Seamus Phan signature

How often have you been stumped by the frivolous and sometimes infuriating behavior of some cabbies this side of town? What lessons can we learn from them so that we can remain competitive as business owners or working professionals, and not lapse into oblivion?

I don’t drive, and for a long time, never really felt the need to.

Since I was a child, public transport worked for me. But for many years now, I have found the need to catch a cab to business meetings, to conferences where I speak, or some work-related reason, simply because I need to turn up not drenched in perspiration with wet patches on my shirt due to the incredibly hot and humid weather we endure here.

I wonder if you have noticed a quirky phenomenon here where certain hours are bad hours to attempt to catch a cab here, in the late afternoon, or late mornings in less populated areas. And more often than not, a cab or two may drive by, and this would be some typical scenarios:

Scenario A
Me: (waves for the cab).
Cabby: (winds down car window) Where do you want to go?
Me: Location XYZ.
Cabby: (shakes head and winds up car window and drives off).

Scenario B
Me: (waves for the cab).
Cabby: (manually changes sign from the green “taxi” sign to the red “busy” or “on call” sign, and drives off).

Scenario C
Me: (waves for the cab).
Cabby: (with green “taxi” sign, simply drives past and off).

Conversely, compared to similarly populated cities, these would likely be the scenario:

Scenario 1
Me: (waves for the cab).
Cabby: (pulls to a drop, opens door automatically) Where would you like to go, sir?
Me: Location XYZ.
Cabby: Certainly! (and drives me).

In Japan, I have encountered several times, where even if the cabby may not know where the location exactly is, he would find ways to find out how to get there, including asking someone on the street or in a street-side store. Their dedication and pride in their jobs is more than sufficient to deliver great customer service, and they will get me where I needed to go. Likewise, in Taipei or Hongkong, cabbies are diligent, earnest and courteous, and will try their best to get you about. Plus, anywhere I stood (in any of the big cities in these places), I managed to get a cab in 10 minutes or under (mostly around 5 minutes or less).

Driving a taxi is a means of making a living. It is a decent and professional job, if you respect others and yourself. And to be fair, I have met an equal proportion of great cabbies here, who are every bit as professional and warm as some of their counterparts elsewhere in the world. I have enjoyed many great philosophical and even business discussions with some of them. And to these cabbies with a great work ethic – I salute you, and may you continue to be successful.

This goes for any job. When someone becomes a paying customer and abides by the terms of a contract, we would abide by the same contract and do our best to fulfill their demands. At the same time, it is a bilateral relationship of respect where the service provider and the customer will extend professional courtesy and over time, even friendship, to each other. It is just so much more pleasant.

In business, it is the same thing. We expect respect from service providers, just as we should offer respect to our service providers. It makes pleasant business relationships and everyone can have a nicer day. At the same time, just as the earnest, dedicated, professional, and courteous cabbies I have encountered, they show that good business is also about taking pride in your job and extending the best possible service and delivery forward.

I have always put in my best efforts in an equitable customer relationship, including working late nights and weekends, experimenting and determining the best strategic and tactical options, and then packaging programs and solutions for the client in the most effective and financially reasonable manner. I owe it to these good customers who are as close as friends, and I owe it to myself as a professional demanding respect.

A good work ethic is one where we can apply our full effort to the successful completion of a task, and be innovative, creative, communicative and resolute in our efforts. At the same time, we extend professional courtesy to others, as we expect the same from others who fulfill their contractual obligations. In the end, everyone wins, and everyone can breathe easy for yet another good day at work.

PS – These days, I have given up on trying to fix meetings in late mornings or especially late afternoons. I try as much as possible to communicate through the Internet or on the phone. Life is far too short to get caught up by weather and cabs.