Episode 150: Insights on Delivering an “Elite” Experience to Clients

Nathan Foy is founder and CEO of Fortis, nine-time Inc. Magazine honoree as one of America’s fastest-growing companies. Fortis provides over 25,000 private, secure trips in 114 countries per year to clientele worth more than half a trillion dollars. These clients routinely ranked Fortis on Gallup surveys as the best in the industry. With offices in Greenville, South Carolina, and Hong Kong, Fortis offers ground transportation to more private jet owners than any other service in the world.

Nathan’s first book, What Rich Clients Want: (But Won’t Tell You), translates the Fortis experience into a replicable, scalable business model any service provider can recreate. Nathan lives in Greenville with his wife, Pam and their four children.

Questions

  • Could you share with our guests a little bit about your journey, how it is that you got to where you are today?
  • Could you tell us a little bit about that book? Is there a particular strategy or approach that you take to serve rich clients versus clients who are not rich, you want to share with us how it is this book can be applied to everybody in business?
  • Can you share with us maybe what are maybe two or three things that you’ve seen emerge as needs that customers are looking to be even more fulfilled since the pandemic?
  • What are some of the approaches that organizations need to take maybe leaders, in order to ensure that your team members are practicing these behaviors or competencies, especially if it doesn’t come naturally? Let’s start maybe with the first two, professionalism and problem solving. How can you build strengths or strengthen the competencies of your team to ensure that they’re demonstrating these behaviors with the customers?
  • How do you stay motivated every day?
  • Could you also share with our audience what’s the one online resource, tool, website or app that you absolutely can’t live without in your business?
  • Could you also share with our audience, maybe one or two books that have had the biggest impact on you, it could be a read a very long time ago, or even one that you’ve read recently, but it really has impacted you.
  • Could you share with us what’s going on in your life right now that you’re really excited about? It could be something that you’re working on to develop yourself or your people?
  • Where can listeners find you online?
  • Do you have a quote or saying that during times of adversity or challenge, you’ll tend to revert to this quote; it kind of helps to get you back on track or get you refocused if for any reason you get derailed?

Highlights

Nathan’s Journey

Nathan shared that it was not intentional in its original conception. So, Fortis as a company began as a prepaid taxi cab card for college students. That was his original idea, was to create a card that students could use for transportation, this was in 2000 and this was the era when prepaid phone cards or prepaid meal cards were all the rage.

And so, he raised money from friends and family, he went up and down the East Coast, he built a network of taxicab companies. And their launch was for the Fall moving season of 2001, almost exactly 20 years ago. And it was going pretty well and then, unfortunately, 911 happened and everything changed. They ran out of money, people weren’t visiting their kids for college anymore. And so, they started to adapt.

They sold their cab cards to companies. And then shortly after that, they found their first private jet company and they said they wanted chauffeured cars. And then they adapted into that really in the beginning of 2002. And that’s really been their niche ever since.

Your Book, What Rich Clients Want – Strategy or Approach That You Take to Serve Rich Clients Versus Clients Who Are Not Rich

Me: So, in your bio, I read that you have this amazing book called What Rich Clients Want: (But Won’t Tell You). So, could you tell us a little bit about that book? Is there a particular strategy or approach that you take to serve rich clients versus clients who are not rich, you want to share with us how it is this book can be applied to everybody in business?

Nathan shared that it’s really the result of 20 years of doing this and understanding that the most discerning clients that spend the most never actually tell you what they want, it’s on you as a customer service person to discern that. And he thinks while this is a book that could be used to serve rich clients, he thinks the lessons here could apply to anybody in the service business.

So, what the book does is, it outlines basically that there’s five steps that one has to proceed two, and two has to precede three. And if those are all there, then you can have a system of service that really leads clients into more than they expected they could get. And he thinks when you have that, then you can really create loyalty that lasts.

Me: Alright, you want to share with us what those steps are?

Nathan shared that the first step is “Professionalism.” And so, just kind of owning the introduction, owning the beginning of a relationship, the first impression is super important. And they give a lot of practical tips to that.

And then the second step is “Problem Solving.” So, actually taking a problem that they have, seizing it and acting as if it was your own and solving it so that they can see that you have competence in what you’re doing.

The third step is “Concierge.” So, that’s actually not just solving the problem, but anticipating even unspoken needs, so that you can see around a corner and make something happen proactively.

The fourth step is “Security.” So, having a layer of security that complements all of those things, but not at the expense of all of those things is very, very important. And these days, it’s more about information, reputation, security, those kinds of things than it is physical security in most instances.

And then the fifth level, the highest level is really “Elite.” And that’s when you start to begin to push out the boundaries on what’s even possible. You’ll know you’re at this level when the client starts to refer to your company as a verb, they have clients that call them and say, “Can you just “Fortis” this, whatever that is that you do, can you just do that to this?” And that’s a really good sign, they don’t know the secret sauce, but they just want you to apply it to what’s in front of them.

Me: I like that. I like the fact that you gave that analogy just now that they coined it as a verb. It’s almost like Google, like before the age of the internet; Google wasn’t even a word, let alone a verb. And now, when people want to find anything out there, like just Google it. I mean, it’s just so amazing that 10 – 15 years ago, that word, it just didn’t exist, it’s just not something people would say.

Needs of Customers That Have Emerge That Customers Are Looking to be Even More Fulfilled Since the Pandemic

Me: Now customer service has been really impacted, customer experiences across different industries, across the entire world, all seven continents have definitely been impacted by the pandemic, can you share with us maybe what are maybe two or three things that you’ve seen emerge as needs that customers are looking to be even more fulfilled since the pandemic?

Nathan stated that the original environment of it, he thinks really led to us creating not just the standard things, masks and things like that, sanitization of surfaces. But we really tried to say, “Okay, what is kind of a level above that that might be unspoken, but that our clients might desire?”

And the thing that they arrived at was, particularly in the pre-vaccine environment, having a chauffeur contacted two or three days after the trip, for a principal, just to make sure that in the intervening time the chauffeur hadn’t experienced any symptoms.

And so, the clients, there are many clients that said, I love that you do that, everybody’s got testing, and everything, we’ve got temperature checks, and all those things. But the one thing is that the person could be asymptomatic and a day or two later get symptoms. And that’s kind of next level.

And they had a lot of clients that really, really complimented them on doing that. Practically, another thing that they’ve implemented as partitions are just a much bigger thing in vehicles now than they used to be. And so, they wanted not only to provide that, but they had to kind of stand up, how do we do this so it doesn’t look like you just ran to Home Depot and put it together and make that standard across the 1000 cities that they serve. So that was a fun challenge as well.

Professionalism and Problem Solving, How Can You Build Strengths or Strengthen the Competencies of Your Team to Ensure That They’re Demonstrating These Behaviours with the Customers?

Me: Now, Nathan, one of the things that your book mentions as it relates to professionalism, you had mentioned the five tiers that are required for you to really deliver that supreme or extraordinary level of service. What are some of the, I would say approaches that organizations need to take maybe leaders, in order to ensure that your team members are practicing these behaviors or competencies, especially if it doesn’t come naturally? Let’s start maybe with the first two, professionalism and problem solving. How can you build strengths or strengthen the competencies of your team to ensure that they’re demonstrating these behaviors with the customers?

Nathan shared that it’s a great question. So, he would say before we get into the behaviours, it first begins with mindset. And the mindset has to be that you are honing your craft and not doing a job. And what he means by that is that if you want to make customer service into a career, then you have to make it uniquely yours and be a student of it so that the service Yanique offers is completely one of a kind over time, and only you can be you. But you also have to do that in concert with an overall brand that you’re continuing to hone and refine to.

So, they have chauffer partners and they have conferences twice a year, they host them and go over kind of just aligning and making their services better. And that’s one of the first things he does is just say, “Are you doing a job? Or are you doing a craft?”

Because, quite frankly, if someone’s just doing the job, and this is just here to pay my school bills or this is just something I’m doing in between gigs, they don’t really spend a lot of time with them. They don’t really seek them out because they’re not really going to want to ascend to elite status. So, he thinks that’s a pretty important thing, just to begin with.

So, really practically professionalism, there’s a lot of basics of how someone presents themselves with posture, appearance, confidence, handshake, eye contact, not just being early to do the job, but actually being early and ready to do the job early. Those are things that he would just say, they don’t presume that people know and scold them if they don’t know; they kind of assume that they don’t know those things, and start training them on it. And that involves extensive use of checklists. And again, they’re looking for people that are not offended by checklists, it’s not saying you’re incompetent, or you don’t know what you’re doing, it’s just if you have the basics completely nailed down, that gives you the freedom to move up to higher levels and a checklists, especially the first level is essentially great for that.

If a client, especially a rich client doesn’t like you, they’re not going to tell you why they don’t like you, they’re just going to text their assistant and say, “I don’t want to use this person again.” And you’ll never know why. And so, the idea that you’re going to be assessed on professionalism or clients going to give you input on how to be more professional, they don’t have the time, they don’t have the desire and it’s really got to be on you to own that initial bit so that you can kind of get permission to move up to higher steps.

On problem solving, a real quick and easy way to begin with that is to just look for the most common problems that your clients encounter, and build systems for that so that you can be really ready when they have that. A quick example of that, they have a five star chauffeur for them in Miami.

And over the years, he’s noticed people enter the airport, they want to go to a drugstore and then there’s a core list of things that they’re getting at CVS or Walgreens. And he’s created what he calls his magic toolbox, but it’s basically in his consoles. So, now when somebody lands and they say, “I just need to go to CVS.” He says, “Well, if you don’t mind me asking, what is it that you need because I may just have it here.” And then they asked for one or two items, he has it. And he’s immediately established competence with them that goes to a deeper level of trust. And now the whole world of what’s open to the client, and what this person’s capable of doing has really opened up.

Me: That’s brilliant. I love that. That’s like giving them what they need before they even know they need it.

How Nathan Stays Motivated Every Day?

Me: So, could you share with our audience, how do you stay motivated every day? I can imagine that dealing in a business that is catering to clients who are rich, because of course, rich people clearly, yes, they have choices. But I’m sure their choice of business is a little bit different than a person who is probably on a budget. And so, with that in mind, maybe their demands are higher, their standards are higher and it can be frustrating sometimes I can imagine, especially when you’re dealing with somebody who the average person would deem as difficult. So, in managing this business and running it for the many years that you’ve been in it, how is it that you stay motivated every day and you don’t get discouraged by comments or just things that customers may see that makes you even wonder, I don’t know if it crosses your mind. But do you ever get to the point where you say, “Why? Why am I doing this? Why am I serving all these spoiled, rich people?”

Nathan shared that a mentor of his once told him that if you’re hard on yourself, the world is easy. And if you’re easy on yourself, the world is hard. So, he would say it begins with the mindset of he’s his own biggest critic. And then they as Fortis are their own biggest critics. And they really lean into those challenges that clients give to them. And then every week they have a company meeting, and they gossip good news about each other, they do recognitions and they’re saying not just good things that each of them has done, but really, they’re kind of taking the time to go through each thing that’s been done that they want to congratulate, and tie it to one of their five core values. And then that just helps to recenter them and “Oh yeah, we do value that. And that’s an example of that. And I can learn from that. And if I did something like that, then I’m going to be recognized for that too.”

The second bit, he would just say is that he’s a firm believer in making your goals for the year, they actually break them up into six month periods, and making them known because every week or two weeks as a leadership team, they’re going over their goals for the semester, it’s a great way to just recenter you on, it’s not about how he feels, or about this one service issue that they had. Overall, there are these big things that they’re gunning for and they’re doing that as a team.

App, Website or Tool that Nathan Absolutely Can’t Live Without in His Business

When asked about an online resource that he cannot live without in his business, Nathan stated that it’s a good question. He would say for them LinkedIn has been extraordinarily valuable to connect with their partner chauffeurs and to their clients.

And so, particularly when there was just recently the COVID outbreak, that was a terrific way to communicate up to date information and then vice versa for them to get up to date information. And one thing they learned through that, which, he kind of already knew, but they found that it was even more true than he thought was their global network of service providers are some of the most important people in each location. So, people were like maybe thinking about travelling to Paris, and a phone call to a chauffeur security person in Paris would tell them way more than you could just get on the internet. So, staying connected through LinkedIn was really helpful for that.

Books That Have Had the Greatest Impact on Nathan

When asked about books that have had the biggest impact, Nathan shared that the summer after 10th, grade, he had knee surgery and he loved to play sports, he played a lot of basketball during the summers. And he had surgery right after school was out. And everybody told him, “Oh, it’s going to be three to four weeks, and you’ll be back on your feet.” And it more or less put him out for eight weeks or most of the summer. And so, he’s laid up in bed, this is pre internet and he’s getting tired of watching TV and just being lazy and thinking about all the things he’s missing out. And so, he got a book that’s called Made in USA and it was by Sam Walton, the founder of Walmart. And he just devoured that book. And he thinks that was the book that kind of sparked in him an interest in being an entrepreneur and actually understanding what that could look like and what that can be. And because he had a lot of time to think, set his mind racing that summer when he had nothing to do.

What Nathan is Really Excited About Now!

Nathan shared that he’s really excited about the book in the sense that he’s not pretending that any of the foundational things that he has in What Rich Clients Want are novel. In fact, he gave a huge amount of credit to Horst Schulze, who is essentially the founder of a lot of these concepts for Ritz Carlton he would say, especially level one and level two things. They lean a lot on the Ritz Carlton experience to learn from that. But then he thinks the neat thing is, is that over 20 years, having learned and distilled these things, and now being able to talk with them, with audiences like yours, he just find that really rewarding, really gratifying.

And in fact, tomorrow night, at their headquarters, they’re having their book launch party and he’s got old team members driving in from other locations to come in and celebrate. So, it’s fun to share the information and also celebrate the hard work that kind of went into making the book happen.

Where Can We Find Nathan Online

Website – www.fortis.co

Website – www.nathanfoy.com

LinkedIn – Nathan W. Foy

Twitter – @nfoyal

Quote or Saying that During Times of Adversity Nathan Uses

When asked about a quote or saying that he tends to revert to, Nathan shared that there’s a famous quote from Teddy Roosevelt that he will try to quote, but it says basically, “The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who even if he fails, he fails while daring greatly, so that his place is not among those cold and timid souls who know neither victory nor defeat.”

Me: Lovely, I love it. And how does that quote help you?

Nathan shared that it tells him it’s not about only winning; it’s just being in the arena and if you’re in the arena, you’re going to get bloodied; you’re going to have discouragements, you’re going to have disappointments, but you are daring greatly. And that’s something that he thinks is worth doing in our professional lives and in our lives in general.

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