The waiter rule and other tricks to identify good clients/partners/employees

USA Today ran an item on “the waiter rule” … something I have found incredibly useful (with a few other “rules”) in my own business life:

The purple sorbet in cut glass he was serving tumbled onto the expensive white gown of an obviously rich and important woman. “I watched in slow motion ruining her dress for the evening,” Odland says. “I thought I would be shot on sight.”

Thirty years have passed, but Odland can’t get the stain out of his mind, nor the woman’s kind reaction. She was startled, regained composure and, in a reassuring voice, told the teenage Odland, “It’s OK. It wasn’t your fault.” When she left the restaurant, she also left the future Fortune 500 CEO with a life lesson: You can tell a lot about a person by the way he or she treats the waiter.

So, I love the waiter rule. It’s always something I’m looking at when dining with a business partner. But beyond how they treat the waiter, I have a few other “tricks” I use to observe and generalize greater values and behavior. (Note the word generalize … these are in no way 100%-certain indicators of people I’d not want to do business with … but they are windows into a greater value set that I take into account.)

  • Do they tip well? – seeing someone consult their pocket card so they can leave exactly 15% or 18% is disturbing, to say the least. It speaks to whether they approach money with an attitude of abundance or scarcity.

  • Do they use a cell phone in a restaurant? – anyone yakking it up without having the decency to head outside is either ignorant of or simply do not care about the experience of those around them.

  • How do they treat people who are of “lesser” status than they are? – really an extension of the waiter rule. How they treat employees, bank tellers, and the kid at the checkout counter are all equally telling.

  • Do they go out of their way to tell others how “successful” they are? – instant red flag. The most successful people I’ve been around have also been the last to talk about their accomplishments. On the other hand, the ones who talk the most always seem to not quite live up to the hype. Beward the braggart!

What tricks do you have for identifying who is a match-and-fit for you? Whether it be employees, business partners, clients or something else altogether?

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Anonymous July 5, 2006 at 12:00 am

I think the ability to listen is one of the most valuable personal traits.


2 Anonymous July 5, 2006 at 5:00 am

I think the ability to listen is one of the most valuable personal traits.


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