The Road to Ballyglunnin Can Be the Route to Success in Your Business
By Barry Maher
“So what’s the best strategy for promoting a business?” people frequently ask me.
Let me tell you why I can’t wait to book my next vacation in Ireland.
Many of my father’s fondest memories were of his early childhood in Ballyglunnin in County Galway, Ireland. He lived in a castle, he told us, and learned to love learning in a tiny, one room school. Castle or no castle, once in the states, his mother cleaned houses; his father was a laborer. Through their efforts, my father became the first Maher to complete high school and then college, at Notre Dame. I still have the letter he wrote his parents when he was accepted at Harvard Law School.
“From housecleaning to Harvard in a single generation,” he’d say later. He loved America for that. Still, his life was hardly easy. He nearly died during WWII, and lost a wife and two children within a year. Later, three other children would die. Those of us that reached adulthood did so with the best educations money could buy; and he raised a company president, two corporate vice presidents, a doctor, a telecommunications executive, and myself. He always dreamed of returning to visit Ballyglunnin, but with all that educating to do, there was never the time, never the money.
The only time I ever saw my father cry was when we, his children, bought him that trip to Ireland for his 80th birthday. One of my sisters and I were looking forward to traveling with him, but unfortunately—though he’d been practicing law up to a few months before—his health deteriorated rapidly and senile dementia set in. Soon he didn’t even recognize us. The trip never happened.
Then a couple of years, for no discernible reason my book, Filling the Glass, took off in Ireland, and I was booked on a speaking tour there. I was determined to visit Ballyglunnin, the castle and the one room school, but my schedule was tight.
Tourism is still a leading industry in Ireland. And the entire country has embraced the industry. The Irish have developed a reputation as the world’s greatest hosts, a reputation that turned out to be actually true rather than just marketing hype. Even though I wasn’t really a tourist, I was immersed in that hospitality. At engagements I was treated more like a guest rather than someone they were paying to speak. There were dinners and receptions and “must see” sights to be seen. All of which left me only one day for Ballyglunnin.
I set off for the tiny hamlet with several sets of complex directions and three conflicting maps. Every time I stopped and asked for directions I was embraced like a long lost relative, but, though a few people had heard of Ballyglunnin, no one was quite sure where it was. I must have bounced along every back road in County Galway, but none of them led to Ballyglunnin.
The next morning, in Galway City, I spoke of my father during my final presentation, and I mentioned in passing what had happened the day before. At the luncheon afterwards, I was finishing up my lasagna—which seems to be a particular Irish favorite—and thinking about heading upstairs to my room to pack. That’s when the CEO announced, “Mr. Maher, your car has arrived, complete with the savviest driver in all of Ireland.” Less than two hours later, the limo, myself, the CEO. and a local Member of Parliament pulled into Ballyglunnin. The locals decided I was a returning hero, and took us on a tour of the village, the old one-room schoolhouse, and the “castle,” an aging, rather modest resort hotel where my grandfather had run a small shop. But a castle indeed to any seven year old.
The real highlight of the trip came upon my return. Though my father hadn’t recognized me in over a year, when I showed him my photos of the school and the “castle,” his cloudy eyes slowly cleared. Then those eyes met mine.
“Ireland,” he said softly. “Thanks for Ireland.”
Thank the Irish for Ireland. That’s feeling you get when you travel through Ireland. It’s not just customer service; it’s that any number of people you meet seem to enjoy nothing more than going out of their way to make certain that you enjoy every moment of your trip and get the most out of the country they seem to love so much. It took me fifty years to get to Ireland the first time. And it took a business trip to get me there. Now I can’t wait to become a repeat customer on my own dime.
The subtitle of my last business book is Truth Is the Ultimate Sales Tool but come to think of it, truth isn’t really the ultimate sales tool.
If the actual experience of doing business with you is everything you claim it will be and perhaps even more—and you insist on making sure that it is—the next sale will be the easiest job you’ll ever have.