An Ocean of Thanks

Earlier this year I attended the 30th anniversary of a business in Wellington. The company invited 10 past clients, 10 current clients, and 10 staff members for dinner at a 30-seat restaurant to mark the occasion.

I should have said I was attending the 30th anniversary of a friend’s business, but there was no category of invitations for friends.

I hadn’t been a client of this company for the best part of 10 years, and here I was being generously hosted for a special dinner and thanked for my past business.

One previous staff member flew in from Melbourne at her own cost to attend the event. I had caught up with Rochelle in Melbourne for dinner a few years earlier, after she had left the business – she had become a friend too.

30 years in business is a great milestone, and a wonderful achievement – certainly cause to celebrate – but what struck me was the love in the room.

The business owner spoke about difficult times, when he felt close to losing the business. The business is thriving now. He choked up and was close to tears, hopefully with a touch of pride, when he reflected on the tens of millions of dollars of wages his company had paid over the years – that’s a lot of staff members’ mortgages, groceries, doctors visits and school fees. He was genuinely thankful for his team’s contributions and his clients’ business.

It made me think about the reasons for this business’s success. Sure, there’s creativity, design skills, strategic advice, service delivery and communication, but even more, it’s the relationships that the owners and staff have built. Built through doing all those things to a high standard consistently, through delivering value and through making their clients feel valued – including saying thank you in many different ways. The fun, thoughtful and rigorously on-brand gifts at Christmas (I still have, and use that hammock!). The wedding invitations designed and printed for me as a gift. The logo for my wife’s small business where I’m sure we broke new ground in the definition of mates-rates. The dinner invitation almost 10 years after last using the company’s services.

And it’s the team of great people this company employed, valued, invested in, developed, empowered and let loose on clients like me.

It was a delicious, fun dinner and a powerful reminder that good business is about treating people well.  That doesn’t mean expensive gifts and flash dinners – small thoughtful, genuine gestures can have a huge impact.  What do you do to make sure your clients and customers – past, present and future – know that they’re valued and important to you?

By the way, the restaurant is called Rita. The food and service are top notch – a casual-yet-sophisticated dining room near Wellington’s CBD in Aro Valley. Highly recommended. Say ‘Hi’ to Paul and give him a hug from me.

The 30 year old company is Ocean Design. If you ever need a great design solution, creative inspiration or a strategic kick-in-the-pants you should at least consider them.  And they have cake.

Of course I need to declare an interest here – the owner, Blair, is a friend of mine. Maybe you’ll be lucky enough to be a client that becomes a friend of Blair’s one day too.

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