The first time I read this fundamental I thought of my mom – Maria. Mom opened an Italian restaurant in Lakewood, Ohio in 1960 by the name of “Maria’s Roman Room.” The restaurant was located at 118th and Detroit Avenue. Mom owned Maria’s until she retired and sold the business in 2004. Mom was a “working mother”, a “Female Entrepreneur”, and a “Female Business Enterprise” before the terms were invented and became popular in our country. She was in many ways ahead of her time, and was doing things most “housewives” in 1960 would be looked at sideways for doing – such as running a successful business in a male dominated industry. It wasn’t always easy and the demands of running a business for 44 years while taking care of five children and a family took its toll on Mom at times over the years.
In 44 years of being in business Mom met thousands of people each year and found a way to remember them – especially when they had a first date, or got engaged, or perhaps held their rehearsal dinner at the restaurant. Many dated over a pizza and then were married and eventually brought their children in to meet Mom. Lunch time was very busy and the dining room would hold a mix of folks from business owners to office workers to contractors eating veal or having a twirl of pasta while discussing business and family. I remember I was in high school and working during Christmas break and Mom introduced me to a man named “Guido Frangapani”. He was a very nice man in a crisp navy blue suit and red tie and he asked me to sit down and wanted to discuss my future. He asked things like what was I interested in? Where did I want to go to school? We discussed colleges and areas of study and he offered his thoughts on the pros and cons of being an attorney – which I was thinking of pursuing as a career. His comments were very good and I appreciated his advice. I learned many years later that Mr. Frangapani was in fact Federal Judge Donald Nugent – one of the most respected jurors on the federal bench in Cleveland. Turns out Mom was not thrilled about my plans to be an attorney but she wanted me to get as much independent input as possible. Mom never touted who she knew and more importantly was always happy to make an introduction so people could find a common benefit from knowing someone in her circle of relationships. I don’t mention these things to brag about Mom and who she knew, but rather to point out that her relationships were with many people from many different walks of life, and she truly took interest in and enjoyed every single one. Whether the restaurant was doing well or having difficult periods that every business experiences, she always took joy in those she met.
All five children worked in the place growing up – doing the awe inspiring things that go on in the restaurant business like cleaning toilets, washing dishes and of course making 200 pounds of pizza dough every day in a basement without any air conditioning. You have not lived until you have to portion, roll and refrigerate that much pizza dough before it raises to the level of your eyeballs when it is 95 degrees and humid in summer!!! We learned many things from her but mostly to take a genuine interest in those that you meet, and try to remember what makes them memorable while taking joy in what you do. I think this was her way of saying – make things personal – which of course helps you personalize your purpose. With customers she taught us to remember that sometimes no matter what you do they might not be satisfied, but as long as you have done everything within your power, and if they are memorable as people, it will all work out.
Building meaningful relationships for life is indeed critical, and one thing I have learned over the years is you never know when a relationship will present itself and help you win business, solve a problem or make your life more memorable. I want to thank Mom for showing me the power of building meaningful relationships and I hope to continue to hone my relationship skills with my fellow Famous Associates, family, and friends. I hope to continue to learn from my fellow Famous Associates and emulate how they have built external and internal meaningful relationships. I want to recognize associates like Steve Winovich, Dale Kosco, Heidi Mapel, Karen Dinehart, Bruce Neubauer, Jim Huber, Dave King and many others who have built solid relationships with associates and customers.