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Posted on Monday, May 20, 2019 in Small Business Today Articles

The last time we were together I was talking about how nice the people in Portugal treated us when we were visiting there.  Unfortunately, I did not have room to tell you about our encounter with Carlos.  However, before I tell you about Carlos, I need to tell you a little bit more about how our trip came about and the role Joanne and I played in the group.  Son Ted, and his fiancé Heather took a trip around Europe last year accompanied by our daughter Jenni.  They had such a great time they vowed to return again when they could.  When son Ben decided to study in Portugal, they found the perfect excuse to travel again and go visit him.

They booked their flights and invited Joanne and I and Heather’s mom Teri to join them, so we did.  What was really unusual for us “older” adults was that we left almost all the planning to the young ones.  When we arrived in Portugal and Spain, we just followed along like lemmings.  It was a great experience.  When the young ones left early one morning to take Ted and Heather ‘s engagement pictures, Joanne, Teri and I were left on our own to join them later in the day.  That is where Carlos comes into the picture.

In order for us to meet the young ones, we needed to walk to a train station, buy our tickets and get on the right train.  Something that was directly in conflict with our lemming nature on this trip.  We made it to the train station without incident, but we expected someone there selling tickets who could help us.  To our dismay, the only way to buy a ticket was through the automated machine outside of the station, which is when we met Carlos.  Carlos could tell we were not familiar with the operations of the machine, and stepped in to help us.  He helped us buy the right ticket and pointed us to the right side of the track so we could get to our destination.

But Carlos did more than that.  He explained that he was homeless and he spent a lot of time hanging around the train station.  He was not begging or panhandling, just hanging around and helping people.  I suppose he deduced that if he was nice to people, they might reward his kindness with some Euros.  He told us that Lisbon was a pretty safe city, but gave us tips on how to make our time in Lisbon safer.  Joanne did reward his kindness with 5 Euros, and we headed off the wait for the train.

Next thing we knew, Carlos was waiving us down.  He caught up to us and explained that we did not scan our tickets on the scanner prior to boarding the train.  He thought there was a pretty hefty fine for failure to scan and wanted us to avoid the fine, times 3.  As small business owners and managers do we have the right staff who are not afraid to step in and talk with people about their needs?  Selling our products and services is not really about selling.  It is about approaching people in a non-threating manner, discovering their needs, and then finding a way to meet those needs.

If we accomplish that, our businesses will survive.  If we keep an eye on our clients’ needs and see how they can use our help beyond the initial sale, our businesses with not only survive, they will thrive and prosper.  In a way we need to act a little more like Carlos, and we will be rewarded for our efforts.

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