Umbrellas at High Tide

Beach Bums Rentals. They are one organized, efficient group of beach bums. Rolling up in trucks, trailers and four-wheelers in front of hotels all along the beach, setting out chairs, tables and umbrellas for the tourists who are here to get their fill of sun and fun, but just might need some shade during the day, for a fee.

I'm an early morning person and I've watched them all week. (I'm not opposed to watching other people work while I'm not.) These guys are fascinating. They know exactly where things should be and operate like a machine.

First morning I watched them putting the umbrellas out in the ocean -- in the water with the waves breaking around them. What?

Well, of course, the tide is high now but in a few hours, when people are actually getting out and heading for the beach, those umbrellas will be perfectly placed on the flat, hard sand, all ready for the sun babies.

I was so curious about this so the second morning, I asked the Bums some questions. Why do you set them up so early? Do you ever lose umbrellas when you set them up in the surf? How do you know where things go?

Yep, lost an umbrella or two. Through trial and error (and noting how people drag the chairs around), they've figured out where people like to sit in relation to their hotels and that's how they know where to place the chairs.

But what really made me think was their answer to "why so early?" First of all, they cover a huge stretch of beach, so have to start early to get the expanse covered by the time sunbathers are looking for a seat. But then they told me that they can tell, by the hotels, how early people will be out and they plan their schedule around the schedule of those hotel guests. I'm staying in the "early stretch" -- families, mostly, with a few days at the beach, eager to get out and get splashing and tanning. The Bums start here, regardless of the timing of the tide and sometimes that means setting those umbrellas out in the water.

Farther south on the beach are places where more college kids and young professionals stay (once again, it seems, I am not one of the cool kids). They party late and get up late and there's a larger morning window for getting chairs out.

Such a picture, yes?, of customizing our service, our communication, our interactions to our audience. If the Bums spent the early morning hours setting up umbrellas on the south stretch of beach, they'd sit empty for hours not earning a dime, and up north, paying customers would be ticked off because they didn't have a place to park their coolers, sunscreen, and kids' beach toys for the day. They have paid attention to every aspect of their work and their clients. They really know their clients and they adjust to the rhythms of these people, serving them as well as they can, and as a result, maximizing their earnings every single day.

When we think about our clients, our donors, our corporate and public funders, are we willing to put the umbrellas out in the ocean, in the breaking waves, to make certain everyone is getting the personal attention that builds strong relationships? Do we even know them well enough to know what they need and want and when?

I'm keeping that picture of the umbrellas in the high tide top of mind. Pay attention. Know the client, serve well, give them what they want to the best of your ability, even if you get your feet wet.

Common People United