Beals: Boy offers lessons of service, simplicity

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Posted: Wednesday, April 16, 2014 12:00 am | Updated: 1:51 pm, Thu Jun 5, 2014.

BAVARO, Dominican Republic — If you never thought a dirt road could be at the same time dusty and soggy, you’ve apparently never been on this one.

It’s day four of our family vacation and we’re on the “Polaris Extreme Buggy Adventure” in which we drive all-terrain sports vehicles through the jungle-like countryside on the Island of Hispaniola’s northeastern corner.

The dirt road, littered with rocks as big as eight inches in diameter, is pocked with more than mere potholes. These obstacles are more aptly described as “pot-canyons” or “pot-valleys.” The level parts of the road kick up incredible dust. The pot-canyons are flooded with yellowish water from yesterday’s rains. We are filthy, covered in muck from head to toe. No one seems to mind the dirtiness, however, because we’re having a good time.

We drive past tiny farms and through one impoverished village after another, each full of curious children who run out to wave and untethered livestock that occasionally step in front of us.

Eventually we make our first stop, a farm where workers produce coffee and cigars by hand. It’s one of several “souvenir opportunities” scheduled on this excursion.

As we dismount our off-road vehicles, villagers greet us peddling a wide variety of goods and services — coffee, alcohol, hand-rolled smokes, jewelry, art and the opportunity to have your photo taken with a green lizard sitting on your shoulder. We buy a couple of things, but not too much. Same goes for the rest of the 30 or 40 people in our caravan.

But one village boy about 10 or 11 years old offered something unique for sale.

As we were preparing to start driving again, the boy approached one person in our group. He picked up her helmet and tenderly placed it on her head before buckling the chin strap. He then fixed her bandana (we all wore them over our noses and mouths to keep out the dust while driving). Finally, he took her sunglasses and wiped them clean using his shirt. He then proceeded to do the same thing for me and my family. In return, he asked for only a single U.S. dollar.

He said not even a single word while diligently and gently doing his work. It was really quite amazing.

Of course, the sales and marketing speaker in me watched him from a different angle. I studied his every move. I loved how he offered his services with such simplicity and authenticity.

I have long been fascinated with the simple sales and marketing techniques I sometimes see from street vendors, especially outside the United States. I always appreciate and admire the entrepreneurship that can spring forth from people most of the world considers to be dirt poor. I’m fascinated by them, because I think sophisticated marketers can learn a great deal from them.

Sure, it requires many more resources and a great deal of complexity to distribute millions of products to millions of consumers spread out over vast geographies.

Nevertheless, I think we can sometimes benefit by going back to the basics — service, humility, providing value and building a personal connection regardless of how slight our resources are or how little time we have.

This young Dominican entrepreneur provides a good reminder that no matter how stressful and no matter how complicated your work might be, the things that truly matter are a tender touch, good service and attention to those details your customers really value.

Jeff Beals is an Omaha author and speaker who can be reached at

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