Doris is a bathroom attendant at one of my favorite restaurants, and everything I have learned about career success (and, frankly, a lot of what I've learned about life) I have learned from her. She doesn't have a fancy graduate degree, and she doesn't technically run her own business, but she is an eagle among ducks.
The first time I met Doris, she made a point of introducing herself and asking my name. "I've seen you here before," she said. She was warm, motherly, and seemed genuinely pleased when "one of her girls" stopped in to see her.
Doris made me instantly happier. When I got out of the stall, she had one of those fancy monogrammed napkins that you usually see in nice powder rooms waiting for me. It had an N on it. "An N," I thought. "That couldn't possibly be for Nicole," I said. "Oh, yes, Nicole, that is for you to make you feel at home when you are a guest here," she said. I was so confused and so impressed at the same time. Then I looked under the sink, where Doris had an accordion folder with tabs for each letter of the alphabet. Doris had actually made a special folder for napkins with all letters of the alphabet to make sure every one of "her girls" felt special.
I had never seen a setup like hers. Doris thought of everything, from the special Q-tips and napkins to having every flavor of mouthwash. Doris was officially my she-ro, and I wanted to learn more. "Have you always done all this?" I asked her, gesturing around her sink area. Doris told me that when she first started at the job, she hated it. She didn't want to be working in a bathroom, she didn't want to hand towels to mean girls just to barely get an acknowledgment or a tip. "But then," she said, "I changed my attitude. I started putting in extra time and energy into making this my dream job. The more I did, the more my guests responded favorably. Not only did the pride I took in my work turn into happiness, I now wake up in the morning excited to think about the new, fun, personal things I can do. And the more tips I receive, as well. I've even had a few of my guests hire me for their private events. It's been a win-win-win."
I've thought a lot about Doris in the years I've been going to that restaurant. Here are the business lessons she taught me:
- Choose to differentiate yourself. Instead of disappearing into mediocrity, Doris changed her attitude. She stopped complaining. She created a memorable experience. She gained fans, not just customers. No one did this for Doris. Doris decided to do this for Doris.
- Color brightly inside the lines. Pre-"eagle" and post-"eagle," Doris still technically had the same job. She worked for the same restaurant. But she made her job hers; she created a brand built on positivity, and she reaped the rewards.
- It's all about the little things. Doris was thoughtful in every aspect of her job. It didn't cost a lot to go above and beyond the call of duty, to make her personal touches. But that small investment paid her back and then some.
Nicole Lapin is the author of the New York Times instant bestseller Rich B*tch and the star of the nationally syndicated business competition reality show Hatched. She was the youngest anchor ever at CNN before holding the same title at CNBC, anchoring Worldwide Exchange, while contributing financial reports to Today and MSNBC. Lapin has served as a business anchor and special correspondent for Bloomberg Television as well as the money-saving correspondent for The Wendy Williams Show. She is currently Redbook magazine's first-ever money columnist and was named the first-ever female "Money Expert of the Year" in 2015. Lapin is an accredited investment fiduciary and graduated as valedictorian from Northwestern University.