business news in context, analysis with attitude

by Michael Sansolo

In any business setting, small things matter so much. While it may not impact the cost or total experience, we like to be greeted courteously at a restaurant or doctor’s office, just as we like professional contacts to look professional.

It’s especially nice when staffers do the little bit extra, such as complimenting us on a purchase. In a quiet way it confirms our choices.

So let me tell you about Damoni and the short, simple interaction we had.

Damoni is an usher at a Broadway theater in New York. Let’s accept the reality that being an usher is not a high paying, high profile job. Ushers simply direct people to their seats. They have no connection to the cast, the music or any other part of the show.

Most importantly, no one is walking into or out of a show because of the usher. But, in a short and simple interaction, Damoni showed me he cares and feels a part of a winning team.

It happened last week. Thanks to an incredible bit of luck and timing, my wife and I ended up sitting in the seventh row for “Hamilton,” the phenomenal Broadway show for which people drop thousand of dollars and wait endless months to see. We did neither and still scored tickets.

Let’s get this out of the way: the show is better than the hype. It is a staggering achievement in virtually every way.

I could talk about the genius of the show’s creator, Lin-Manual Miranda, who read a book about Alexander Hamilton and was moved to write the musical. But that's almost too much for one column. Instead, let's focus on one recurring theme, expressed by George Washington at one point when he says that one can no more control how one is remembered by posterity than one can control when one is born or dies. it is always someone else who tells your story.

"Hamilton" proves the point.

By telling the story from Hamilton's perspective, we learn that Lafayette’s role in the American Revolution was very large, while Jefferson's may have been smaller (and more petty) than often portrayed. Washington becomes a fully formed person with stunning strengths and foresight that makes the American experiment take flight. And Aaron Burr, who eventually shoots and kills Hamilton, was incredibly complex, yet lacking in conviction and morals.

If Miranda had told the story from Burr's perspective, it would've been a very different musical.

Obviously businesses aren’t working on as grand a scale as the Broadway musical or about as grand a story as the American revolution. But still, every business has a story that it wants to tell, about a specific value equation or point of differentiation it offers. Yet, in the end, you don’t control how the story is told.

Your story is told when a disgruntled shopper writes a social media review, just as it is told in the way your staffers execute. You may promise to be the friendliest store in town, but it’s the smiles or lack thereof that shoppers see. So you have a story, but you don’t get to tell it. That ultimately falls to others.

And that’s where my interaction with Damoni the usher comes in. During the intermission at "Hamilton" I found myself standing near Damoni, who looked at me and made a simple comment: “Pretty awesome, isn’t it.”

He didn’t have to say a thing. Most ushers wouldn't, and don't. But he did, confirming the experience I was having. I asked him what it’s like to see the show repeatedly as an usher. Damoni told me he loves it every single time. It’s possible he has been coached to talk this way, just as waiters always tell you that you ordered their favorite dish. But it also is possible he’s just a great associate.

Be honest: Wouldn’t you be overjoyed to have random employees provide that kind of moment to customers. Of course, you can’t guarantee it will happen, but you can emphasize to staffers the importance of those small gestures. Those efforts won’t stop angry Yelp reviewers, but they will help tell the story the way you want it told.

Remember, small things always matter. Even when telling a grand story.

You only get so many shots. You can't afford to throw any of them away.

Michael Sansolo can be reached via email at . His book, “THE BIG PICTURE: Essential Business Lessons From The Movies,” co-authored with Kevin Coupe, is available on Amazon by clicking here. And, his book "Business Rules!" is available from Amazon by clicking here.
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