Saturday night, November 4, 2017, Judea, Israel
15 Heshvan, 5778 (Hebrew date)
.וַיֵּרָא אֵלָיו יְהוָה בְּאֵלֹנֵי מַמְרֵא וְהוּא יֹשֵׁב פֶּתַח-הָאֹהֶל כְּחֹם הַיּוֹם
There is a great deal we are still learning from our forefathers, as we say, "The actions of the fathers are a sign to the sons" and Father Abraham is still teaching us.
This morning we read the story about Abraham sitting at the entrance of his tent in Elon Moreh (today called "Occupied territory by the politically correct, yet Father Abraham dwelt there nearly 4,000 years ago) as three strangers approach. He rushes towards them to greet them, they will be his guests. In fact this one episode becomes the standard and guide book for all Jewish hosts for the next 4,100 years, to this very day.
We model our hospitality after this example set by Abraham. For example it is written that as his guests were leaving, Abraham walked with them a little, to accompany them on their way out. This is still practiced by religious Jews to this very day. I stopped by my neighbors last night after the Sabbath meal. As I left, my host Michael got up and walked me out to the street. Every time we do this we are following the example set by Abraham, our ancestor.
But today I want to discuss a different lesson from this story; good business practice and good business ethics, and I believe they go hand in hand. Honest business is good sustainable business.
Abraham was sitting at the entrance of his tent, looking out for travelers who might need a little hospitality, this was in the heat of the day. "And God appeared to him by the terebinths of Mamre, as he sat in the tent door in the heat of the day." (Genesis, Bereshith, Chapter 18, verse 1)
Let us analyze from a business perspective. Abrahams' business is hospitality. It does not matter to us for this lesson that he expected no reward, what matters is he was looking for "clients". So what is he doing? He is sitting at the entrance of the tent so that he can see if anyone comes by and he is doing it in the most uncomfortable time of day, when the sun is strongest and heat is most oppressive.
Abraham is teaching us that if you want clients, of any sort, you must not be lazy. Others may take a noon siesta, a little nap, or stay inside where it is nice and shady. However if you are serious about your business you stay where you are visible to clients and where you can spot a potential client. You need to get out there, see and be seen.
"and he (Abraham) raised his eyes and looked, and lo, three men stood by him."(verse 2)
We see here that Abraham is proactive, he is looking around for guests. You go out and seek clients, don't just wait for them to come knocking at your door. "And when he saw them, he ran from the door of the tent to meet them, and bowed to the earth." (verse 2)
Again, we see eagerness, gratitude for the opportunity to serve your clients, your guests, humility. As some modern advertisers say, "We want you more!"
Now Abraham continues with this incredible customer service, even before they become his clients/guests, "Sir, if I have found favor in your eyes, do not go away from your servant." (Verse 3)
Now Abraham makes a concrete offer, after his gracious opening hospitality. He says, "Let a little water be taken, and wash your feet, (dusty from travel) and I will get you a morsel of bread, nourish your hearts and then you can move on." (Genesis, Chapter 18, verse 4)
The guests respond, "Yes, do as you have spoken".
Now this is not a business transaction but yet it is. It does not matter that no money is exchanged or involved, it is still an agreement. Often people will offer to do something, for free, as a favor, and then not come through and leave you stranded. They will then argue in their defense that "It was only a favor, I was not being paid for this! What can you expect of me?" (which really feels great when you have just missed your flight because your friend failed to pick you up as promised).
What can I expect? I can expect you to behave as Abraham did: Keep your word. If you offer to take someone to the airport but then oversleep or forget, you have reneged on a deal, you have violated a word of honor and it makes not the slightest bit of difference that no money was involved in this transaction. Learn from Abraham; a deal is a deal, money or no money. Three three guests respond; "Do as you have spoken" even though they were not paying for this service.
What does Abraham do next? He involves his entire household in serving his guest. "And Abraham hurried back into the tent to Sarah (his wife) and said 'Hurry and prepare three measure of fine meal, knead it and make cakes. And Abraham ran to the hard and he took a tender quality calf and gave it to his servant and said 'Prepare this', and he hurried to prepare it." (Genesis Chapter 18, verses 6-7)
We also from the flow of text, the speed and intensity which Abraham applied in serving his guests. In Biblical style the repetitive use of the "and" is indicative of action. "And Abraham hurried back to the tent", "and Abraham ran to the herd" "and he hurried to prepare it", "and he took a tender quality calf", "and he gave it to his servant", "and he said prepare this", "and he hurried to prepare it", "and he took butter and milk and the calf which he had prepared", "and he presented it to them", and, and, and, total action. We can sense the intensity. That is how we need to treat our guests, and our customers, action!
We see that Abraham not only kept his word but far exceeded it. And he did it in great haste. He got his team to work preparing the finest meal for his guests even though all he promised was a small measure of water and a morsel of bread.
"And he (Abraham) took butter and milk and the calf which he had prepared and set it before them (the guests) and he stood by them under the tree and they ate."
So we see here that Abraham himself, despite having a servant, served the guests personally. It is like having the general manager of the Hilton hotel personally bring you your coffee, now that is service, now that is hospitality.
As it turns out these three men did not need the food, they were in fact Angels, Messengers of God, who had come to inform Abraham that he and Sarah would finally have a son, someone to carry on his legacy, to this very day.
So we, his sons, must learn from this story, and carry on his legacy.
We learn how to treat guests but there are also business lessons here.
Don't be lazy - It is the mid day sun, others are taking a nap, but you are out there seeing and being seen. You are more likely to pick up the new clients.
Look for Windows of Opportunity - Abraham is positioned in the best place to spot travelers. Location, Location, Location, over 4,000 years ago.
Jump in that Window - As soon as Abraham sees potential guests he rushes towards them and begins making his offers.
Be Gracious - Abraham, a great and wealthy man, is exceedingly humble, he makes his guests feel like princes.
Over Deliver - Promise little but do a great deal. How often do we pay for a service only to be disappointed? How often do we pay for a product and feel cheated? Whatever you promise - Deliver more! This is in all the new business books but we don't need them. It was all written thousands of years ago, sadly we overlook the lessons from The Book.
WOW Effect - When the product arrives it should be such a great experience that the customer goes WOW. When you open your package there are some extra gifts that you did not pay for. When you arrive at your hotel room you take a look and say WOW. When you expect the purchased item to arrive in 6 to 8 wees but it arrives overnight delivery, that is WOW. When you offer a little water, a morsel of bread and a chance to lean against a tree, but you then present a banquet personally by the one and only Father Abraham, WOW effect.
Use that in business and you will retain your customers. Disappoint them and they will go elsewhere.
Speed - No matter what business you are in, customers appreciate quick service. If you receive an e mail, answer it! Promptly. So often students will tell me, "I heard about your seminar, I wrote the host many times but never received a reply, Sorry I missed the seminar. And then these instructors wonder why they are "unlucky" and can't attract participants or new students.
Pay in Full, On Time - Later we read about the death of Sarah, wife of Abraham. The grieving Abraham wants to provide a proper burial for his wife and enters into negotiations with Efron the son of Sohar among the people of Het. They offer him the burial plot for free but Abraham insists on paying the Full Price.
"And Abraham measure out and weighed to Efron the silver money as he had spoken in the ears of the people of Het, four hundred pieces of silver Shekel of a current measure known among the merchants."(Genesis, Bereshith, Chapter 23, verse 16)
Pay your suppliers on time, in full, without delay. Treat your customers as valued personal guests. Keep your word and in fact, Over Deliver. I think you will see the results.
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Learn about the life of Father Abraham, the first Krav Maga instructor, Biblical fighting history, the true origin of Krav Maga.
(cover by Arie Katz)