How to Earn Customer Loyalty and Maximize Employee Retention With A Unique People-First Culture Strategy

Loyalty is hard to understand and even harder to achieve.

For me, I can only think of two brands I’m truly loyal to, Nike and SWAT Health (my gym). And, when I say loyal, I actually am. I don’t wear Adidas anymore. In fact, I gave away my Ultra Boosts because I only align myself with Nike. As for exercising, sure I go to the occasional Barry’s Bootcamp but I wouldn’t allow anyone else to train me other than the trainers at SWAT Health.

Other than these two brands, I can’t think of any brand I’m truly loyal to. Not my grocery store, not my dry cleaner…the only reason I’m loyal to my bank is because undoing that relationship seems too labour intensive for me. 

As for my employees, I would like to believe they know I’m loyal to them. I invest in our relationships and in their development just like I would invest in spending time with my mother or my girlfriend, Sophia. 

But, when and why does loyalty falter when doing business with our customers, employees, and suppliers?

I believe we have a mutually binding agreement when we go into business together:

Loyalty falters when one party isn’t meeting halfway. 

If our customers start behaving poorly then we may decline to service them. 

If our employees consistently call in sick to work when they aren’t, then we move to replace them.

If our suppliers start delivering their products, the same ones we use to operate our business, at a higher price, we shout “Bait and Switch!” and end our relationship.

I was recently listening to The Corp podcast which featured Mark Mastrov as their guest. 

Mark Mastrov (left) and Barstool Sport’s Dan Katz (right).

Mark built the globally recognized chain of gyms, 24 Hour Fitness. During the podcast, he mentioned something that made me go back and listen again. 

He said, “The purpose of loyalty is to earn and keep it. It’s not everlasting.”

I’ve seen companies front-load their loyalty efforts.

What I mean is that they will shower their new customers with attention and gifts. They will also onboard new employees exceptionally during the first few weeks of employment. But, then it ends…

Imagine if I courted Sophia, my girlfriend, secured the date, wooed her for weeks, won her over then everything stopped. I don’t need Sophia to tell you that I wouldn’t have her loyalty and our relationship would soon end.

This is exactly what’s happening in our businesses! We are treating them like transactions.

I want to erase the gap between how we behave in our personal lives and how we do in our professional lives to earn loyalty.

When our sons, daughters, mothers, fathers, siblings, best friends, or extended family need something from us, we go out of our way to give it to them. 

We don’t hesitate. 

Whether that’s hiring a tutor for our kids or picking up our friends from the airport when they need a ride. 

We do it because it’s a natural reflex for us to help people close to us.

On the contrary. When our team members need something we ask ourselves: “What’s the ROI?”

Try this on for size…

What’s the ROI of giving a crap about doing something for the people who actually grow our businesses??!! 

My partners and I have nearly 200 employees and most customers don’t know who we are, nor do they care.

They care about the people with who they are interacting with. 

Our team members on the frontline of our business. 

With this in mind, we should be doing everything possible to give them what they need to win over customers and pave a path for them.

An investment in your people is an investment in loyalty.

MENTORSHIP WITH MICHEL: Disengagement, Purpose, and Self-Fulfillment

Okay, we’re good.

Cool. So, yeah, I think you know a little bit about me based on the email I sent you, but, yeah, for the past… Let’s say the past year I’ve just been kind of feeling… Feeling a little lost. I’ve had a lot of great opportunities in terms of my career so far and I’ve been able to run my own business. I’ve been able to know what it’s like to be able to travel, make some good, above par money and I’m just kind of feeling a little stuck, and now I’m just kind of to take a step back and I’m like, “Okay, do I want this for the rest of my life, you know?

Yeah.

The only thing I really know… And it was to work in this field…

It was construction, yeah?

[Massimo] Yeah, in construction, and so now taking a step back, I’m like, “What do I do? “Where do I start? “Where do I find this inspiration?” And I’m almost thinking that your purpose doesn’t come to you like this overnight. You don’t just have an idea and like, “Oh, this is what I’m gonna do.” I feel like it’s through trial and error of different things and I wanted to know what you think about that.

Where do you find your disengagement? What would you believe your disengagement is caused by? Is it the industry? Is it the role within the industry? Is it your environment?

That’s a really good question. I feel like part of it… Maybe it is the industry as a whole. I’ve never put a lot of thought into that before, but…

My next question, so that’s the first thing, is auditing what is causing this displeasure and this disengagement? It very well could be the industry. Maybe you don’t like the blue-collardness of it, maybe you don’t like the early mornings of it or the… Whatever the circumstances might be. So do a deep-dive in that and when I do an audit of my engagement, I don’t bring technology with me. It’s kind of like a Kumbaya time. It’s just a notebook and I just let these thoughts come out of me, and then I look at it and I’m like, “What did I just write down and what is the common theme?” And that will bring you closer toward your answer. When it comes to understanding what your purpose is, I’ll share what mine is and to your point didn’t happen overnight. My purpose is just like meeting people and helping them achieve their goals, and I know that that might sound like a platitude and something for the media, but it’s very, very genuine. For me, it doesn’t matter about the industry. My engagement in hospitality is the same when I am advising a dental practice which I do outside of Toronto. It’s the same when I speak on stage. So my purpose is leading people to deliver better experiences to other people being customers if we were to talk about the commerce side of things and my business aspect of it. So when you audit your engagement and your fulfillment and happiness, take time and think, “When am I at my most engaged?” For me it’s when I’m meeting people. For you it might be interacting with contractors, interacting with whomever or it might not be that at all. You said you spent some time traveling…

Yeah.

Within the last 12 to 18 months?

Yeah.

Okay, it was probably some fulfillment there. Now I’m not suggesting go just just keep traveling, but along your travels you probably thought of something. You’re like, “That would be super cool.” The thing that you don’t want to do is, you don’t want to restrict yourself and say, “Oh, well, I couldn’t possibly build a career out of that.” Even if it sounds obscure, I’ll give you an example of a guy named on Instagram and social media, he goes by Nomadic Matt, and he wrote a book, and I’m paraphrasing, but it’s how to travel the world on $50 a day. So if he… And he’s been doing this for 10 years, and if he had told somebody, “That’s what I’m gonna do.” It probably sounded nuts to him, but he made it happen, and also for me to have achieved a goal of speaking in front of thousands of people at a Subway Conference, that sounded crazy to people, and even to myself as well too, but–

That’s the stuff that kind of excites me. Those things that are so… It feels so out of reach, but you almost know that anything is possible ’cause those things are possible and… For me, public speaking, I’m really afraid of it, but that’s also one of the reasons why it kind of interest me a lot too.

The reason people go skydiving, right? Even though they’re–

Yeah.

I’m scared of it. There’s something that I want you to look into and research and it’s gonna help you create a framework of what you want the next four years of your life to look like. Google painted picture 1-800-got-junk and when… Spend a weekend researching everything you can that comes up on page one of Google about it, but, essentially, what it is is it’s a document that you write four years out. So, for example, I’m working on mine right now. I’m assuming it’s the year 2020. I’m writing it like it’s the year 2024 and I’ve accomplished all these things. So, for example, it could read like this, “I’m the CEO of a company that has 100 retail locations ‘and thousand of employees. “I was just voted entrepreneur of the year in Canada. “We were recognized as one “of the fastest growing companies in Canada. “My relationship with my parents ‘is the strongest it’s ever been. “My body fat percentage is x.” So it allows you to envision what the next four years looks like and then you just reverse-engineer it, which is…

I’ve head of this theory before of almost writing out what you want and kind of reviewing it every single day, becoming more familiar with it and more familiar with it… Until you–

Absolutely.

That you kind of reprogram your subconscious into thinking, “Hey, that’s actually gonna happen.”

So, for me, if you… I am… I swear by visualization and kind of the mental training that goes into achieving the goal. If you wanted to drive from Toronto to Miami, you could follow your GPS and have a plan, or you could just try to figure it out without the plan. I’m sure you’ll still get to Miami, but it’s gonna take you double the amount of time and it’s going to cost you double the amount of money in gas and all that. So that’s why I’m huge on creating concrete plans that you don’t deviate from. What I see a lot of people do, which I think is inaccurate is they’ll create a plan, they’ll see themselves struggling. They’ll change the plan to make it more manageable. I’m like, “No, that that doesn’t help you,” and your grip and your perseverance is like, you have to create the plan and be so content and it does have to be realistic but you have to be so content, that that is what I want my life to look like. Don’t allow yourself to to deviate from the plan, and make it easier for yourself, but I wanted to go back to the… Your fulfillment, your engagement, what can you do? It might sound like a rudimentary first step, but take some time to yourself, get out of the city, perhaps, get out of your… Put your phone away, put your laptop away, and just… When am I my most jacked up, my most engaged, my most fulfilled? And start documenting things, and it might not hit you in just a one hour session, sitting by yourself with a coffee. You might need to write some things down, put it away, come back a week later, write some more things down, put it away, and come back. This isn’t gonna happen overnight.

Right.

It took me awhile to figure out what… It took me year to really get super clear on what it was at engagement.

I know you worked at 1-800-got-junk and you built your MBA, so to say, in there and then… What happened in between there and then when you started your business, did you take some time off? Was there an awkward period where you didn’t know, but you knew what you wanted to do?

No, I was really clear. It took me about a year to figure out exactly what I wanted to do after I joined the company. I knew I wanted to build a business, but that’s so vague. I was like, “Well, what type of business?” And as I was like, “I don’t know yet, but something will come, and as I was working diligently with 1-800-got-junk, I recognized that building strong relationships with customers and employees, and the strategies that go into that is very advantageous for a company to grow. I recognized, “You know what? “I actually want to help companies build these strategies,” but I knew that I needed to cut my teeth and earn some credibility, so I stayed four more years with the company to earn that credibility and then in 2012… So after five years of being with the company I ventured off on my own and started this very small consulting agency. It was just me and it was who’s doing very tough, man, for six months was very tough. No paycheck every two weeks, move back in with your parents, I’m in my mid-20s borrowing money from anybody that would even give me the opportunity to borrow money from them. It was tough, man, but it’s not supposed to be easy. I don’t think… It’s supposed to be easy–

I think that’s the best part of it, that’s the beauty of it is now you’re in obviously a better position and you knew eventually you’d get there, you’d be here and you’re gonna be even… Hopefully even further, but I think just enjoying that process, that’s the feeling that I want, that kind of feeling where at least I know I’m working towards something. Honestly, I have lots of resources in my business. I’ve already thought of maybe one or two other businesses that could branch off from what I’m doing now, and they interest me, but… I figured if there’s a chance now to try something completely different, it would be now, now that I’m 25.

Oh, you’re 25, man?

[Massimo] Yeah.

I just met somebody, another young professional like yourself who’s 25, I’m like, “That’s the golden years, man, you’re youthful, you can still stumble and make mistakes. I was just worried that your… I’m assuming you don’t have kids.

No.

Right, so, okay, the liability is very low, man.

[Massimo] Right, so this is the whole point I’m trying to make. I’ve already built a very comfortable nest for myself. For me to go to work tomorrow or even today and start making money again, it has nothing to do with that, and for me to put everything I have on hold, that entire life on hold, means that I’m really curious about what else is there. If that makes any sense,

It does.

And I really thought about, “Okay, if I’m going to do something, make the decision now.” Make the conscious decision now before, let’s say you’re 30 and you’ve got a few mortgages, you’ve got a serious girl or whatever. I’m not tied down to anything. I think this is the good time to do it.

Yeah, it’s a great time, absolutely, for you to be doing your discovery and your audit because, let’s say in six months from now you figure out what that is and you venture off and go do that, and then you spend the next two or three years head down, working diligently, making a name for yourself before you’re 30, man, you’re sitting pretty. The number one piece of advice that I could give people in their 20s is that you have to be prepared to eat shit for a while.

Oh, yeah.

And with a smile on your face, and just know that this is a part of the process, that those scars that you have, you’re gonna look back and be like, “It was worth it.”

[Massimo] 100%.

And that is you have to go in there humbly and, like I said, cut your teeth, and it’s gonna be a rough go, right? Especially if you’re going down the entrepreneurship path where that guaranteed paycheck after every two weeks, it’s not gonna be there anymore, all right? So it’s really gonna test your grit, your perseverance, but for me I wouldn’t have my life any other way. So, yeah.

I 100% agree with you on that. I’ve always been the type of person that’s created my own jobs and I got a lot of fulfillment out of that, and… I know tomorrow with my qualifications I can get a nine to five job. I don’t put myself on a pedestal or think I am better than that, but at the same token… I’m not sure if that kind of lifestyle would be for me, but… There was an opportunity that I thought would teach me the necessary things like the necessary information, kind of like you. You worked at 1-800-got-junk, but that was your education so I don’t mind working somewhere, but as long as the experience is going to be worthwhile. It’s not going to be a dead end thing, and I’m sure a lot of jobs, you can take a lot of different things from there, if that makes sense.

One thing that I advocate to companies is that you need to have a balance between meaning and money, and what I mean by that is that organization just can’t give Massimo money and expect him to be engaged. They have to give him some sort of meaning that is more than money. So for example, at 1-800-got-junk, my meaning at that company was they were teaching me entrepreneurship and I was like, “I can’t believe this company “is paying me to learn.” Of course I contributed to their success in the ways that I could, so they got a fair shake as well, but I wouldn’t dismiss working for an organization that you feel like, “You know what, maybe this isn’t “The industry that I expected to be in,” but I’m learning so much, and I’m gonna take that education and use that as a springboard to the next thing. Do you think I grew up picturing myself working in a call center, answering 100 calls a day where some of my shifts started at 4:00 a.m. for a garbage company? Of course not. I never drew that up, but what I did consciously know is that I wanted to start a business one day and one of the things that you have to remember is that you have to learn before you earn. Very few people can just build an app and be like, “I’m a billionaire,” right? Instagram turned into a billion dollar company after a year and a half or so, so learn before you earn is one of the biggest takeaways that I can share with younger professionals as well too. There’s so much to learn. That’s the thing is that a lot of companies aren’t built this way, right? I want to build a company, and we’ve done this, where we teach our employees how to read a P&L statement, what’s a balance sheet? How do you create a marketing plan for a restaurant? How do you do all of this and expose them to that education, and I’m not worried about our team members leaving. If they leave smarter than when they joined us, that’s a huge win.

Yeah.

So that’s another thing that you, perhaps, could do. I know Shopify is massive, not just in size but big on education. While there might not be an abundance of them that truly care to educate team members on how to build a business, there are a few out there. So that very well could be an avenue that you explore and be like, “You know what, for a year I’m gonna join “this company, I’m gonna earn some bank, I’m going “to learn and then I’m gonna do that next thing. “I’m gonna open that pizzeria, I’m gonna open “that whatever, right?”

Yeah. I’m certain that whatever you choose to do, if you told five people today they’d be like, “What,” right? And that’s fine because at the end of the day it’s what you have to live with. It’s your life, it’s your purpose and nobody can dictate what this other than yourself.

Right.

[Mentor] Does that make sense?

That makes a lot of sense. That makes a lot of sense. It’s a matter of finding the right company and I guess having the same values.

Do you feel pressure to come to your conclusion, or your discovering what your purpose is, or do you know that this is just a part of the process?

I know it’s part of the process, but I have a lot of people that are like, “Dude, why did you just stop everything? “Why did you… “Is everything okay? Sure, why did you just stop your job? Why did you give up… Why did you give up what you gave up? And I’m just like, “Hey, man, that job’s gonna be there for me.” I’m not overly concerned about it and so I almost have a… I’m listening to other people, what they have to say, I’m hearing what they have to say, but I know I have to take it with a grain of salt because this is my journey and I’m the one that made this decision. I have to live with it. So, yeah, I do feel some external pressure. I do feel that, but at the end of the day, I know I have to tune out those voices, and I have to go with what feels right for me.

Yeah, essentially what you do is just recalibrating yourself. It would appear that you weren’t happy with where you were at and you’ve hit the pause button, and that’s fine. You have a lifetime ahead of you. I commend you for doing that because a lot of people are living within careers that they don’t like and I’m certain that if they had a do over, it’d be doing what you’re doing right now, and I met with another person just yesterday, very similar position that you’re in right now. She was gonna be taking this role and she had to tell the company if she was gonna take this role for October 1st, and she was on the fence, and when I met with her I was like, “You don’t seem like you’re jacked up about this role,” and she was like, “I’m not.” I was like, “Well, what industries would you want to be in? “What does that change look like? And she explained it and I was like, “Well, then turn down the role,” right? Even if you don’t have the next thing lined up, just sit and recalibrate yourself, and take meetings and have goals, and help use that time to find out what you really want to do. Now be grateful that you are in this position where you can get polished. There’s a lot of people that can’t because they have a mortgage, the have kids, they have rent, they have all of this stuff. So be grateful that you in this position where you can kind of reset yourself and you have time to meet with people like myself and others and ask for advice and some guidance, and then take everything that has been shared with you, and just make a decision, and the decision doesn’t have to come to you tomorrow, nor do you need to feel stressed out about it. It’s like the person that hasn’t gotten married yet, who’s like, “Oh, my God, I gotta get married soon.” Come on, who’s it for? That’s a recipe for disaster.

Cool, man.

[Mentor] Has this been helpful for you?

Absolutely, yeah, getting insight from people who have… Who have built businesses, and who have started at the bottom and figured their way out. It’s refreshing to hear ’cause I know it’s possible for me. It’s possible for you. It’s possible for me too.

I’ll share this with you, I genuinely don’t believe I had any extraordinary talents, but what I do know that I have in spades is that I don’t give up easily and I have a lot of grit and perseverance, and so that is why I think some people will reach out to me is because, “Hey, he’s just a normal dude, “nothing too extraordinary about me,” but I just know that I’m very clear on what my vision is and what I want my life to look like, and I’ll exhaust every opportunity. I’ll try to break down every single wall be able to accomplish those goals. Now at 1,000, I don’t hit every single goal…

But at least you know what it looks like, every single day you’re chipping away at it, you feel one step closer and you know you’re on your purpose right now. Knowing your purpose, it feels good. It feels good even to fail, you just know that I’m doing my thing.

One thing that gets me really excited is thinking about big goals where I’m like, “Wow, that is gonna be really hard to hit,” but I’d always come back to something as simple as telling myself “why not me?” If it has been done before in history…

Absolutely.

Where the next thing that I go and do, my next business in 2020 which I’m keeping my cards close for now, it’s been done before many times, but it’s still a very large goal, but I just keep telling myself, “Why not me? “Why not me?” And then I think everybody should have that mentality. I know Saperid and someone else, and if I was in the room with a billionaire or somebody who’s built a global brand that I admire, I’m like, “Why not me?” And it’s a great mentality to have. It’s refreshing and it keeps you level-headed, and it keeps you focused.

And it’s probably by people who are no smarter than you. Probably not, because some of the great business professionals of the world have ADD, are dyslexic, Richard Branson can barely read and he’s a multi-billionaire that people admire and respect, so to your point, I don’t think I’m smarter than the next person and I don’t think the next person is much smarter than me. Of course there’s your outliers where there’s absolute, bonafide geniuses that would IQ me off this planet, but what else do I have? I know that I am strong leader. I know that I can get people to follow me in the right respect and that’s my strength. So that’s what I’m gonna bring to the table with the mentality of why not me, and I think I can do it, and I pass along that same message to you, like, “Why not me? Why can’t I do this? Why I can’t I be, in five years, 30 years old, running a multimillion dollar business or whatever it is that you want to accomplish? I know somebody that is 21, has raised millions of dollars, and when I ask him, “What do you want to do after this business, what’s the deal?” He wants to get into Broadway theater, something completely opposite from what he is doing today and that just goes to show that you don’t have to go down a path that is common. You might want to do something for the next five years, but then after that you might want to do something else and then that’s fine. You don’t have to have a career that’s the same thing for 30 years, but for today do what I told you and just try to identify those moments where you’re your most happy, where you’re super engaged and even if you weren’t getting paid, you would still do it.

Even the little things, right?

Yeah, for example, I am my most engaged when I have calls like this. I am my most engaged when I’m hosting a workshop. I am my most engaged when I’m hosting a meeting with our team. I’m not engaged when I’m building PowerPoint presentations, so I punt that, I get somebody else to do it. So I’ve built my career around only doing things that I want to do. Now keep in mind that wasn’t always the case. I earned the ability to pick and choose what I want to do. I ate shit for years and years, and years, and years, so you have to be willing to do that with a smile on your face and just know that it’s a part of that process.

100%.

[Mentor] Right?

I don’t feel entitled to just jump steps.

That’s good, great mentality. Massimo, I gotta dip. I hope this was helpful for you.

Thank you very much, it was, man.

Keep me up to date with what’s going on with everything that you’re working on, okay?

Thank you very much.

[Massimo] Later brother, have a good rest of the week, okay?

You too, man, take care.

Company Culture & Customer Experience Keynote Speaker: Subway Global Convention (2019)

Before 2000+ attendees in Toronto, I was Subway’s headline keynote speaker.

During my keynote speech, I shared company culture, customer experience and employee engagement strategies with the Subway franchise owners.

Watch this video to learn how my company interviews employees and onboards them memorably which ultimately delivers a better customer experience.

Visit my website to learn more about my keynote speaking services http://www.michelfalcon.com/keynote/