Who’s Driving the Taxi?

imageI just got back from Houston. I spent all day yesterday in meetings, moving from group to group and topic to topic. But the business I conducted wasn’t the most interesting part of my trip. What I can’t stop thinking about is my taxi driver.

Normally when I travel for business, I’ll reserve a rental car. I like being in control of my time and will often have a free evening to explore or shop. Having a car allows me to decide on a whim where I want to go. Picking up and dropping off at the airport makes it easy.

But for this trip, I was given a last-minute invitation to fly in on a private plane. I cancelled the front end of my flight and the rental car. We landed at a small airstrip without any rental options. Another passenger gave me a ride to my hotel where the desk clerk helped me secure a taxi for the next morning.

Bright and early yesterday morning, the familiar yellow vehicle pulled up at the front entrance and out jumped Eugenio.

Now, you’ve probably heard the stories – some true, most not so much – of the taxi drivers who go super-overboard. They have a blanket in the back seat if you get cold. They have a thermos of hot coffee and a cooler filled with soft drinks. Thy offer you the morning paper and an assortment of magazines. They give over control of the car’s audio so that you can tune in to the music you like the most. They go above and beyond to provide you with the most incredible cab ride you’ll ever experience. And of course, they work off of reservations. You’re lucky they had a cancellation or you’d never have even known they existed.

Eugenio is not one of those drivers. Don’t get me wrong, the ride was just fine. He was friendly without being overbearing. And after verifying my destination, he did ask if the music he was playing was ok. But no mind-blowing, over the top gestures of customer service were forth coming. He waited patiently while I answered some emails on my phone before engaging me in conversation and quickly delivered me to my first meeting.

As I signed the credit card slip, he asked if I needed a ride after the meeting. I had already arranged to ride with others who were heading the same direction as I was, and I told him so. I did, however, need a ride to the airport this morning. Handing me his business card (Take a look at it. For obvious reasons, I’ll keep it forever), he agreed to meet me at 6:45 in front of the hotel. Sure enough, he pulled up this morning about ten minutes earlier than necessary, and I got to the airport in plenty of time.

Eugenio didn’t try to reinvent the taxi business. He didn’t seek to overwhelm me with a series of WOW moments. He simply provided the service I was looking for, secured additional business and then made sure I knew how to contact him in the future. Anything beyond that would have been unnecessary and, in my opinion, awkward.

My point is this: To be seen above the crowd, you don’t have to be a giant. You just have to stand a little taller. So many businesses try to revolutionize their industry in an attempt to out-shine the competition and then fail to live up to their own hype. It’s like the football team that pulls out the secret play – that may or may not work – when simple execution of the basics would win the game. In a world where so many organizations fail at the simplest of tasks – arriving on time, delivering the correct order, providing correct information – those who repeatedly perform in a manner that’s unremarkable will win the day. Don’t worry about offering me a drink. Just get me where I need to go on time and I’ll ride with you every time.

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