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.



3 replies
  1. barbara garabedian
    barbara garabedian b says:

     Sara’s story about George should be inspiring to all of today’s "Georges" that are out there.  When you come down to it…it is really all about what they say about you at the funeral that tallies up your lifetime "score" regarding your approach to life and business, more so than "whomever has the most toys when they die – wins".

    I wonder how many "Georges" and businesses out there, truly care or wonder about their legacy. Unfortunately, we live in a business society that has a very short term bottom-line focus and memory. Reputation/integrity no longer has the same cache it once did within our money-making arena. I understand the need for progress and economic survival but one only has to look around at all of the failed M&As out there that took once reputable organizations & Mgrs. and turned them into cookie-cutter factories without the "client focus" and/or integrity. Many appeared to have discarded reputations and organizational legacies at the door, when they walked out after "selling their soul to the devil".

    That said, there are "Georges" out there and there are organizations that encourage behavior that will elicit the type of eulogy that George received…too bad there aren’t more. Maybe its just become too old fashioned & too hard, to think that far ahead?

  2. peter vajda
    peter vajda says:

    Relatedly, Barbara, truth be told, IMHO, I believe more folks are less interested in what people will say at their funeral than whether their hearse can be equipped with luggage racks.

  3. Phil MGee
    Phil MGee says:

     I loved your story about George, your  step Grandfather, and his firm.  This used to be a fairly typical story  but not so anymore.  The ceding of our nation to giant corporations and  their "leaders" who have no real ownership has removed much of the human contact from business.

    I remember a conversation from some 10  or so years ago.  I was ranting on about e-mail as being the beginning of  the end of human communication.  Little did I know at that time that  man’s fear of intimacy was so strong that we would replace our eyes and voices  with our fingertips and call it  efficiency.


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