His solid work ethic screamed out at me loud and clear, as the young lad asked me, “May I have your name please, Sir?”
This bright young man taking my coffee order could barely have been more than about ten years old, though I must confess that most Policemen now look about twelve years old to me!
With the benefit of hindsight, I should have taken more notice and if I could repeat the moment, I would have asked his age. He did give his name to the next customer in the queue, but it wasn’t a familiar name to me, so alas I didn’t commit it to memory.
The occasion was a weekend visit to the Perth Hills Spring Festival, held in what I had previously thought was the quiet country town of Karragullen, as part of the Kalamunda region’s collection of events – it turned out to be full of hundreds of parked cars. This October event, formerly known as the Karragullen Expo, and run by the Hills Orchard Improvement Group, is impressive in its size and attendance and reminded me greatly of the earlier days of the Perth Royal Show.
The essence of the day’s founding appeared to be an opportunity for farmers, mainly involved with fruit growing in the region, to get together with the local community, to have some fun; show off their wares and to rub shoulders with equipment suppliers, especially those of the mechanical, labour-saving variety. There were tractors, trucks, harvesters and motor bikes galore for the adults, not to mention some state-of-the-art drones. There was face-painting, pony rides and bouncy castles for the children.
Not unsurprisingly, there was food and drink in abundance from a cluster of mobile food vendors, whose work ethic would have been exercised to testing point over a lengthy and demanding day, their spirits not visibly dampened at all by the changeable weather. Of great delight to my partner and I were the various wineries, breweries and cider-makers who offered free tastings of their wares in the undercover sheds.
Whenever large communities gather together like this, there is also an eclectic mix of arts and crafts on display, with some seeming like incredibly good ideas and others leaving you scratching your head at who the target market could possibly have been!
Our polite young coffee order-taker fell into the former category. With consummate professionalism, he took our order, attempted a soft up-sell, collected our payment and repeated it all back to us as he added my first name to the order. “Thank you, Tony, – that won’t be long” he advised, which struck me as probably the first time in as long as I could remember that a mere child had called me by my first name with such unaffected nonchalance.
At a guess, I’d say that he and his parents behind him were probably Vietnamese Australians, and the lack of any accent other than pure Aussie, suggested that this youngster attended a local school and had more than likely been born here. The truck had been converted to double as an organic coffee-making facility, seemingly a well-organised franchise, judging by the neatness of the design. Cups, lids, spoons and coffee beans were all stored in easily accessible drawers beneath the coffee-making platform. Providing you had the sound work ethic to match the physical demands of the job, I’m sure that this truck was, in reality, a camouflaged mobile mint with a licence to make money.
The Lesson of the Day
Speaking as a business coach, I was of course impressed with the whole presentation, but what really struck me was that a ten-year-old boy (I’m guessing) could be the shop front receptionist of the well-oiled machine, while his father worked tirelessly, grinding out coffees with his back to us. The mother went backwards and forwards replenishing cups and spoons from the drawers to the action areas – she too had no need to even check on her son’s work.
I saw the lad shiver in the slight breeze that followed a brief rain shower, yet his work ethic meant that he didn’t flinch at all from performing his duties. We waited as he took order after order, finally delivering our product with a smile and an apology for keeping us waiting, in a calm and measured tone with the manner of an Oxford University student.
A framed information board told us the story of the creation and evolution of the organic coffee franchise, which was a lovely touch, though my focus was on just what a great example it was of a family working together to make money for their household. Cynics might see it as child-exploitation, but I viewed it as a fantastic apprenticeship for a young boy, who would benefit massively in later life from the experience of dealing with the public at such a young age. I certainly did, when I helped my parents in their hotels and guest-houses.
I absorbed my own, solid work ethic directly from my parents, who led by example in their various businesses. My father was an aircraft engineer with British Airways, yet he would help my mother to run the family hotels, doubling as barman, maintenance man (he could fix anything!), supplies purchaser and general willing dogsbody. My mother was the business brain behind the whole system, as she had worked in hotels at a young age. I would see the chef clean his kitchen, only to see my parents go in and clean it again after he had finished, such were the high standards that their work ethic demanded.
My take on the whole experience of being served by this well-mannered young man however, was that if only more fledgling owners of small business ventures were to apply the same solid work ethic as this family, there would probably be far fewer statistical business failures – alas many would-be entrepreneurs go into business under the illusion that they will now be able to work far less and make far more money as their own boss than they did as an employee. The opportunity is there – absolutely; but the result is far from a foregone conclusion.
Running a small business takes commitment, perseverance, character and a solid work ethic, often for a lengthy incubation period, before you can become an ‘overnight success’. Of course, hiring a coach like me can significantly improve those chances because you can leverage from a mentor’s experience and apply your work ethic both more strategically and more systematically.
My thanks go out to all who were involved in the Festival, especially the community volunteers – we had a lovely experience there.