About 8 months ago, I moved back to my hometown of Memphis, Tennessee after spending a year in the dynamic city of Los Angeles and 7 months in Knoxville, Tennessee.
I came back hungry.
Not for food.
But for change and growth.
I made my journey to the west to find wealth, women, and happiness.
But all I found was bitterness, traffic, expenses, rude people, and just a tough life.
So, I moved back to the city of Memphis, TN again.
I have previously tried my hand at opportunity here.
But it was slim to NONE.
Like literally, this city has no opportunities in it at all except for just a few industries such as healthcare, logistics, construction, education, real estate, and believe it or not…cannabis Pre-ICO companies and a few other niche things like that.
So, coming back this time around, I KNEW my opportunities were limited.
I told myself that no matter how much I failed or how little money I made, I am not leaving the city this time.
I said to myself “Rafi, if you are as much of a hustler as you think you are, you should be able to stay in ANY city and hustle your way to making a lot of money and have a good time!”
So…I started getting creative.
When I first got back, I actually ended up taking a job doing analytics at the local newspaper in town.
Like hated with a strong passion.
It was super boring and I was working for some really old people in a super stagnant environment…and spent most of my time there playing games over skype…LOL
I could not deal with ridiculous crap like that.
So, I knew pretty quickly that this job would do me no good.
I thought really hard about what some of the wealthier people who live in Memphis are doing.
I thought to myself…there has to be something these people are doing to make that kind of money.
I mean, I see people in Memphis in really nice cars and homes and have tons of free time to volunteer, donate money, etc.
So, I thought, well I can do whatever these people are doing, and just do it better than them!
I will definitely be making a lot of money being in Memphis if I just copied them!
So, I looked into restaurants and what it takes to own a restaurant.
I even tried to negotiate deals and partner up with restaurant owners on a profit share model.
Totally greedy, totally closed minded, and totally small.
I also considered real estate, since I have seen many people in this city succeed in that market.
I was especially interested because I actually was about to buy a house.
I went through the entire process of getting pre-approved, and even looked at some properties.
But, I stopped my search when my I quit my job at the newspaper.
I just did not know if I would have enough money to pay the mortgage.
But, it turns out I had more than enough….
Anyway, I realized real estate was not the thing to jump into either if I haven’t even bought my own house yet.
So, I then looked at owning a gas station.
I know several people who run them and are making good money from it.
So, I reached out to gas station owners with my pitch of learning the business and then becoming a managing partner.
I soon landed a gig where I was to work at one station and learn everything and if I can quickly pick it up, I would move up to a managerial role and eventually into a partner.
Well, I had quite an interesting experience working at this gas station for 2 months.
I learned a great deal about the gas station business.
But, I learned a whole lot more about…people…
How to deal with people.
What makes them like me.
What gets them ticked.
How to get them to do what I wanted them to do.
How to tell them not to do something and make sure they did not do it.
How to keep from being attacked or even shot by the crazy ones.
I mean, afterall, I was working in a station in the middle of a bad area of Memphis, Tennessee, which is known for its violent crimes.
Here are some people and entrepreneurial skills I picked up from my experience as a gas station attendant which significantly improved my entrepreneurial instincts:
1. I became really really good at talking to people and being witty with people and making them laugh
My conversational skills shot up the roof once I started working at the station.
I knew that if I can get these people to like me, I would get them to come back again and again and buy from me.
I also knew that saying “HI” to each and every person who walked in through the door not only made them feel welcomed into the store, but also discouraged them from stealing.
They know that I am watching them and aware that they came into the store and are roaming around.
As soon as they would come to the counter, I immediately greeted them with a smile and made some sort of remark.
My remarks to them were usually either about their clothes, what they bought, their age, what they did while they roamed the store, or something in-between.
Of course, I also had to make these people laugh.
So, I became super witty and began using phrases like “Boss” “My man” “Mate” “Sir” etc. to make these people feel more comfortable.
Obviously, this created a very good experience for the customer and made them want to come back to our store again.
This also helped me.
It made me much more confident to just be able to walk up to any random person and say “Hi” to them now.
I was not at all scared to talk to people.
I was confident in my ability to start conversations with people, make them laugh, and to instantly make comments about them or my surroundings.
This is a critical skill for any entrepreneur…
Or any guy trying to pick up a girl downtown 😛
2. I always gave even change even at the loss of a few dimes and pennies here and there.
Yes, this is huge too.
Anytime, I owed them like 9 cents or something close a full coin, I would give the whole coin or larger coin back in change.
For example, we sold a cup of coffee fresh from our newly renovated kitchen for $1 and with tax it came to be $1.09 after tax.
The customer would hand me $2 often. Instead of giving back $0.91 I just gave them a dollar back.
Sure, I may have lost a dollar or two here and there, but just think about how far this goes in the minds of my customers- especially those customers who are buying larger value items in the store…
They know that I took care of them by giving them a bit of extra change and making their life a bit easier.
This elicits the reciprocity principle.
These people will come back the next day, and I will bet you they will not want their change back or keep the extra change in the donation box.
This is just how humans are.
We feel like we owe back a lot if someone does even the smallest favor for us without us asking for it.
I understood that principle and always did whatever I could to make their life easier by giving them extra change, small discounts if they were short on money, etc.
The small loss the store might have assumed because of this is trivial compared to the long-term customer loyalty this builds.
3. I realized the importance of turnaround time
No where is it more crucial to deliver quickly and reply quickly to a customer than in the gas station business.
I did whatever I could to let the customer check out and leave with her goods as soon as possible.
I learned just how impatient people really are.
If you think about it, everything in a gas station is overpriced.
But people come in there every single day and grab things at 2x the price.
Even if there is a grocery store next door, they will go to the gas station.
Because of the convenience factor.
They want to instantly gratify themselves of their urge.
So, they come straight into the convenient store and grab what they need, pay a premium price, and go out the door.
So, imagine what would happen if the very thing that they come into the store for was messed with?
If I took too long to ring out customers without any good reason, they quickly got frustrated with me and sometimes even yelled and made mean faces at me.
I knew the importance of this.
So, I made small tweaks to my process to make the checkout process as fast as possible.
I never counted change if it was a small amount.
I always waited till the customer left to put change in the correct drawer, etc.
I realized that this was huge not only to the gas station business but in other niches as well.
Just being very quick with communication and delivering quickly and accurately can get you more business than you can imagine.
My gas station venture did not ultimately work out.
My manager was asking me to work on the weekends and at nights.
I just could not afford to miss my weekends and risk my safety and work at as station unless I was actually the owner.
It just was not worth it.
So, I left the business and went back to the internet and started a PR agency.
All those skills I picked up at the gas station, however, are still with me and help me tremendously as I go about getting new business, negotiating deals, and working with my clients.
I am so glad I took that job as a gas station attendant.
Be better at working with people?
Want to know how to start a conversation with anyone, anytime, anywhere?
Go work at a gas station for 2 months 😉