People matter most in places where they are scarce, places where the animals can outnumber the residents. Everything is about relationships. The other day I heard someone say that business comes first and relationships come second. Let me tell you a story about how this works in small towns I have known…
In small towns you do not hire someone for a job or service. You meet and greet, building relationships in the café, the grocery store, the gas station, and church until you need your car fixed. If the mechanic likes you, has heard good things about you and if you can tell him the name of someone local who referred you, then he may interview you. It is also important to remember the name of the person who told you about ‘Fred the best mechanic who works out of his own garage’ or he may not even talk to you.
When you call Fred, and it is really much better if you go down and meet him face to face, first tell him that Maggie at the café told you to call. Then you tell him who you are, with reference to why you are in town i.e. “I’m the new schoolteacher.” After which he will say, “Oh, that’s Sally’s old job. They moved out to the City when John died.” You commiserate for a moment on the loss of John and another family leaving town because caring about others really is important.
Let me repeat, you are not hiring a service in a small town as you do in the urban jungle. You are building an important connection with your neighbors. You are asking for a favor, and if he has time and likes you, Fred will confer it. This is customer101 for becoming a good neighbor and getting good service in small towns.
At first it seemed backwards to me. The grocery clerk acted put out, like he was doing me a favor, when I would ask to see the weekly ad sheet. (They hide stacks of them under their counters instead of taping them to the windows or littering the aisles with them, where I was trained to look for ads.) I finally quit asking because if you ask too many favors you become a nuisance and people start saying bad things about you at the café.
“But I shouldn’t have to ask,” you whine, “they should want me to see it and buy more.” Ah, well, yes in the land of aggressive business, that is the only truth, but in a land where relationships are the most important value, it is an annoyance. So when you are finding your small place, make new friends and shop friendly.