A living lesson in integrityChia-Li Chien, Ph.D., CFP®, PMP®, CPBC
Chia-Li Chien | June 28, 2011
In Chinese culture, taking care of family, especially your parents, spouse and children, is the top priority in life. We believe the personal integrity of taking care of family is a direct reflection of how well a person behaves in the business world. So we often look for clues of how people treat their family when prospecting associates, employees, customers, friends, etc.
I had the pleasure of meeting with Mr. H.A. Thompson recently. This unorthodox entrepreneur is not only the founder of the top national chauffeured transportation service, but also enthusiastic about celebrating life. Most importantly, he shows love for his family like no one else I’ve ever come across!
Mr. Thompson is an author, radio personality, motivational speaker and the successful owner of Rose Chauffeured Transportation business in Charlotte, NC. Most importantly, he is a family man, and at 77 years old, his outrageously contagious leadership attitude is the most obvious ingredient of this successful business. In his weekly blog and upcoming revised book, Do Something Scary: Get Undressed for Business; he shares a collection of stories about successful business people.
Mr. Thompson took me through a quick tour of his offices at Rose Chauffeured Transportation. I saw a giant garage that houses a fleet of executive sedans, luxury SUV’s, limousines, executive vans, minibuses, motor coaches and his own mechanics crew. I met some of the eighty-five employees and they were very friendly as we walked through this busy hub and control center. I found it hard to digest that this operation, which averages 150 rides a day, could be run in such an orderly fashion.
Love worth celebrating
One year after Lucille, Mr. Thompson’s wife of 49 years, passed away, he published a book titled Free On Sundays! in her honor. This book is full of Lucille’s own paintings, drawings and poetry about life. As Mr. Thompson proudly showed me each of the paintings and poems in this book, he could not help but to naturally show how much he missed Lucille. He choked up as he read her poem called “Wondering.” She was really ahead of her time and a true artist. I am very honored that Mr. Thompson shared Lucille’s book as well as his desire to celebrate her life with me.
The “Wow Hall of Fame”
When I first entered Mr. Thompson’s office, I noticed the “Wow Hall of Fame” which is a collection of testimonials, newspaper clips, etc. In the middle of this collection, there was a picture from a Hanna Montana concert that caught my attention. About a year ago, one of his employees drove a family who flew down from New York just to go to the Hanna Montana concert.
Right before the drop off, one of the four children commented the batteries for the camera were dead. This employee, an avid a photographer, immediately volunteered to loan them his own digital camera. After the trip, he personally developed all the pictures into 8×6 prints and put a collage of some of the highlights of the trip into a frame. He mailed all the prints plus the framed collage to the client in New York. Of course, this extraordinary service to the clients resulted in an outstanding testimonial, which also hung on this wall.
“Attention to detail for each trip and a gracious, serving attitude is what makes this an excellent people business,” remarked Mr. Thompson.
Employees come first – customers second
“I am not in the transportation business, I am in the people business,” said Mr. Thompson. He believes when you focus on taking care of your employees, they learn how to treat your customers well. “When employees feel respected and valued, they’re more likely to reach out with care,” he continues. “Appreciated employees are the building blocks of business priority!”
Get outside help!
The right advisors and consultants, regardless how much small business experience you have, can help you grow your business. “Entrepreneurs are builders; they’re extremely effective in start-up operations,” Mr. Thompson says. He believes small business owners should rely as often as necessary on outside advisors and consultants for efficiencies in operation, systems and up-to-date business plans.
Sweat the small stuff
Success is in the details! Mr. Thompson showed me the “Do Not Do List” and the “Do List” as part of the consistent training he provides to his employees. He believes the “Do Not Do List” is far more important than the “To Do” list.
School of life
So what can we entrepreneurs learn from Mr. Thompson, a leader in transportation service since 1985?
• Use the right advisors and consultants regardless of how much small business experience you have.
• Monitor your business financials on a monthly basis and keep meticulous records.
• Don’t mix personal luxury items with business.
• Always underpay yourself (owner) and conserve as much as you can in the business.
“The integrity of owning and running a small business consists of people, time and money!” Mr. Thompson encourages every entrepreneur to diligently follow this creed. He believes establishing and maintaining relationships with employees, customers, vendors and suppliers are crucial. “Treat your people right,” he repeats again and again. I asked him to elaborate on what ”time” means to him, and he replied that he believes too many entrepreneurs use golf as a form of networking. Mr. Thompson believes every entrepreneur should avoid wasting time as a key component of maintaining integrity.
Thank you, Mr. Thompson for graciously sharing your experience with me!