Love the people first; sell the fish second

This is me about to catch a fish.

Last week, I was in Seattle, Washington, for one of my favorite events: The Exchange Gathering. One morning, we enjoyed a presentation by the guys from the world-famous Pike Place Fish Market. If you’re not aware of them, “the Fish Guys,” as they call themselves, are famous for great fish and even better customer service. At least four books have been written about their philosophy and methods. And the Fish Market is known as one of the most fun places to work.

They also put on a bit of a show, shouting and throwing fish back and forth over the heads of customers. In our presentation, the owner, John Yokoyama, shared their commitment to customer service and world peace while his guys launched a few large salmon around the conference room. They even let us try our hands at catching fish.

(I got my chance down at their shop. And for the record, I caught the fish as it flew past my head.)

One of my favorite lines from the Fish Guys was this: “Love the people first; sell the fish second.” I think it encapsulates so much of what I believe about business. People don’t care what you know until they know that you care. The second of my 5 levels of leadership is all about relationships. And I believe that you can’t lead people if you don’t love people.

I look for personal growth lessons all around me, and I find them in the most unusual places. Who knew that a bunch of fishmongers would remind us of what’s really important in life?

What about you? Does your organization have a similar mission – to love the people first, and do business second? It makes sense philosophically, but it’s also good business advice. John Yokoyama also said, “We’ve made a commitment to have our customers leave with the experience of having been served. They experience being known and appreciated whether they buy fish or not.”

The Pike Place Fish Market develops lifelong relationships with their customers, and this has made them world-famous. What are you doing to serve the people you lead or do business with?

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