Monday, April 25, 2011

The Most Important Person in the World

As Daniel pushed open the door at the Smalltown Five-and-Dime, the familiar bell jingled and Mr. Thompson, the proprietor, turned to welcome his guest. “Mornin’, Daniel!” came his greeting. “Good morning, Mr. Thompson,” Daniel replied.

As Mr. Thompson excitedly scurried past the counter and disappeared into the stock room, he cheered, “That bike you ordered for Jake’s birthday showed up yesterday. He’s gonna love it!” Mr. Thompson reappeared moments later with a shiny, new bicycle, complete with a brightly chiming bell. He grinned ear to ear like a kid at Christmastime as he pressed the thumb lever on the bell, filling the store with the music of childhood memories. Daniel smiled contently as he imagined how thrilled Jake would be with this unexpected gift.

The next few minutes were spent by Mr. Thompson asking questions about Daniel’s family and his work, and telling him a little bit about the bike he had researched and ordered on Daniel’s behalf. While they were talking, a delivery driver appeared in the store, as did two other customers. Mr. Thompson appropriately acknowledged each of these people without taking his focus away from Daniel.

When the transaction was complete, Mr. Thompson stepped ahead of Daniel to the door as Daniel wheeled the bike to the threshold, picking it up before leaving the store so the perfectly black tires would still be in their unused state when Jake saw the bike in their living room. Mr. Thompson opened the door for Daniel. “Thank you again for allowing me to help you with this surprise,” beamed Mr. Thompson. “Thank you for all your effort,” Daniel replied, his sincere appreciation showing in his warm smile.

Mr. Thompson stood at the open door and watched as Daniel carefully placed the pristine bicycle on a blanket in the bed of his pickup, tugging on it gently to see that it was properly settled before climbing into the cab and firing up his old truck. Mr. Thompson waved as Daniel pulled away from the front of the store and headed down main street toward his small farm. Daniel responded with a salute of appreciation.

Mr. Thompson turned to the delivery driver who had walked in shortly after Daniel. “Good morning, Frank,” his genuine happiness apparent as he read the driver’s name from the tag sewn on his shirt. “What do you have for me today?”…

How did you feel as this brief scene played out in your mind? No doubt, the feelings and images were warm, inviting, and positive. Maybe childhood memories were conjured. Perhaps, like me, you saw a scene from a television program like “The Andy Griffith Show.” But we all know these days are past. Or are they?

Far too many of us are caught up in the speed at which we do business today. Granted, technology has provided for some enjoyable changes in lifestyle and work style, but in too many cases it has taken the focus off the most important person in the world: the person in front of us.

Think about it…

:: When was the last time a retail cashier didn’t make eye contact with you or even acknowledge your existence past blurting out the amount due after ringing up your purchase?

:: When did you last find yourself in a social situation where someone was wearing a wireless headset while talking with a group at a lunch table or even a formal networking event? Really? Are the people in front of us that UNimportant? Perhaps rather than bother with having to insert the headset each day, it would be simpler to just have, “You’re Not Important to Me!” tattooed across one’s forehead.

:: How long has it been since you were serious about making a purchase at a store, only to have a salesperson shuffle you aside for another task or customer perceived as more important than you?

I’ll venture guess all three of these things have happened to every one of us within the past few weeks.

What is important? Better yet, WHO is important?

Let’s slow down. Maybe we need to organize ourselves better. Perhaps simple awareness of this dilemma is all we need. Whatever the case, we CAN return to making the person in front of us--whether that’s live, on the phone, or otherwise--the most important person in the world.

And this doesn’t just go for clients, either. Our family members, friends, neighbors, vendors, co-workers, employees…they all deserve this same treatment.

And here’s a little secret: When you genuinely see the person in front of you as the most important person in the world, you’ll be more successful in everything you do. That’s a promise I can make without reservation.

Go ahead…take it to the next level.

Here’s to your interpersonal success!

Bryan Waldon Pope


  1. More than nostalgia, this is reality... or at least it's the life we yet must live again. Unemployment will drop. Sales will uptick. Landlords will become lenient. Neighbors will share that barbeque when we turn off the TV, put down the cellphone, and start shaking the hands again. We 'evolutionary creatures' have dissolved the glue that stuck our society together... and yet we all deeply yearn to return to a time herein skillfully described. Thank you Bryan.

  2. Thank you, Lee! I appreciate your comments and agree all these good things can (will) happen if (when) we "start shaking hands again."