It was almost 40 years ago that the W.W. Clyde construction company was granted the contract to grade the new interstate highway between Utah and Salt Lake counties.
It would pass over what we call “The Point of the Mountain,” the divider between the two counties, where there was nothing but an ancient spit of sand and gravel that extended almost to the Jordan River. It was big enough that it even divided the weather patterns between the two counties — one bright and sunny, while the other would be locked in a roaring blizzard. That was where the new I-15 freeway was going to be. And construction was everywhere.
I was living in Utah County, but working in Salt Lake County, meaning I had to drive that road twice every day. And due to the monotony, I found myself following closely the progress of the W.W. Clyde Company. Soon there was a slope off to my right, as smooth as a baby’s bottom. Not a weed in sight, not a mark anywhere. Sandy soil just waiting for the freeway to be laid at its foot. Very nice. Very nice, Mr. Clyde.
Until … one of Mr. Clyde’s guys decided that he just had to climb up that slope and get to the other side. I noticed his footprints immediately. Big steps. Long stride. Upward angle from bottom to top, a walk maybe 50 yards long.
It was more interesting than anything else. And something to look at as I drove the 30 miles from my American Fork home to my Honda shop in Salt Lake City. I actually began to look forward to seeing those footsteps. And I wondered if anybody else ever noticed.
It rained. And I noticed that those footsteps, being just a bit more level than their surroundings, retained the water longer than the slope did. A dampness would remain, and linger about a day and a half after all else had dried up. Several weeks went by. Storms would pass over the Point, and each time the footprints held the water just a bit longer — all of them now easy to see, dark against the light colored sand.
And in a week or so, I began to see just a hint of green in the bottom of those footsteps. A green that with each storm became more pronounced, until soon, I could see sprigs of sage brush, comfortable in their little flat space, willing to put down roots, and ready to grow.
And grow they did. Forty years have passed, the slope is still fairly clean, but those little bits of sage have grown to bushes 8 feet tall. Evenly spaced. And distinctly, if you know the story, marking the steps of that young man of so many years ago.
And the thought has since come to me, with so many passings over that spot, that our actions always have consequences. Things we do — even something as small as a footstep — can have great consequences. And we may never know.
Think of your store. Something as small as a smile, a firm handshake, holding the door for a lady — any one of these small actions will have an effect on your customers. Maintaining a clean shop, keeping the floor fresh, decorating for the holidays — all are important and noticed by those who enter your store.
Think of what you do. And even more importantly, think of what you don’t do. Are the restrooms clean? Does your F&I person have multiple sources and a never-ending stock of forms? Do your salespeople dress appropriately? Do your counter people wear a company shirt or uniform?
Does the service department get to meet each new bike owner? Are new buyers given a tour of the building, meeting all the people they will need to keep their machine running? Is there enough warmth and genuine friendliness to make that new rider feel that this is his or her family? Do they feel that they can come back with any question, and never be laughed at (“Is the kill switch on?”)?
Is the front door clean and inviting? Or are there posters advertising a ride that happened last month? Garbage in the parking lot? Dust on the shelves? Mannequins bent in shapes no human could ever assume? Sun fade on clothing left too long on the sales floor? A neglected shop floor just waiting to cause a slip and fall?
Little things. Just little things. But they add up. And you may never know it.
I don’t know who that was that walked on that slope 40 years ago. But I think of him every time I pass over the Point of the Mountain. And he will never know.
Little things can subtly assemble a feeling of overall good — a pleasant response when your store is mentioned, and a place to go that is comfortable.
Look around your shop. Get some new eyes to do it with you. Listen. Watch. And learn.
And when you get to Salt Lake City sometime, take a little drive out to the Point of the Mountain. There is a lesson waiting there for you to see, and think about.
Hal Ethington has been associated with the powersports industry for more than 40 years. Ethington is a senior analyst at ADP Lightspeed. Contact him at Hal.Ethington@adp.com.