The Business End of Southern Hospitality

Living in the South, the word "hospitality" gets used a lot. It is a badge of honor to be considered a good provider of "Southern Hospitality" in your home. This comes in the form of cold tea, hot biscuits, a good meal, and warm pie. You would never be rude to company – maybe family, but never company. A covered plate to take home would always be offered. Don’t mind about returning the plate – you can keep it.

Wonderful friendships are formed in these circumstances. Conversation is lively, trust is established, and support is made available. Children, while rowdy, are well mannered. Adults, while opinionated, are respectful.

These life lessons learned have translated beautifully into my everyday business practices.

  • My reputation as a real estate agent that conducts business with ho’okipa is my main priority. I consider it the greatest compliment for a client to say my service "must be that Southern Hospitality."
  • Respect for others is a necessity. Really can’t elaborate on that. It just is.
  • It is important to give the client "a little something extra." If you are in a profession like mine, you know that there are others out there that can do what you do. Why should a client chose to 1) do business with you 2) continue to business with or 3) refer you to others? Because you did something special to make them feel special. Scott Ginsberg does an excellent job of brainstorming some phenom ideas.
  • Your clients would like to get to know you. They want to know that you, likewise, are interested in them. Conversation is important – have it! Talk with your client, not at them. You will find that the entire relationship goes smoother because you have taken the time to truly understand them and build trust.
  • Everybody benefits from good manners. These are simple common practices that say, with actions, "I respect you."
  • We don’t have to agree with everyone, but there is a way not to disagree. My mom always taught us, "You can say whatever it is you want to say, as long as you remember who you are saying it to." Clients come to us for direction. Sometimes that requires some education on things that are being done wrong. Be honest, but you can be constructive within the spirit of ho’okipa.

Creating a business practice centered on ho’okipa is not only an effective way to grow your client roster, but it is a display of personal character – and the world would benefit from a little more of that.

About our Guest Author: April writes both My Beautiful Chaos and Making Life Work for You, a blog written for her real estate business. Her southern hospitality is very much in evidence on them both!

This is the second article that April has generously written for our Talking Story community forum on Ho‘okipa, the Hospitality of Complete Giving. Her first was called Dissecting Hospitality.

~ Rosa


  1. says

    Wonderful coaching April, thank you. I once had a boss who would often tell us, “Don’t discount ‘nice.’ Businesses get built on nice people, and they fail with the not so nice ones.” It was his way of reminding us that he expected us to build relationships with our customers and that simply being order-takers wasn’t nearly enough.
    Your last point resonates with me pretty strongly. There is this baseline expectation guests, clients and customers have that we, while pursuing the objectives of our businesses, will always keep their best interests at heart and do everything in our power to deliver in that spirit of “good faith.” For me, this gets into Kuleana, and our sense of responsibility, where honest human interaction is so vital, and yes, it may mean we don’t agree with our customers for their own good when we know better. In these instances I tell my staff “no wimping out allowed!” for we have to stake our claim proudly as the experts in our roles.

  2. says

    You are absolutely right. What kind of service would I be providing my clients if I just “yes”ed them all the time? They don’t contract me to be their confirmation, but their guide.

  3. says

    Excellent post April. I say that as a fellow Southerner who prides himself on his southern hospitality! :)
    When I fly (I don’t fly… when I ride in an airplane that flies) as the plane is headed to the gate and is on the ground they frequently say something along the lines of “We know you have a choice of airlines and we thank you for choosing us.”
    That’s the way it is in almost any business any more. There is a lot of variety, there are a lot of choices of places we as customers can spend our dollars. If the difference between BigBox#1 and BigBox#2 is just a few dollars I’m going to the place where they walk me to the product instead of saying “Aisle 3” without looking up. I’m going to the place where they help me load giant purchases into my car. I’m going to the place that distinguishes itself by appreciating me as a customer.
    I need to keep that in mind as the working guy too. :)

  4. says

    You and I choose places to do business the same way. I have been known to walk out of places that have bad customer service and pay more at those spots that do well in that category. I hate spending money at place that thinks they are doing me a favor. I would never treat my clients that way and do not expect to be treated that way when I am the client.

  5. says

    Rich and April, I think that nearly all customers choose where they do business with your criteria, other than those times when time/convenience and/or cost (or monopoly – i.e. no choice) become stronger drivers for them.
    Makes you wonder why more businesses just don’t see the pure logic in devoting their efforts in coaching every single person on staff in the art of hospitality. Especially since those “time/convenience and/or cost” variables only yield short-term and single sales, and not the long-term customer loyalty and word-of-mouth that grows and sustains successful business.

  6. says

    “Inspiration” is ‘in-spirit.’ Thus Inspiration is Aloha.

    HCer* Joanna Young has been asking us this month, “What inspires you?” Her theme for her coaching at Confident Writing has been Fire-Breathing Dragons: Inspiration Is The Theme For March, a follow-up to another conversation I was delighted to participa…