“If you treat people right and always do a good job, customers will always come back.” ~ Harold Smith
I’ve been flying in and out of the Will Rogers Airport in Oklahoma City since the late 1970’s. For most of those years, I have often stopped for a shoe shine from a man named Harold Smith. Many airports have a shoe shine stand but I rarely stop, but anytime I’m in Oklahoma City, I try to make time to see Harold. Last week was one of those times when I got to the airport in time to visit with my old acquaintance. You can get to know a lot about a person in ten-minute intervals and Harold knows a lot about many of his customers.
As I climbed onto Harold’s shine stand late Friday afternoon after a long week, Harold mentioned, “I sure do like these shoes but they’re starting to show a lot of wear. You’re going to have to replace them soon.” For as many people as he sees in this airport day in and day out, he remembers me and the pair of travel shoes I wear because they are easy to get on and off when going through security.
As I sat in the chair while Harold did his thing, I began wondering just long I had known Harold, so I asked, “Harold, you’ve been working at this airport for a long time, haven’t you?” He responded, “Twenty-six years and I have the best job in the world! I get to meet good people. I sit in a comfortable chair and wait for customers to come by. I’m inside, out of the weather, and I’ve made a pretty fair living just shining shoes. If you treat people right and always do a good job, customers – just like you Mr. Rainey, will always come back.”
When you boil it down to its essence, Harold’s philosophy is the blueprint for any business – treat people right and always do a good job and they will come back to you. But what that statement doesn’t include is anything about attitude. I’ve watched Harold over the years as he interacts with customers. He never fails to greet them with a smile. You can tell he truly enjoys his work. Then he sizes things up. Some people just want him to do his work while they talk on the phone or read the newspaper, others may want to visit about the Oklahoma City Thunder, the weather or just life in general. If they are pre-occupied, Harold happily goes about doing his job in silence. If they want to visit, Harold will adapt to most any topic of conversation. Always with a smile and ending with the customers verification that the job is well done.