Come Together

By Sarah Robinson

Photo by Beau Gustafson

Recently, I took myself to lunch at Ted’s Restaurant in downtown Birmingham. If you’ve been to Ted’s, you know two things: 1) They have amazing food and 2) They have a fantastic community that makes everyone feel like he or she belongs to something special. On this particular day, I watched tables of diners in uniform, in suits, in scrubs, and in everything in between, laughing and talking over plates piled high with food. I listened as a regular helped a first-timer navigate the food line (“You’ve got to get the squash casserole!”) I heard a frequent solo diner gleefully call to his usual waitress, “I brought a friend today. I get to sit at a booth!” And I saw a pillar of the Ted’s noonday community hold court at the lunch counter with regularly rotating dining and conversation partners.

More than offering great food and the convivial atmosphere, Ted’s makes people feel like they matter, like they are a part of a community experience. Waitresses have an uncanny ability to remember names. The servers can help you pick out just the right meat and three. Strangers talk with each other about which dessert to choose. Friends call greetings to each other across the dining room. The warmth and personal connection permeate the room, drawing people together as they share mealtime together. This is Fierce Loyalty in action.

While you may not be in the restaurant business, you can still use simple community connection points like a shared meal to make your customers, clients, and employees feel like they belong to something special. Here are some ideas to get you started:

1) Instantly gather your team on Friday mornings by bringing Krispy Kreme or Heavenly Donuts to the conference room. Don’t have an agenda. Just allow people to relax and have conversations while sharing the joy of a well-made pastry.

2) Encourage your customers to use your space as a regular meeting spot for their groups or clubs. We all need a relaxed place to gather with friends. Extend a warm welcome so they feel like they’ve found a home.

3) Bring your clients together to share an experience like attending a Barons baseball game. Be sure to stay for the fireworks. This a great way to build relationships that aren’t always focused on selling something.

4) Send handwritten thank you notes and notes recognizing achievements and significant life events. Order personalized stationery for your employees and ask them to do the same. A thoughtful, handwritten note says, “You matter enough for me to take the time to write to you.” Everyone needs that kind of reminder regularly.

5) Host an event in your home. Bring together customers, clients, and employees so that they can meet and enjoy each other’s company outside of a formal business environment. Opening your home will also invite them into a more personal relationship with you.

Brainstorm your own list of ideas for connection points that can play a part in the way you do business. Remember, we all crave a sense of belonging and the feeling that we matter. Ideas such as these will make your customers, clients, and employees feel valued and significant to you, which is the very foundation of a business built on Fierce Loyalty.

Birmingham’s Sarah Robinson is a business strategist, speaker, and author of the Amazon best-selling book Fierce Loyalty: Unlocking the DNA of Wildly Successful Communities.