Unconventional Excellence

Heather Hoopes-Matthews • September 24, 2019

A standing ovation, mixed with enthusiastic cheers and a chorus of “good mornings” welcomed me as I walked into get my car oil changed.  You read that right, loud clapping from the ENTIRE STAFF as I walked into Gerald’s Tire in Mt. Pleasant, SC last month, right when the business opened at 7:30 am.  I didn’t know what to say, but my face must have spoken for me.  The technician behind the counter smiled back and said, “It’s pretty nice, isn’t it?”

Imagine if we began every client encounter in the same way (okay, maybe not cheering as it won’t work the same way in a boardroom or over a conference call). But, what if we used the same energy that clearly and certainly displays our excitement to serve? Our clients all have a multitude of options for whatever service or product we offer, and we should feel honored they entrusted us with their needs.

At the core of it all, what makes grown men and women cheer for incoming customers?  Unconventional leaders who demonstrate unconventional excellence.

Show Gratitude Without Fear of Embarrassment. I can only imagine the first time someone at Gerald’s said, “Hey, let’s welcome everyone when we open with a cheer squad from the garage team.” But that ‘someone’ led the way, and it’s clear from the employees’ faces that they like the response they see from customers.

Celebrate Every Success You can’t encourage someone enough. Especially these days when the naysayers fill your social media feed with “glass half empty” or downright rude comments. The smallest of victories celebrated encourages an employee to go the extra effort again.  Of course, this should go both ways.  Your attitude will likely inspire more customers to be gracious, filling interactions with “Thank you”, “Good job”, and “I appreciate you.”

Build Up, Not Tear Down. Mistakes happen. How you handle them either builds someone up or tears them down.  If you want employees willing to love on customers unconventionally, you have to love them unconditionally; that means correcting a mistake in a way where they are shown how to have future success.

Give Back. Give back to your customers or your community, or both.  When you leave Gerald’s from getting your car worked on, there is a fresh cut red rose and note of thanks on the front seat.  A note written to “Our Special Customer.” I’d love to have a hidden camera catch first-time customer reactions to this “thank you” from the crew.

The beauty of Gerald’s Tire teaches me all individuals and organizations can demonstrate unconventional excellence no matter the industry or setting.  It can begin with a personal choice, executed by one person and repeated by many, and then can inspire your entire organizational culture.  My challenge for you today:  Will you lead the way?

(As for me, I’m going to go drive around the block a couple times so I’m closer to my next oil change.)


Heather Hoopes-Matthews is an award-winning journalist with extensive experience in South Carolina. A graduate of the prestigious University of Missouri-Columbia journalism school, Heather has delivered live news from the center of hurricanes, worked with “The Capital Gang” at CNN, and conducted investigative reporting that changed a South Carolina law to protect children.

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