Collect Your (Good) Marbles

Larry Sharpe of Neo-Sage states that when two companies are similar, it’s the little things that differentiate them. If your company is similar to your competitors, things such as smiles, warm greetings, or eye contact might just tip the balance in your favor. If each “little thing” is represented by a marble, and you compare the weight of your marbles with your competitions’ marbles, you will find that the difference in those “little things” add up. They tip the scale in one direction or the other.

Here’s an example that contrasts three different situations and their levels of service. Notice how many “marbles” each situation is worth:

Jack eats out for lunch every day. He likes to try new restaurants, and returns often to the restaurants that he likes. This week, Jack has decided to try three new restaurants in his neighborhood.

On Monday, Jack visits the first new restaurant – the food is great, but when the server spills a glass of iced tea on Jack’s lap, he is obviously upset. The server gets Jack a towel and apologizes for the inconvenience, but the server seems to be annoyed by what happened – almost like it was Jack’s fault. After cleaning up the mess, the server doesn’t say anything else to Jack.

On Tuesday, Jack eats lunch at the second new neighborhood restaurant. The food is also excellent.  But when one of the servers accidentally dumps a tray of drinks into his lap, Jack’s lunch experience is ruined. The server apologizes, provides Jack with some towels to clean up the mess, and offers to buy Jack his lunch. The server apologizes again as Jack leaves the restaurant and invites Jack to come back soon.

On Wednesday, Jack eats lunch at the third new restaurant. The food is very good, but not quite as delicious as the other two restaurants. But it’s not Jack’s week. A server dumps a tray of drinks into Jack’s lap. The server apologizes, provides Jack with some towels to clean up the mess, and pays for Jack’s lunch. The server also arranges with the restaurant’s manager to give Jack and his family a free meal the next time they come in and to pay Jack’s dry-cleaning bill to clean the suit and shirt he is wearing. The manager asks Jack for his phone number and, the next day, calls Jack to apologize again and reminds Jack about the free family dinner and paying for his dry-cleaning.

Of these three experiences, which restaurant is Jack most likely to return to? In the first example, the food was great, but the service was less than adequate. Jack won’t be back. In the second example, the food was great and the service was adequate, maybe even above average. Jack might be back. In the third example, the food was good, and the way the restaurant handled the iced tea crisis was world-class.  Jack will definitely be back.

About the author:
Ed Abel has invested more than three decades learning how to build a successful, thriving business. Determined to find a way to educate and advise others in the construction and sustainability of a vital business, he founded ABEL Business Institute. Over the course of this process, he developed The SkillPreneur Business System, a systematic approach to the construction, maintenance, and growth of a business's--an approach that has become the philosophy and methodology of ABEL Business Institute.
My website is at:


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