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Guest is God

Customer Wedding Funeral ...Here’s One Thing by Jim Johnsen

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OOH …Here’s One Thing  


by Jim Johnsen,
Managing Director, Johnsen, Fretty & Company



Guest is God

I was watching the movie “Hotel Mumbai” on the flying greyhound bus I rode back from Phoenix the other day.  Its both tragic and beautiful at the same time.  Tragic because these young boys, brainwashed by some incredibly f-ed up “system”, cut down unknowning innocent victims with automatic weapons like they were nothing more than a piece of paper at target practice.  And beautiful because in the face of this horrific slaughter the selfless sacrifice and the grace the hotel staff show towards the hotel guests demonstrate how we are all one in this world.  If you haven’t seen the movie I would recommend it highly.

“self, today I am going to venerate the client.  I am going to treat them with so much dignity and overwhelming reverence….that they are going to feel like a deity.”

Okay Johnsen, where are you going this week with this?

Throughout the movie, the head Chef of the hotel, who is a true hero himself, repeats the mantra “Guest is god”, meaning you serve the guest the same way you would honor and serve a god.  As that statement sunk in it grabbed me by the beltloops.  Of course we all give lip service to “the customer comes first”, or “rule #1, the customer is always right and when not…go back to rule 1” or some other such thing, but I would bet a few bucks that no one has ever woken up one day and said to themselves, “self, today I am going to venerate the client.  I am going to treat them with so much dignity and overwhelming reverence….that they are going to feel like a deity.”  Let that sink in.  Kinda of shakes you right?  I mean in the U.S. we don’t learn to bow down before our counterparts too often right? But, what if we brought a little bit of that bow or curtsy to our clients each day.  Just saying…

Further food for thought here:

The phrase “The customer is always right” was originally coined in 1909 by Harry Gordon Selfridge, the founder of Selfridge’s department store in London

Customer: A person who purchases a commodity or service.
Client: A person who is under the protection of another.

In Oracle’s 2011 Customer Experience Impact Report, the company cites research that found that 86% of customers will pay more for a better customer experience.

Separately, I attended a wedding of a work colleague with my better half on Saturday…that is, my business partner, Steve Fretty.  We met some wonderful people from Guatemala and Nicaragua.  Sounds like those two countries are on the precipice of heading down the Venezuela trail…let’s hope and pray that our foreign policy advisers have a real plan (and it doesn’t involve bringing Ollie North back).  In any event he or I explained (for the 7th million time in our careers) that we help companies in the outdoor advertising business raise financing and/or help them buy or sell outdoor advertising companies.  After a pregnant pause the response was, as always, “what is outdoor advertising?”  After leaving the event, I had a brain-fart.  Why do we call it outdoor advertising anyway if no one outside the industry gets it?  I mean, who first called it outdoor advertising?  Its been around well before radio, TV and home delivery of print right?  Before any “in the home” was there a need to call it “outdoor”?  And does the label “outdoor advertising” really do it justice?  Isn’t that phrase more about what we are not then what we are (i.e., we aren’t TV)?  In other countries they call it publicidad, or publicite, which I think literally means publicity.  Just saying…

And finally, a special shout out to Arte Moreno for delivering Wally Kelly‘s eulogy this week.  For two guys who were such incredible business teammates, who had each other’s back always, and who strove to, and then won and celebrated many-a business championships together, I can’t imagine how hard it was to find the words to summarize that lifelong friendship.  I did learn that Arte and Wally purchased a minor league baseball team in Salt Lake City together.  I did not know that and I am guessing that was a good warm up for Arte.  I also did not know that Wally was a mathematical (almost) genius but reflecting on that it made sense to me.  But I think the thing that would have made Wally the most proud and brought a smile to his face from ear to ear is when Arte said that at the end of the day, Wally was a great businessman.  Coming from Arte…that’s a WOW.  And an additional shout out to Wally’s stepdaughter for also saying something incredibly special at the reception that will stay with me for a long time.  I will paraphrase it the best I can.  “He did so many wonderful, kind things for me and his presence was larger than life, but he was still an enigma to me.  I so desperately wanted to understand the man and I was frustrated that I couldn’t.  But at some point I let go and stopped trying to understand him and just appreciated him for the greatness that he was.

I bid your fair-well my friend, but not goodbye.


Securities transacted through StillPoint Capital Member firm FINRA/SiPC




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  1. Thomas Giesken says

    I too have asked that question many times! Literally no one knows what Outdoor advertising is unless you’ve already told them. Why don’t we call it the Billboard industry or something more common and succinct and self-descriptive?
    Not that anybody is going to change now…

  2. Bill Board says

    thank you Thomas Giesken. Agreed that ship has sailed.

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