Last week I took my kids to visit my hometown of Willimantic, Connecticut.
My first home. My schools. My church. My library. All still there, just a bit smaller than I remember. The YMCA and the best restaurant (the one with chocolate chip cookie pie) are gone, and Main Street looks just as ragged as it did 40 years ago.
A previously thriving mill town, Willimantic isn’t known for much, except perhaps the 2003 60 Minutes segment called Heroin Town. That’s not what I want you or my boys to remember about my hometown. ‘Romantic Willimantic’ is a vibrant, diverse town known for Victorian-era architecture and a Boom Box Parade every July 4th where, instead of a marching band performing, residents bring boom boxes tuned to WILI, the local AM radio station.
I also want you and my boys to remember Ideal Tire Co. My grandfather, Leo, and his brother, Armand, ran the shop from the 1940s to their retirement in 1995. It sat right in the center of Willimantic, across from Dairy Queen (it’s now a Meineke).
Every day after elementary school, I’d stop into Ideal Tire Co. to visit with my family: my grandfather and his brother and sisters, my father, and my uncle. I could usually find someone to buy me a strawberry soda out of the vending machine. I witnessed my grandfather personally test-drive and safety-check every automobile before handing back the keys to the customer. He earned their trust and their loyalty.
My grandfather’s briefcase was passed down to me when I graduated from college. I remember the laughs from my fellow Accenture consultants on my first day at the office with their fresh black laptop bags slung securely over their shoulders. The leather was smooth and supple, with tattered edges and a slight creaking. The truth was, I was proud to be carrying it and it made me think of the decades of dedication, perseverance, and sweat equity that brought me to this place.
I founded my company in 2016 based on the same customer experience principles I witnessed in my grandfather’s shop. LoyaltyCraft was built with a mission to better serve customers, focus on relationships, and be diligent in making things right.
This is my origin story.
But this isn't just my origin story; it's an invitation for you to reflect on your own business's origins and the values that drive it. I'm sure you understand the importance of strong roots and a sense of purpose. Just like my hometown, your business has its own story, its own journey. Just like Ideal Tire Co., your company can strive to earn the trust and loyalty of your customers.
The legacy of my grandfather is the impact he had on people. His dedication, thoughtfulness, and commitment to serving others left a lasting impression on everyone who crossed paths with him. Here are just some of the heartfelt words from individuals who experienced the remarkable service he provided:
“One of my memories is when he put Michelin tires on my pickup truck, with a tall heavy camper on it, and told me he had taken out on the highway and dropped off the edge of the road. I was upset when he said that, as we were leaving for a trip across the country. He said, ‘What is worse, me wrecking your rig or you doing it with your family in it?’ That is why he was so special, he thought of others before himself.” – Milt Anthony, a longtime customer
“Always enjoyed talking with Leo and Armand when getting a hose made or purchasing brake parts, we enjoyed a good many laughs on those visits!” – Gregg Corcoran, a longtime customer
“I will always remember Leo and his brother Armand as two of the great businessmen on Main St. in Willimantic. They, with their family members and co-workers, served the public for many years. Hard work, long hours, honesty, and friendliness led to their long-lasting reputation.” – Paul Cichon, a longtime customer
Thanks to my grandfather, I have five asks of every business, and I urge you to consider them as well:
Are you prioritizing exceptional service delivery, making it a priority to go above and beyond to meet your customers’ needs and exceed their expectations?
How have you created a memorable experience and a lasting impression?
What are you doing to foster genuine relationships, building strong connections with your customers, employees, and business partners?
Are you embracing honesty and integrity, and upholding the highest ethical standards in all aspects of your business?
Are you making a positive impact on your community, contributing to a legacy that extends beyond your company’s success?