Wow, I bet you thought I fell off the face of the earth. It has been a little while since I posted an article; my apologies. Well, the good news is I didn’t fall off the earth, I just climbed the tallest freestanding mountain in the world. I just came back from climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro in East Africa, Tanzania.
To say it was the trip of a lifetime is an understatement. I learned so much on this trip that I could write an entire book. First, the climb was an amazing experience. It took six days to summit the full 19,342 feet and two days to get back down to 5,600 feet at the exit gate. It was, to this day, the hardest endurance event of my life. It had drained me physically, mentally, spiritually and emotionally. Our summit day was a 12:00 am start and we summited at 7:45 am. More on that story at a later time.
For now, I want to talk about what it took for thirteen of us to get to Africa’s highest peak. There was a team of 47 people to get us to the top. There were two Head Guides, five Assistant Guides, two Chefs, two Waiters, and the rest were Porters. The Guides were with us as we climbed through the whole expedition on the trail. The Porter’s would take down camp, run past us and carry the camp on their heads or shoulders (literally) to the next camp to set everything up again, as if we never left the last one. It was simply amazing.
I had a personal Porter named James who was responsible for carrying my belongings to the next camp, as well as setting up my tent. Every morning, I would pack my bag, and my tent would be all set up, bag inside, by the time I got to the next camp. He would even take out my air mattress and blow it up so I didn’t have to when I got there.
A bunch of the Porters would meet us about a half mile from camp and assist us by carrying our day packs for the rest of the way in. James came to me the first day and I declined. I told him not to worry about me and that I was happy to carry my own pack. After-all, my pack is a part of me and I felt it was my responsibility to start and finish with my pack. On the second day, the same thing happened at about a half mile from camp. James came to me again, and I again, let him know that I could carry my own pack. I’m not sure if it was my ego or stubborn nature, but I was very reluctant in giving up my pack.
On the third day, James was already carrying someone else’s pack, and again, he asked for mine. I said to him, “James, you work so hard and you are already carrying a pack, you take it easy, I’m good”. He said replied with something to the effects of, “You don’t understand, it is because of you I am here. Without you, I have no job so I am happy to carry your pack”. At that point, I gave him my pack and found myself getting a bit emotional over the situation.
How does this relate to business? Well honestly, I think it has everything to do with business. If we treat our customers and clients the way that James treated me, our businesses will skyrocket. Think about it. If we all have the mentality that the only reason why we are in business is due to our customers and clients, wouldn’t we approach things differently? Wouldn’t we go the extra mile and provide extraordinary service? I think so.
Complacency is a root of many challenges in businesses. We can easily get stuck in a routine and the special-ness of what we do can wear off. I have heard (many times) of businesses who would view customer service as an inconvenience. I certainly didn’t see that on Mt. Kilimanjaro. In fact, jobs are so scarce that the Porters viewed their jobs as a gift; so they wanted to over deliver in every way possible.
Go out of your way to give your clients the best experience at your business. I know I will. Truthfully, the only reason why we are in business in the first place is due to the people that we serve. Just as James was there happily offering to carry my pack because he knew that if it wasn’t for me, he would not be able to buy food and shelter for his family. The same holds true to us.
We have monthly belt graduations where our students will be promoted to the next rank in their training. It is a powerful event where the families attend and the students work hard to achieve their promotion. At the end of the event, I have the students do a ceremonious bow to the Instructors, then to the Sr. Students, and then I have them face the families. I say to the graduating class, “Most importantly, face your families because without their love and support, we would never accomplish what we have achieved”. This is true of our customers and clients, we should show gratitude and appreciation to them because without them, we could not do what we do.
Thank you James, the 22 year old Porter from Tanzania for the inspiration for this article. We only met for a short time but your story will inspire others to go above and beyond and provide an unmeasured level of costumer service. As we learned to say in Swahili, Asante! (Which means Thank you)