Recently I had the pleasure of taking one of my clients to lunch along with my Client Service Coordinator, Priscilla. What happened at that lunch was pretty awesome and made me wonder why I don’t do this more often. The client is a world leader in the manufacturer of flight simulators. Their simulators are used by the US Navy, Air force and can be found in civilian versions at the Smithsonian and other similar locations across America.
When we arrived at the client’s business, we were taken to meet several of the team members who we had interacted with but had never met. That alone was fantastic as it gave us a chance to put faces with names/voices. We talked a little shop and noted a few actions items to take care of. Then Sheila, one of the business owners, asked us if we wanted to take a little ride in one of the simulators they were working on back in the shop. You got to be kidding me! YES we answered so back to the shop we went.
Employer’s Resource Job Description: Flying an F-18 Simulator
They asked us if we had eaten recently. We answered “no” and they said that was good. Greeted by two of their employee technicians, we were oriented to the controls of the simulator and inside we went. We were strapped into full shoulder and waist belts and were instructed to lock our feet under foot straps on the floor.
I’m not sure about Priscilla, but I was actually a tad bit nervous. They told us we would be flying an F-18 and gave us a few last pointers. Then the door was closed and locked with a solid thump. The only light was from a large screen in front of us. I had the pilots’ seat and Priscilla was in the “gunner” seat. So the simulation started and up into the blue we went. I can’t do what happened next any justice with words but I’ll just say it was thrilling. We experienced ascents, descents and full 360 degree barrel rolls as we chased enemy planes through the sky. It was amazingly real. Too soon, it was over. They let us fly two more missions and by the end of the third, I think we both were ready to get our feet back on solid ground.
Bonding with Business Owners and Clients over Lunch
So we rejoined Raj and Sheila (business owners), Karen (payroll contact) and headed to the restaurant. It was a place Sheila recommended and was quite nice. My goal at the lunch was what it always is when I take a client to lunch—to NOT talk about business, resources, or employees. There is plenty of time to talk shop in our day-to-day exchanges; I just wanted to get to know them better as people.
The dialog at the table was great. We learned Raj and Sheila had three grown children, that they had an arranged marriage, and that they both went to the same college in India. We also heard the story behind their immigration to America. When the server brought some olive oil and bread, we also learned that these two business owners were self-professed “olive oil connoisseurs.” They told us the oil we had been served was one of their favorites. We then learned that Karen was a prolific cook and frequently fed the entire crew at work. All in all, it could not have been more pleasant.
Towards the end of the meal, Raj looked at me and said he had another business and would like me to quote it with Employer’s Resource. He also shared that he could use some help with the employee resource and benefits for both companies. Priscilla and I wrapped up the meal by thanking them for sharing lunch with us and for being one of our favorite business owners and clients. As everyone was leaving, I ran back in to ask the server to give me the brand name of the olive oil we had enjoyed which was “La Martina” from Chile.
A Deepened Relationship and New Business Resources
So what are the takeaways?
- -Priscilla had a chance to meet all the main players in this account
- -I got to meet several contacts I had not yet met, including Raj
- -In meeting the team at the office, we uncovered a few action items to help them with
- -We got to experience the simulator, which was a blast for us and allowed our client to beam with pride as they gave us that experience
- -We got to interact on a very personal level with Sheila, Raj and Karen, learning about them as “people,” not just clients
- -We learned about their love for great olive oil which I can now use as an on-going client gift with endless possibilities
- -We were offered the chance to quote another piece of business
- -We were given an opportunity to help them with employee benefit needs we were not previously aware of
- -We clearly deepened our relationship on a personal level with this great client
So in this case, lunch was indeed the most important meal of the day. The lesson learned is: let’s not forget the importance of developing a personal relationship with our clients. For the most part, they are amazing people with awesome stories. Entrepreneurs pursuing the American dream. What an honor it is to serve them, and without expecting it, you may find they actually want to serve you!