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Think about service businesses for a moment—especially businesses like hotels, restaurants, hair salons, and retail shops. If you peel back current fashions, modern conveniences, chains and franchises, and the cornucopia of offerings, these businesses exist much as they did in the 18th century. Merchants, hoteliers, and shopkeepers operate business models that are hundreds of years old and have very low barriers to entry compared to, say, rocket science.

In these pages, one thing you’ll learn is that service can set one business apart from another.

What’s more, knowledge sets one business apart from another—or even above the rest. Knowledge is such a powerful factor that when applied properly it actually transforms 18th century trades into 21st century businesses. Knowledge in the form of business management, human behavior, art, fashion, customer experience, sales, computer science, technical education, and so on carries with it the potential to separate your business from the millions of “entrepreneurs” who’ve gone before—and who are still out there, just opening and closing each day while conducting transactions in between.

Every day I encounter businesses—many of them national brands—that miss their opportunities to put knowledge to work for the benefit of their customers and the benefit of their own organizations. Think back on situations you’ve encountered:

  • Hotels where the receptionist asks you, “Is this your first stay with us?”
  • Coffee shops or counter-service restaurant employees who call out, “Next person in line.”
  • Hair salons who ask, “Who are you here to see?”
  • Dentists and doctors whose receptionists who say, “Just sign in and take a seat.”

Each of these, and many more, have the option to choose knowledge work over low-level, menial, dead-end jobs—and they don’t need to change careers to do it. When Peter Drucker coined the term Knowledge Worker in the late 1950s it came, rightfully, to mean people who deal primarily with knowledge like accountants, lawyers, engineers, and others.

By accepting Mr. Drucker’s famous challenge to search for the unused potential in every job, even a low level clerk can transform her work as a hotel receptionist into knowledge work by learning that people prefer to be looked in the eye, recognized, and greeted with a smile. See? It’s not rocket science.


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