In business to differentiate yourself from the rest of the herd, it is always the little things – systematized – that make THE Difference…
It is never the big bang theory of customer service.
Mwiti The Taxi Driver
Let me give you an example from rural Kenya.
My wife and I have spent a number of months in Kenya this past 2 years and there is a driver who lives nearby who we use as a taxi service. His name is Mwiti (or Kenneth for those who can’t pronounce Mwiti).
He is – unlike most other drivers – almost always on time.
And he gets these little bags of tiny, delicious peanuts that are hand roasted and grown in little shambas (farms). He always gives those out to us when we are driving. Salted for me, unsalted for Josanne, my wife.
He is well dressed, polite, and engaging.
Choma For Lunch on The House, Plus a Parting Gift
On one longer trip, he became aware that the 4 of us, including a child (having missed lunch) would be hungry, so he stopped in a small town and bought us all choma (delicious roasted goat meat). He did not add that to his bill!
He always seemed to charge a bit less than other drivers, so I soon came to trust him totally on pricing.
I left for Vancouver this past Tuesday from Nairobi and on Sunday, he knew I was taking a van down to Nairobi at 6:30am. He instructed the driver (a friend of his) to stop at his little shop on the way.
He ran to the van and had a small package for my wife, all neatly bundled together. It was a few small bags of those delicious unsalted peanuts that she loves so much!
Giving Back to Those Less Fortunate
Another example – we had rescued a little girl from a very poor region north of us, in Kenya. She had been physically abused by her step-father, with scars on the side of her face and hands from lit cigarettes. There was an older girl that we couldn’t take (she was safe with her grandma), and yet she wasn’t going to school due to lack of school fees. I found out that Mwiti had gone back there and given 1,000 shillings ($10 USD) towards her tuition fees. For him, that was a lot of money.
Mwiti was doing small things like that all over his community. Why?
As he told it to me – he felt blessed with so much that he felt it was his obligation to give back…
Last night I got a WhatsApp message from him, asking me if I arrived safely to Canada.
A Unique Savings Plan
Mwiti also had a unique savings plan to start his next small enterprise – a welding business.
He had heard that a man had a good welding machine for sale and he also knew of two young men who had been fully trained as welders, with welding tickets yet were not employed.
His goal was to save enough cash to buy the machine, hire the two young men and get contracts for welding jobs in the area. He had no desire to borrow any money for this new venture.
For the whole month of October, on all my small trips, he said, I will add to your account, and you can pay me later. Some friends of mine from Canada were there on a permaculture project and they went on a two-day safari. He charged them a very fair 4,000 shillings. And he told them, please do not pay me, pay Mark. I started using Mwiti to pick up little things for me in town, and he didn’t charge me a markup for those items, yet he kept all receipts.
Mwiti knew that if I had paid on the spot for all those little trips – 1,000 shillings here and there, that his day-today needs would eat that up, and at the end of the month he’d have nothing to show for it.
So, two days before I left Kenya, we settled my account – 24,300 shillings, or $243 USD for the entire month.
He had the biggest grin on his face, telling me that when we come back in January, he will have his welding machine and the business will be started.
Oh, and he also has a little shop where his wife works that everyone told him would not work, yet he says is profitable. He saved to buy a small plot of land and has goals to build rental properties down the road when he can afford to purchase more land.
Often in Kenya, people from the West are asked to loan money or sponsor their kids or get them a cell phone or computer or anything they think is easy for us to afford.
Mwiti has never asked me for anything – he is the one who has given me so much.
Mostly what Mwiti has given me are many great examples of living a great life:
- Unbridled generosity (even with little to share)
- The sheer joy and creativity in starting little businesses (you don’t need to be big to have that joy and excitement of creating)
- An example to young people of entrepreneurship
- A role model for saving before spending
- Giving back to others less fortunate
Thank you Mwiti, you will always be my friend, I am grateful to know you.