A Little Extra, For Lagniappe

Golden Rule #23: Be Memorable. In a Good Way.

The original rule reads, “Deliver more than someone expects — better, faster, cheaper, more.” And then the caveat: Be memorable. In a good way.

We’ve all heard the stories about products or service that are so appallingly bad they end up going viral, circulating in the endless stratosphere of the world wide web. You don’t want to end up there.

I dare say no one sets out to end up there. They get there without intending to. They get there because they forget in the end, we are all people, and sometimes the best solution is remembering to treat people like people.

I’ve become familiar with the statement, “Good enough for government work.” It’s kind of a low bar, to be honest. Delivering the minimum, or a shade or two below the minimum, doesn’t do much for your reputation. It makes people hesitate when someone asks about their experience working with you. That hesitation is sometimes all it takes for someone to take their business elsewhere.

These days, it seems like all it takes to really succeed in business is to show up where you say you’ll be, when you’ll say you’ll be there, and do what you agreed to do, for what you agreed to charge. Don’t overpromise and underdeliver. Just don’t do that.

If you want to be memorable in a good way, underpromise and overdeliver. Give someone more than they’re expecting. Show up early, do more, and invest yourself in their project. Think outside the box. Have a great attitude. Listen to other people, thoughtfully and thoroughly. Make sure you give better than you get.

People are usually surprised, and in a good way, when they get more than they’re paying for. Living in the south, I have learned the word ‘lagniappe.’ It means, in French, a little something extra. In his deliciously readable “Life on the Mississippi,” Mark Twain described it this way:

“It is the equivalent of the thirteenth roll in a ‘baker’s dozen.’ It is something thrown in, gratis, for good measure. The custom originated in the Spanish quarter of the city [New Orleans]. … If the waiter in the restaurant stumbles and spills a gill of coffee down the back of your neck, he says ‘For lagniappe, sah,’ and gets you another cup without extra charge.”

I love how he defines the word by showing it in action. And really and truly, that’s the whole point: define yourself and your work by showing it in action.

How has Copper taught me about lagniappe? He extracts it from me! Just about the time I think, there, that’s enough of a walk, or a game, or homework, he decides that there’s time or room for just a little more. Is he memorable? You bet! I’ve learned, when he seems unable to settle down, to ask him, what do you want? Or to do a few minutes of homework with him. Invariably his behavior improves, and so does my own outlook.

sunny side up

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