Tuesday, September 24, 2013

My Newest Million Dollar Idea/ I’m Going to be in Charge Now

I’ve had more than one million dollar idea over the years.  When I lived in Vegas I realized there were a lot of people who brought their kids on vacation without considering there was nothing to really do with their offspring once there.  I remember telling a girl in one of my graduate classes at UNLV, “You know what someone should do?  Open a babysitting service.  The babysitter goes to the hotel, hangs out with the kid while Mom and Dad go see Cirque du Soliel, charge $50 an hour, BAM! The person that starts that business could become a millionaire.”  She started that business and yes, she is a millionaire.

When I got to Texas Tech I couldn’t believe there was only Chick-fil-A in town and it was at the farthest point possible from campus.  For two years I told my classes, “I will GIVE YOU the money to start a Chick-fil-A within walking distance of campus.  It is a gift, not a loan.  Then we split the profits 50/50. After a year, if you want out, you can leave.  I just want you to commit to running it for a year.  If you decide after a year you don’t want to do it anymore, I will find another manager.”  Guess how many students took me up on that offer? NONE. Now, there is a Chick-fil-A across from campus.  I don’t know who owns it, but I bet that guy is a millionaire.
My latest million dollar idea revealed itself to me today.  We need an EFFICIENT tour operator here in Africa.  This million dollar idea brings me to the second half of my blog title… I’m going to be in charge now.

Years ago, before Southwest Airlines began issuing numerical boarding passes people would fight their way into gates hours prior to a flight to get the best possible spot in line.  This led to mass chaos, and frequently the line would get out of control, taking over walkways, neighboring gates and other public areas.  I remember once walking through an airport and seeing a mass of people in a “line” which went from boarding gate, cut directly across the terminal corridor and into the area of the gate directly opposite.  This meant anyone trying to walk through the corridor was prevented from doing so because no one wanted to risk someone else line-jumping them.  I did not work for Southwest, but apparently I should have.  I noticed the inconvenience this was causing, walked up to the people in line and kindly directed them to adjust themselves so the line was perpendicular to the corridor as opposed to dissecting it. Problem solved.
Today was a replay of my pro-bono Southwest customer service.  The conference which I am attending here in Kenya has a local tour operator with which it has contracted to offer tours of surrounding attractions to attendees.  The customer service which is being offered by this tour company leaves a lot to be desired.  I was the first in line today to speak the tour manager, Paula, told her which tour I wanted to take and was told, “Well, I right now the tour can’t happen because there needs to be a minimum of five people.” I had to explain to her that if she started a list of interested parties perhaps the five person minimum could be reached.  But, if she didn’t start a list none of the tours would occur. Despite her disgust at my suggestion she finally succumbed to my pressure and began a list.

Since I really wanted to take a tour, each time I met someone throughout the day I told them about the tour options.  “It’s your first time in Africa, you should take advantage of this opportunity, and you will get to feed the elephants at the elephant orphanage!” Later in the afternoon I stopped by to see Paula.  Amazingly the list idea worked.  Four out of five of her tours were fully booked.
As I was sitting there waiting to speak to Paula who was on the phone I began talking to other conference attendees and tried to get them to come on another tour, this time over the weekend camping in the Masai Mara National Park. (Paula was booking one-day excursions for tomorrow and then weekend trips after the conference concludes Friday.)  Since Paula was stationed next to the conference registration desk when attendees would arrive the staff would point them in our direction if they were interested in a tour.  I suppose I looked somewhat official explaining the tour details because new people would surface, ignore Paula entirely and ask me if they could book a tour.  By the time Paula had gotten off the phone I had made five new friends, briefed them all about the details of the weekend camping trip, filled out the paperwork with all their details and collected their money. 

I was careful to tell everyone that I was technically not in charge, even though my demeanor and actions suggested otherwise, thus if they didn’t like the tours they shouldn’t blame me.  Several people asked how I had fallen into the role of pseudo-tour director.  They are now all familiar with the concept of TIA.  Now, for anyone who might be interested please feel free to take this million dollar idea, as I will not be pursuing it myself.

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