We had a funny saying in our family about my Grandfather Curtis. We whispered that if he had fifteen minutes he could make you kin to us. I met a man named Al Hathorn later when I clerked at a drug store who was the same way. Al loved the public. He took joy in learning your story. In a few questions, he could usually find a mutual friend. It wasn’t hard for Al because he knew EVERYBODY. He made the little drugstore chain a smash hit in Russellville where I grew up. He separated our little chain drugstore from the pack because he actually cared about his customers. He loved their stories and loved serving them. He kept glass bottles way after the other guys because his customers liked them. He compounded salves and even rolled pills because he knew it would make you feel special. That kind of thing made you feel like he had gone that extra mile just for you. Rolling pills you ask, well that is an article for another day. Anyway, he knew, instinctively, what companies sometimes forget these days. He knew his check depended on his customers and he was grateful.
I hope you get to meet Al someday. He probably knew your uncle twice removed.
There were plenty of drugstores in Russellville and Al understood he needed to be different. God made him that way and he took full advantage of his difference to become a very successful pharmacist and a very good boss. It wasn’t a gimmick. It was a real service that no one could provide quite like he did. He taught me the real way to treat customers. He lived it. I guess he mostly sells friendship. The pills, liniments and salves were just a side benefit. I heard when he left the latest conglomerate to buy our little chain for a local neighborhood drug store, he carried over 300 scripts a day with him. Scripts are drugstore lingo for prescriptions.
See, you always learn something here.
The conglomerate was interested in how many scripts a pharmacist could fill in a day. They made the pharmacist stand 20 feet away from customers so he would not be distracted from checking scripts. Those scripts were really filled by a kid two or three years out of high school. Rolling a pill or compounding a salve was out of the question. The little clerks were supposed to establish the relationship with the customer. That was hard because there was a new one every few months. Apparently it is hard to make a living on eight dollars and hour. I think the conglomerate missed the strength of their pharmacist they got in-trade when they bought our little chain.
Do you sense a loss like that somewhere you do business?
Companies seem to be more interested in a gimmick or some kind of sneaky edge instead of a real innovative product these days. They want to put less cereal in a box, it’s settlement man, it’s settlement, or pay their employees less to put quick money on the bottom line. When they do this kind of short term money grab, I believe they lose their corporate souls. Yeah, I just said corporations had a soul. Well if not a soul, at least they should have a conscience. I think they should ask themselves if they have a product or service that really might make the world a better place. How they answer that question, I believe, is their corporate soul.
Do you know a corporation that really makes a better mousetrap? I think I know a few.
Without a better mousetrap, a company is reduced to the gimmick to get an edge. Our Walmart culture rewards a company that builds the same mousetrap with child labor in Whateverstan over the brand built with pride for years in New Jersey. If you lock those kids in a fire-trap and payem 50 cents a day, throwing every third mousetrap away still makes you a pile of cash. Shareholders reward that company too. We don’t buy and hold good company stock with a decent return. We look for the quick buck from a company that has lost its soul at the altar of the almighty buck. In this environment, laying off a loyal work force and shipping the jobs to the fire-trap in Whateverstan becomes admirable and the stock soars. When dollar worship becomes the sole motivation for either buyers or sellers we not only lose OUR souls, we lose what made our country great. We lose things like innovation, service and real value. We lose our values. I think our values are the ones which Al’s customers come to buy. It sure ain’t the pills. They can buy those anywhere.