need for snazzy algorithms to do that.
After we paid and settled for the water heater, as we walked out of the shop, I realized that we weren't given an invoice. I asked my dad if he has taken it, to which he quickly quipped (and I paraphrase), "Don't worry, Master Quek has been around here for a very long time, he will not cheat you."
That trust is a very powerful thing and every business needs to build that up. To be able to earn the trust of parting hundreds of dollars without a need of an invoice, really is no easy feat.
With everything being said, these are important guidelines to live by. We've all seen big corporate companies forget the fundamentals of serving their customers, and sometimes just observing how long-running small businesses in your neighbourhood can help bring back some perspective on how to run a business.