Graham McGregor: Marketing lessons from a taxi driver

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Photo / Thinkstock
Photo / Thinkstock

Marketing Consultant Graham McGregor on how you can pick up great marketing ideas in unlikely places.

It was 1997 and I had just finished a business trip in Sydney, Australia.

I was driven from my hotel to the airport by a very unusual taxi driver. He explained that there were several routes he could take to the airport; however he recommended only one of them because of the time of the day.

I commented that he seemed to know a lot about the area.

"I guess I do" he said.

He had done extensive research on all the major routes in and around Sydney. He knew exactly how long it took on each route depending on the time of day.

He then went on to tell me his unusual story.

My taxi driver (I'm embarrassed that I never did learn his name) had been driving taxis for over 35 years. He told me that it was the only job he had ever had.

He lived in a million dollar house (which was fully paid for) overlooking Sydney's famous Bondi Beach. He owned over 6 investment properties (all paid off) and he had business interests worth another million dollars or more. He had great health, and enjoyed an excellent relationship with his wife; who he had been married to for over 30 years.

"If you are doing so well" I said, "why do you still drive taxis. Isn't there something else you would rather be doing?"

"Never" he said. "I love driving taxis. I meet some of the nicest people you could ever want to know. Every day is different. I never get bored and it has given me the ultimate lifestyle."

He then told me how he did it.

My taxi driver told that he had learnt from trial and error that most parts of his life worked better if he had a simple system to follow that produced consistent results.

He told me that each car that he bought for his taxi business he bought brand new. He looked after these cars carefully until they had done 30,000 kilometres mileage and then he sold them. He found that doing it this way reduced dramatically the costs of maintaining each vehicle. In terms of looking after each car; they were hand washed every day; including the engine.

Everything that he had learnt was carefully written down.

This was invaluable when he began hiring drivers to work for him.

He quickly discovered that some drivers were more reliable than others. He found that if he hired people who were aged in their 50's, had been in middle management and been made redundant; they worked out as fantastic employees. They showed up on time, were extremely reliable and got on very well with all his passengers.

He showed each employee how he expected them to clean their car each day, treat their passengers and do the job professionally. He rewarded them with good wages, lots of recognition and a generous bonus each year. He had enjoyed virtually zero staff turnover for a number of years.

I learned a lot of valuable marketing lessons from this taxi driver. And one of them was to write down what works well in your business so you can do it consistently

And he also reminded me that you can learn great marketing ideas from watching good people in any type of business.

Action Exercise:

Think about a business you have had dealings with that made you feel great as a customer. What did they do to make you feel this way and how could you do something similar in your own business?

"Dealing with people is probably the biggest problem you face, especially if you are in business. Yes, and that is also true if you are a housewife, architect or engineer."

Dale Carnegie


Graham McGregor is a marketing consultant and the creator of the 396 page 'Unfair Business Advantage Report.' www.theunfairbusinessadvantage.com (This is free and has now been read by business owners from 11 countries.) You can email Graham on graham@twomac.co.nz

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