Single Serve Bros

Question: What can a sincere smile, a kind word, and a friendly ear get you?

Answer: Plenty.

It Is Kool To Be Kind

As discussed in The Bro Factor, business development, sales and corporate alliances often involve establishing long-term relationships with compatriots outside of your organization. When the Bro Factor is properly deployed, such key relationships are more akin to friendships, as opposed to the more typical, arms-length association between professional colleagues. Such Bro relationships often take months and even years to properly cultivate and they can often span a number of companies during your Bro’s career.

In addition to such long-term Bro relationships, you will also be well served to seek out and cultivate Bro relationships that may be much more transitory, even one-time. Many of these Single-Serve Bro’s (SSB’s) are service industry employees who many self-important professionals simply overlook, such as: waitresses, car rental agents, flight attendants, call-center agents, etc.

These service employees encounter a horde of unhappy, disgruntled and downright surly travelers each and every day. Thus, it is not difficult to differentiate yourself by simply smiling and showing these hard working people the courtesy they deserve.

Rather than striking multi-million dollar deals as you might with your regular Bro’s, the SSB’s can be the source of a multitude of small, but highly gratifying complimentary deals, such as: hotel suite upgrades, free shipping, an exit row seat on a crowded flight, hotel breakfast coupons, car rental upgrades and free drinks on a long and otherwise dreary flight home.

Landing a Single-Serve Bro Deal

Identifying and closing a SSB Deal involves the following three simple steps.

Open the Door: You must make a connection with your SSB before you can expect to land a Bro deal. A friendly, sincere smile will go a long way toward opening the door, especially in a crowded airport or late-night hotel check-in line. There are many ways you can open the door and encourage your SSB to treat you as someone other than another faceless customer. The specifics of what you say to establish a connection should be consistent with the context of your interaction. Obviously, the more unique and clever your remark, the faster and wider the door will open. The key is that you engage your SSB with respect and as a peer, a courtesy they may seldom experience from most of their customers.

Make the Connection: Once the door is open, step through it. The key to establishing a Bro relationship is to connect with the other person. One way to create a personal connection is to find a point of commonality. If you politely probe, it is likely you will be able to identify a city, college, country, occupation, sports team, author, musical artist, etc. that you and your SSB have in common. The connection ensures that the SSB will relate to you as a kindred soul, rather than an anonymous customer.

Ask for a Deal: Once you establish a personal connection with your SSB, asking for the deal will be a natural outgrowth of your camaraderie. Your Bro will be happy to give you a special deal. The transaction is straightforward. You trade your respect and kindness for something your SSB can readily give you.

SSBD Tips and Tricks

Not every situation is conducive to cutting a Single-Serve Bro Deal (SSBD) and not every person you meet is a potential Bro. Below are a few tips and tricks which will significantly enhance your SSBD success rate.

Time and Place – Avoid attempting to cut a SSBD in hectic, busy situations in which you cannot properly make a connection with your potential Bro. If there is no connection, there is no deal.

Da Boss Man – Even if you establish a solid connection, do not ask for a Bro Deal if your Bro’s boss is within earshot. If the Boss is around, be kind and make a connection, but do not try to bend the rules. A Bro connection is an investment that can sometimes be reaped immediately and at other times you must wait until the coast is clear.

Out of Earshot – Never solicit a SSBD within earshot of other customers. Not only is it simply bad form, it will also decrease your chances of getting a deal, as your Bro will likely be reticent to proffer the same deal to the unwashed crowd standing behind you in line. Be cool and subtly ask for a deal – do not broadcast your request. If this is not possible, just smile and relish the personal rapport that you established. As noted above, all Bro connections are valuable. You never know when a Bro relationship may come in handy.

Long-Distance Bro – Although it is more difficult, you can also establish a personal connection with your Bro over the phone. It is even possible to Bro-up with someone in a call-center on the other side of the world. Such friendly encounters will net you a pleasant conversation and possibly even free shipping or a twenty percent discount on your purchase.

Bending vs. Breaking – Bending the rules to get a free upgrade is one thing. Breaking the rules is something else altogether. You would not ask a friend to do anything illegal or unethical, so do not make such a request of your Bro. Only request things which can be readily given, are free or relatively inexpensive and will not put your Bro’s job in jeopardy.

Be Realistic – No matter how much you Bro-up with someone, there is a limit as to what they can do for you. Use a liberal dose of common sense as you assess each potential SSB situation. If there is a paper trail or other type of accountability that must be circumvented to satisfy your request, it is unlikely your Bro will be able to come through for you. If your request can be reasonably filed under customer service, the better your chances of closing a SSBD.

For instance, it is much easier for a Flight Attendant to provide a passenger in coach with a free drink when the plane has a First Class cabin, as the tracking of beverages is difficult. However, the absence of a First Class cabin (such as on a commuter plane) precludes free drinks from the SSBD menu.

Timing is Everything – Do not rush the Bro relationship. Even though your entire interaction may only encompass a few minutes, if you become too familiar too quickly, you will greatly decrease your chances of success. Let the potential Bro set the tempo. If your initial acts of kindness are well received, great. If they are ignored or rejected, keep smiling, but do not continue to pound on the Bro door if it is welded shut. You would not ask someone on your first date to have your children and you should not prematurely ask a potential Bro for a deal before the timing is right.

Kayak Rental Case Study

I recently rented some kayaks on a beach in Southern California. Within three minutes of chatting with my Kayak Bro, I learned that: (i) he previously lived within a few blocks of me on the same street in Philadelphia, (ii) his brother went to my Alma Matta, (iii) he currently attends the University where I teach and, (iv) that renting kayaks was just a summer job.

It was also clear that there was no real control over what he charged for the various types of kayaks nor was there a monitoring system in place in which his boss could determine how many kayaks had been rented, for how long, etc. After I had opened the door and made a solid connection, I asked him if he could give me a Local’s Only discount. Without hesitating, he knocked 20% off the price. He was happy to cut me a deal. Our pleasant conversation was more than a fair exchange for giving me a Single-Serve Bro Deal.

The Real Reward

If you are rolling your eyes and wondering why anyone would bother asking for deals in such situations, I will let you in on a secret. You can gain a lot more from SSB Deals than saving a few shekels.

The primary rewards from SSBD’s are not the tangible freebies and discounts. Rather, looking for Bro Deals forces you to inject levity and humor into otherwise tedious situations. Time passes more quickly and much more pleasantly when you take the time to establish personal connections. The tangible results of such connections are a nice bonus. There really is no downside to seeking personal connections.

Some of the intangible benefits of SSB Deals include:

Renewable Energy - Life is simply more fun and rewarding when you make personal connections with those around you. It may not be easy to smile and be kind after a long business flight. However, if force yourself to be kind and compassionate to the bedraggled service employees you meet along the way, the energy you will get in return from your Bro’s will be an inspiring and rejuvenating reward.

Cultural Reinforcement - Saving money for your adVenture is always a good thing. Seeking SSB Deals reinforces the culture of frugality, as discussed in Frugal Is As Frugal Does. I have traveled with a number of colleagues who have watched me Bro-up and have later said, “I didn’t realize you could get a discount for that sort of thing.” By simply asking, “Is that your best corporate rate” when you check into a hotel often results in a substantially better rate (assuming, of course, that you first properly established a connection with your SSB).

Practice Makes… - Connecting with SSB’s is great practice for establishing long-lasting, more substantive Bro relationships.

Even if you are not a Beatles fan, it is hard to argue with the logic of the final lyric on their last CD: “The love you make it equal to the love you take”.

Forget the Flower Power undertones and apply this philosophy to your next business trip. Establishing SSB Deals is an effective way to put this philosophy into practice. By staying alert for situations in which you can spread kindness, you can ensure that you will have a positive balance in your Karma account; and who knows, it may even net you a few upgrades and free drinks along the way.

John Greathouse has held a number of senior executive positions with successful startups during the past fifteen years, spearheading transactions, which generated more than $350 million of shareholder value, including an IPO and a multi-hundred-million-dollar acquisition.

John is currently a partner at Rincon Venture Partners, a venture capital firm investing in early stage web-based businesses, and is a Co-Founder of RevUpNet, a performance-based online marketing agency.

John is a CPA and holds an M.B.A. from the Wharton School. He is a member of the University of California at Santa Barbara's Faculty where he teaches several entrepreneurial courses.

Note: All of my advice in this blog is that of a layman. I am not a lawyer and I never played one on TV. You should always assess the veracity of any third-party advice that might have far-reaching implications (be it legal, accounting, personnel, tax or otherwise) with your trusted professional of choice.

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