A Client for 50 Years

Brown bagThis from Trust Matters friend Sarah:

I recently attended my step-grandfather, George’s, funeral in Connecticut. His business partner, Phil, spoke at the memorial service and what he said really sort of blew me away and I wanted to share with you…

Of course Phil shared many lovely memories of George.  One thing struck me in a profound way; Phil talked about the trust that George developed with his clients.

George had founded a CPA firm in 1962. The firm grew to be quite successful. As I sat and listened to Phil share stories about the firm’s success, he matter of factly boasted about the firm’s technical proficiency.

But then, to my surprise, Phil talked with incredible heartfelt-ness (sp?) about what the firm really does: listens to their customers. He talked about the fact that they prepare tax returns and financial statements, etc… but that what they really do is listen to their clients. I cannot recreate what he said – though it struck me as so humane as to counter the pervasive “accountant” stereotypes.

Anyway, here is what I really wanted to share:

• George died at 84 years old

• He founded the firm when he was 37 years old

• At his wake on Monday night an elderly woman introduced herself to my family and indicated she was George’s FIRST client! She is still a client of the firm to this day and whenever she goes into the firm she takes lunch for the partner with whom she meets!

• At George’s funeral there were literally generations of customers…there were people there to honor George who had been his client(s) for 47 years – nearly a half century!!! In one instance there was a family with 3 generation’s of clients. That is cool.

• His clients were acknowledged during the service along with friends and family (and many, many clients were there).

Thanks Sara. 

There are thousands of tips and tricks out there to gain repeat business, increase ‘loyalty,’ tweak your customer acquisition rates.  But they are all aimed at improvement in the aggregate, and usually over a short time frame.

They forget a few simple facts. 

The greatest client loyalty is personal–not institutional.  It happens one person at a time–not one segment or geography or business unit at a time.  It lasts: not quarters, but decades. 

Real loyalty isn’t bought, tricked, or tweaked.  It doesn’t trend up or down monthly. 

Yes, it shows up on your income statement. But where it really shows up is at your funeral.

Congratulations, George.