By Scott Westerman
“If all my friends were to jump off a bridge, I wouldn’t follow. I’d be at the bottom to catch them when they fall.”

Bob Greene tells of a time when Frank Sinatra was down on his luck. His boy crooner days were behind him and his break-out role in “From Here to Eternity” was still ahead. We tend to chew up and spit out our heros, casting them aside when they no longer seem to glitter. And so it was for Frank. Except at Patsy’s restaurant in New York. At his lowest ebb, Frank found solace in this unexceptional hole in the wall. As the story goes, as one particularly dark Thanksgiving approached, Frank told the owner that he wanted to eat his dinner at the restaurant, “No turkey,” he said. He didn’t want to be reminded of the holiday and didn’t want to be lonely.

Patsey didn’t tell Frank that he had planned to be closed on Thanksgiving. Instead he invited family and friends to come for a meal. He cooked for a full house of people who understood and stood behind Sinatra.

Frank never forgot that. And when his fortunes changed for the better Patsy’s became permanently connected to the Sinatra legend. Two generations later, it’s still a Big Apple landmark.

Fred Reicheld’s Loyalty Effect posits that Loyalty is the willingness to make an investment or personal sacrifice to strengthen a relationship. He notes that “major companies replace half their customers in five years, half their employees in four and a half and their investors in less than one.”

If you’re a business, investing in loyalty can be profitable. I went through an exercise recently with a group of lab technicians who had resigned themselves to working in a stilted environment without any sense of employee delight. We determined that the company had lost 8 employees during the previous year. Once a new player was recruited, it took them two years to become fully productive. With a base compensation of $60,000 dollars a year, the company could reasonably spend of $140,000 annually to build employee loyalty, cut turnover in half and still come out ahead.

Seth Godin says that “Loyalty is what we call it when someone refuses a momentarily better option.” He also cautions that loyalty doesn’t always mean forever. “Sometimes, the world changes significantly and even though the loyal partner/customer likes that label, it gets so difficult to stick that he switches.”

Since we will end up with many acquaintances and few good friends, choose those special people carefully and stick by them. Relationships are a lot like gardens. They require regular attention, occasional weeding and lots of love. And they are partnerships. No one person can do all the heavy lifting.

Who is in your circle of loyalty? What have you done for them lately? Do you have a relationship where you’re doing all the work? Is it time to pull that weed so something more mutually productive can grow?

Umair Haque recently wrote a blog post at the Harvard Business Review entitled A Roadmap to a Life that Matters. He see’s loyalty this way. “Put what, why, and who you love ahead of what, why, and who you don’t, and your roadmap will begin to write itself.”

That may annoy some, but as Dr. Seuss said, “Those who matter don’t mind, and those who mind don’t matter.”


Take Fred Reicheld’s Loyalty Acid Test as a Customer or an Employee.