When Business Turns Into Friendship

In 2015, Emily and I got lost exploring the narrow streets of Sevilla, Spain.  While exploring, my attention was caught by one of the most impressive pieces of art I have ever come across.  In a large glass window display case at a local art store stood a perfectly made, porcelain Spanish bullfighter figure.  We decided to enter the store and look around.  Upon entering Cerámica Sevilla, we were greeted by its owner, Ángel.  

At first, Ángel, Emily and I struck up some small talk and discussed the details of the bullfighter figure.  Ángel was so excited to share the story behind the Lladró family that handcrafted and hand painted these magnificent pieces of art.  Even though it was already love at first sight with the piece, Ángel’s explanation only confirmed my desire to buy this statue.

During our short time in the store, business transacted like it normally would.  Ángel did a wonderful job of making sure we were well taken care of and sent us on our way with my first official piece of Lladró art that would later become a small collection.  As we were leaving the store, he said to us:

“Next time you are in Sevilla, stop by and we will go out for a coffee and tapas.”

I’m sure he says this to all his clients, I thought.  I figured this was an easy gesture to extend, as Ángel knew he would most likely never see us again.  Emily and I went on our way, continued our stroll through Sevilla, and eventually ended our time in Spain and made our way back to the US.  A few weeks later, I received an email from Ángel, checking up on us, our trip and the piece we purchased from him.  It was a pleasant surprise to hear from him, and Emily and I appreciated his follow up.  I replied, and we exchanged a few more emails back and forth.  During his last email, he again stated:

“Remember, next time you are in Sevilla, be sure to stop by and we will go out for coffee and tapas.”

A year later, we found ourselves in Spain, this time for the entire summer and with our family of four.  I decided to reach out to Ángel to let him know we would be making the trip from Alicante (where we were staying at the beach the summer) to Sevilla. He again extended his invitation to stop by the store and then go out for drinks and tapas.  When we stopped by the store this time, he was also with company.  Emily, our two kids and I were introduced to Ángel’s wife, and his two children.  We spent some wonderful time in conversation at the store and then around the table dining on some wonderful southern Spanish delicacies and delicious drinks.  After that we headed back to his store, and I decided to take another look around.

Before leaving Sevilla to head back to the beach, we decided to purchase another Lladró piece from Ángel to add to my collection.  When I went to pay, I noticed the price was far less than the price he advertised.  Shocked, I asked him, why the deep discount, and he replied:

“We are friends now.  I do not make money off my friends. Just pay my cost.” 

I was intrigued by this and asked Ángel, “Do you do this with all your customers?”

He replied that he did not, and then went on to tell me that many times, when he hits it off with a customer he extends the invitation to come by for drinks and tapas next time they are in Sevilla. Most times he never sees these people again.  When we reached out to him, he was excited to share more of his city with us, as well as introduce us to his family. He was also very interested in teaching me all of the southern Spain slang and profanity that I would need to know to get by like a true “Sevillano”.

Since that day we stopped by for drinks and tapas, we have continued to grow our friendship with Ángel and his family.  My daughter, Hailey, and I spent a couple of days with Ángel and his family at the “Feria de Sevilla” in 2017, and we make sure to visit Ángel and his family every time we are in Sevilla.  We are always welcomed with drinks, tapas and a wonderful time together. Ángel most recently welcomed our entire leadership team to his store for a private tapas and drinks event he hosted just for us. 

Remember, as you venture into life and business, sometimes a business relationship becomes a friendship. As you serve your customers, consider that an invitation you extend to them could blossom into a beautiful friendship. I encourage you to do this from time to time.  You never know where it may lead.

P.S. If you are ever in Sevilla, be sure to stop by Ángel’s store Ceramicas Sevilla 

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