We were in Palma, in the main square, enjoying the sun, the market stalls, the gentle flow of people. I was beginning to look round for a nice shady spot to sit down and place an order for a couple of lagers. The square was ringed with cafes, all desperate for our custom. They each had a table filler to communicate the fact that theirs was the finest restaurant in the whole of Palma. I wondered how many I could resist before I succumbed.
This particular table filler approached us with such confidence and insistence that we go no further that we stood no chance and he seated us with a great flourish as though we were the most important people he had laid eyes on that day; which I suppose in that moment of time we were.
Whilst we were enjoying our beers I watched his technique. He hardly failed at all. A german couple raised their hands to ward him off, they didn't want food, they didn't want drink. He wasn't put off in the slightest and somehow managed to get them to take possession of a menu they didn't want and he charmed them into sitting down at one of his tables.
Somehow or other this man, who knew no language apart from his own knew how to get people into his restaurant. He enjoyed what he did, there was no air of desperation about him, that marked some of the other table fillers in adjacent restaurants who had nowhere near his success rate.
I decided he must the owner, which would explain his commitment and his passion to see every table filled. I went to speak to him to check I was right. He spoke about 3 words of English (drink, you, like), so we couldn't communicate. Eventually I found the waiter who knew some English. 'Is he the owner, does this restaurant belong to him?' 'No, he is here only to fill the tables.'
I was puzzled. How could he display such passion, such conviction, such mastery of his trade, and so much sheer pleasure in his work when he was just an employee, probably on minimum wage?
I guess the secret of his success is simply down to the fact that when he was engaged in getting those tables filled, it was his business, his vocation. We can all learn something here. Enthusiasm is infectious. The writer of Ecclesiastes put it well, 'whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might'.
I'm very taken up with the John Lewis model where every employee is a partner and thus ownership of the business. Might explain why their half year profits were up by 60%. We may not all have such enlightened employers, but we can all treat the business, the shop, the charity, wherever we spend our time, as our own. Whenever we have a complaint it's usually because we failed to make the client feel special.
As I keep saying, we're in tough times, there will be winners and losers; make sure that your organisation, so far as it depends on you, is one of the winners. Go well.