top of page

Great Companies Deliver the Unexpected

Inspirational speakers have a gift. They leave us with the hope that we will be able to take just a small piece of what they have delivered and implement it in our daily lives or business model.

At an event at the Association for Corporate Development (ACD), Howard Brodsky of CCA Global Partners left us all with the burning desire to do more, be better and be more creative! Howard was kind to pull back the curtain to reveal how he built a successful multi-billion international cooperative business.

In this spirit, I am sharing just two of his stories that will hopefully help you to think a little more deeply the next time you offer a customer, friend or loved one, a gift.

There were two flights heading to the west coast from the east coast, both with JetBlue Airlines.

Story # 1: The pilot on the morning flight got on the loudspeaker to let the passengers know that, due to very strong headwinds, the flight would be delayed by 2 ½ hours and they would need to make a stop in Minneapolis to re-fuel. The pilot apologized and offered a $25 JetBlue gift card that could be used for their next flight purchase.

Story #2: The pilot on the afternoon flight got on the loudspeaker to tell the same story, strong headwinds and 2 ½ flight delay, however, they would be landing in Oklahoma to re-fuel. The difference with this pilot is he contacted a local pizza shop and had 25 assorted pizzas delivered to the plane so everyone could enjoy the downtime with a little fun and a lot of pizza.

Which experience do you think was more memorable? Do you believe many people told others about the $25 gift card or the pizza party that the airline pilot put on for his passengers?

Story two is a simple reminder.

We often find ourselves challenged to give a gift that will brighten the lives of our employees, customers, friends or a loved one. Most come from good intentions; however, some fail when we are put to the test of pulling it off.

Howard Brodsky shared with us how he delivers additional employee gifts, beyond the annual year-end bonus. His message is consistent and simple: Care about others. By writing a meaningful note with an additional gift (a check or gift card), Howard has sent a strong message to those with whom he works: that he knows them, pays attention to them and he cares about them.

We can take the two airline examples and apply them to the way we conduct our lives and our businesses.

The secret is to pay attention to others and deliver something unique or unexpected. Great companies do not become great by following the same pattern as their competitors. They become great by the creative way they interact with and treat their staff, their customers, and others. They trip you up in unexpected and positive ways. And look at what happens – we want to repeat these stories because they resonate.

Maybe, in practice, you can take a few moments in your day to look around and notice the little things that you could do. You may, just possibly, change the way that a person looks back and perceives you … and your company.


Kelley Small is an Advisor to Standish Executive Search, a New England-based firm that advises business owners, executives and boards who are positioning their companies for accelerated growth, change or succession.

Recent Posts

See All


bottom of page