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Every Business Needs a Kate

Last week was a rough week. Between family needs and business needs, I found myself in an unusual emotional state with much more anxiety than normal. It was about 1pm on Tuesday and I was standing in an understaffed McDonalds waiting for my order number to be called. It had been about 20 minutes, I was in a hurry, and I tried to just stand there smiling so that my real emotions wouldn’t show through.

Then up walked Kate.

I had seen her sitting at a table near the entrance speaking with a few friends or customers – I wasn’t sure. She was noticeable because she was wearing a bright red baseball cap with a flower on it – just not something you see every day in McDonalds. I hadn’t thought anymore of it at the time though until she walked up to me.

As I impatiently waited for my order, Kate walked up and said, “How are you doing today?” She had an over-the-top happy look on her face. I realized that she was just trying to be kind as she handed out the condiments, so I more mutedly responded, “I’m fine. How are you?”

Kate smiled back as if she was hoping I would ask. “I’m tremendous! Thank you!”

We both stood there awkwardly for a moment. She was holding a tray of condiments and I had no order yet, so there wasn’t much I needed... other than my food of course.

She then said, “What’s your dream? <pause> I mean not your night-time dreams, but what is your real dream?”

I looked at her for a second, pausing to ask myself internally if my understanding was really what she meant even though I knew it was. Then I answered. To be honest about it though, I was so caught off guard that I’m not sure what that answer was. I just know that it ended with another pause before I asked, “What’s your dream?” I’m also not sure if I really cared for an answer at that very moment due to my anxious state of mind, but I was trying to be cordial.

Kate quickly answered, “Cheap, clean energy!” (An exclamation point here doesn’t do the response justice.) Her face was beaming. She was serious, and very happy I asked I might add.

Kate went on to explain her rather detailed idea for creating cheap, clean energy from waste materials in the fast-food industry. It truly was a plan worthy of an “A” if I was a high school science teacher and she had been assigned this task. She had thought it through well.

I told Kate I was really impressed with her plan, and then we both stood there a moment again.

Kate then asked, “What do you want to be remembered for?

Once again, I was caught completely off-guard. Here we were, a 50ish year-old businessman waiting for my order at McDonalds, and an unusually enthusiastic teenager (young adult?) bringing up questions deeper than my college philosophy professor.

I remember my answer to this one. I thought a moment and answered, “To be remembered as helpful.” Particularly in my circumstances at that moment, I just wanted to be helpful to my family and friends. I was feeling a little vulnerable emotionally, and that question cut me to the core. I think I teared up for a moment.

Kate smiled big, accepting the response. I honestly don’t remember what she said afterwards because I was so struck by the depth of her question. It had reset my perspective as I stood there waiting for my order. I no longer had the anxiety I went into McDonalds with. I no longer was feeling impatient wondering why a cheeseburger took over 20 minutes to prepare. I was once again happy in the moment. I was feeling like myself again.

Kate made a difference for me that day. Kate, whose job it was to simply give out condiments in the dining room at McDonalds. Kate had led me back to happiness with those two meaningful questions.

So why do I cover this in my blog? This is a business blog after all, correct? Yes, it is.

The reason I chose to write about this experience is that every business needs a “Kate”. In fact, most businesses would do well to have a few “Kates”. People need to be cared for, “loved” even, as they make their way through the day. What if every time a customer entered your own business, they came out feeling cared for, or even loved, because of how they were treated by your team? It’s worth pondering. I suspect, and even propose, that it would make a difference.

If you’d like to hear more of the story, or discuss how to impact customer experience in your own business, please feel free to reach out on our Contact page.

As always, I wish you the best in your business.

(And Kate – if you read this – thank you.)

Mark Goldman


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