A Little Extra Effort Often Makes a Huge Difference

January 10, 2018|

By Mark Alison

I worked on my father’s ice cream truck every Saturday during the summer when school was out. We sold soft-serve on neighborhood routes and special stops where people, who heard the familiar music from our Mr. Softee-style truck, would gather to buy our shakes, sundaes and cones.

While I missed playing hoops and tag football with my friends, the work wasn’t without its advantages. I ate my weight in ice cream. I loaded up on root beer floats. I made special sundae concoctions with pineapple and crushed cherry toppings and those delicious, syrupy wet walnuts. I drank crazy-flavored milk shakes and, as they would say in the South, I “ate the mess” out of chocolate ice cream.

At “ice cream school” they had taught us how “turn a cone.” It was a way to wind just enough ice cream above the lip of the cone to make it look like a good value for the money. We were instructed to weigh each one to be sure the serving did not exceed the profit margin.

Sundaes had a similar set of rules. Milkshakes had a fill line for the milk and the ice cream followed by one single pump of chocolate. But since I loved chocolate, I ignored the rules when I made my own personal milkshakes and they were way better than the corporate ones. Here’s the recipe.

First the whole milk. I poured a little less than the fill line into the squatty pint cup. Then rich soft serve vanilla ice cream loaded with butterfat. I’d circle it into the cup, lining the walls, top to bottom, making an ice cream walled tunnel down the center. Finally my favorite; a full pump of dark brown Hershey’s chocolate, followed by another pump – filling up that ice cream tunnel. Then onto the Hamilton Beech mixer it went until everything was blended deliciously.

Yum! I can still see it sliding reluctantly up the paper straw and feel that creamy cold chocolate decadence coating the inside of my mouth. I considered it a life changing experience. (I have to pause here to savor that again in my mind).

The only difference in what I made for myself and the milkshakes we sold was that one extra pump of Hershey’s chocolate. I asked my dad what that extra pump of chocolate cost and he said, “Not very much.” So I suggested to him that we make our shakes my way. I pitched that mine was far superior to the ones we were selling and that people might tell others how much better they were and we could become known for these really good milkshakes, and…

He said OK, not because he believed a 13-year-old kid but because I was so enthusiastic about it (obviously supplemented by a sugar high). Well, our chocolate shake sales did take off. We did become known as the place with the best milkshakes. Some months later we were told that our franchise led the group in percentage of milkshake sales and they wanted to know why. We never told them – but now you know.

Twenty years later when I started my own business I considered that milkshake lesson when I wondered how we could avoid being a mediocre company. Early on, I decided to give clients an extra pump of chocolate and in many ways it paid off better than it did with the ice cream.

Our staff got enthusiastic about it! We would imagine ways to give the “extra pump” to our customers. Our business grew. It worked so well, in fact, that we introduced the idea internally into our everyday interaction.

When a team member requested something of another, we would give an “extra pump” of chocolate – not every time, but many times. So much so that it became a corporate philosophy,  a way of life.

Soon after that in our Monday team meetings, without prompting, the receivers of the pump would often thank the givers publically for doing the “extra” and tell how it helped them. It was life changing. Well, maybe not life changing but certainly attitude changing. That’s worth savoring a moment too.

Try it wherever you are in life. It doesn’t only work with customers and employees. It works in families too. It’s the “little extra” that changes attitudes and totally destroys mediocrity. Go ahead! Consider how you can give someone an extra pump, especially someone you love. And even someone you don’t.

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