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Last Update: Wednesday June 23, 2021

Key Idea: Make People Smile

Host Hattie Bryant says that none of us can underestimate the power of a smile to create repeat customers.

Key Question:


Deliver such fabulous service that customers smile when they are doing business with you. Mrs. Fields launched her cookie business because as a little girl she noticed that people would smile at her when she gave them one of her homemade cookies. What she proved as her business grew is: a smiling customer comes back and they tell their friends about your great product or service.

Q: What about Cloud 9 makes people smile?

A: The name, the art and the drivers who are smiling and wearing a bright purple tie with a white cloud design. When people can chose between a van and a cloud, what do you think they chose? The silliness that was irritating to John at first turned out the be the magic part of his formula.

Veteran entrepreneur and cofounder of Nicole Miller, the New York City-based fashion house, Bud Konheim says, "Make somebody happy and you will make a business successful." And he quickly admits, "We're trying to make a product that makes somebody happy. If it doesn't make them happy, they are not buying it and you're out of business."

Q: What is happiness?

A: "Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness" have become more than symbolic words in our shrinking global village. Not everyone believes these words should be the cornerstones of a society. But, John Adams, Thomas Jefferson and the other framers of the Constitution of the United States of America thought there was something profoundly right about the pursuit of happiness. Yet "making someone happy," is hardly an "American" concept. It so much a part of the legacy of most cultures throughout history, it seems deeply embedded within our eidetic memories; it seems to be an essence of our very being, a primal thrust and energy that pulls us forward.

How important is a smile?

A: There are books written about the healing power of smiling because research shows that smiling and laughing change a person's chemistry. Love, Medicine & Miracles: Lessons Learned About Self-Healing from a Surgeon's Experience With Exceptional Patients was written by Bernie Siegel and published in 1986. We read the book back then and recall that the patients who smiled, laughed and looked for the good in their situation got well faster than those who were glum.

In 1987 a group of nurses formed the Association for Applied and Therapeutic Humor because they observed, then later proved with research, that patients who laughed and smiled went home from the hospital sooner than those who did not.

Writing for "O Magazine" in 2001, Valerie Monroe starts by quoting the Bible. In Proverbs 17:22 it says, "A merry heart doeth good like a medicine." Monroe goes on to say, "Research has shown that smiling and laughing cause physiological changes in your body. 'When a person has a true, heartfelt smile, it does more than put her in touch with her own inner joy,' says Doe Lang, PhD, a New York City psychotherapist who specializes in nonverbal communication. 'There's a reduction in cortisol, a chemical that indicates stress in the body, and an increase in mood-elevating endorphins. On a social level, an honest smile defuses hostility and draws people near you.' These short-term effects may have long-term benefits. A recent study at the University of California at Berkeley, published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, found that women who had smiled the most in their college yearbook photos had happier lives, happier marriages, and fewer personal setbacks in the following 30 years."

OK. There is proof. When you make a customer smile you are both drawn to each other.

Think about it

Do you make customers smile? What could you do to instigate more laughter and more smiles?

Clip from: Cloud 9 Shuttle

San Diego: Meet John Hawkins and learn about his company, Cloud 9 Shuttle; he threw out conventional marketing wisdom, pulled the company out of bankruptcy, turned employees into owners, and installed key technologies. It just doesn't get any better than this. Not that it has been easy for John and his team; it has been very tough. Yet, this is the great American success story. He may not have made billions of dollars, he did save a business and he instills confidence being a good citizen is good business.

Upon arriving in America's Finest City with her beautiful, cloudless skies and moderate weather, you quickly discover that there are ubiquitous clouds at city's airport, Lindbergh Field. Here, the clouds are "Cloud 9" vans, a shuttle service from the airport to anywhere.

But it wasn't always so perfect in this perfect city.

This is a turnaround story. It's a branding story. And, it is a love story. To begin this story we went to the airport to meet the man who knows San Diego better than anyone. John Hawkins just loves this community and her people. And because of his service, when we asked about a business to study, everybody recommended John -- the Chamber of Commerce, the Convention & Visitors Bureau, the Mayor's office, Economic Development and many others. 

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Cloud 9 Shuttle

John Hawkins, CEO, founder

3550 Kurtz Street
San Diego, CA 92110

Visit our web site:

Office: 858-505-4900

Business Classification:

Year Founded: 1991

Make People Smile

JOHN: Like Mousekateers at Disneyland, you can't have a bad day. When you show up at the park and you put on your Disney uniform, you are on stage. So--and we actually said that. This tie makes you on stage. So when the shuttle driver gets out and says, `Welcome to Cloud 9,' how can you not have a smile on your face? This, in fact, is a management tool. This telegraphs what we--and I think it's our strongest point-of-sale management tool. It telegraphs what management believes the customer is supposed to see and feel. So if we tell too many people in San Diego this stands for quality, this stands for service, this stands for enthusiasm, this stands for somebody being on time and being a neat person, then that person has to live up to that standard because we've told two million people 100 times that's what this means. And our drivers put this on, and we tell them now if you aren't signed up to do that, don't put the tie on, 'cause that's what it's all about. And our customers know that, and they expect that.


HATTIE: (In the Studio) We've all heard the term 're-engineering' for years. But John had the opportunity not just to re-engineer, but to re-invent, with a core of great employees and a business built on the foundation of tourism in San Diego. The leadership came to the conclusion that they could build a shuttle company based on uniqueness. San Diego is a special place, and the shuttle to and from the airport could be and should be special. Super Shuttle franchises are found in many cities. The leadership came to the conclusion that they could come up with a name that would convey personality and uniqueness. What should a name be? Something different, something easy to remember, something that conveys the quality of the product, unique, fun, positive, upbeat, crisp, clean, San Diego oriented, and something that won't go stale. The name grew out of an asset they already had, 1-800-9-SHUTTLE. They replaced Super Shuttle with Cloud 9, and the strategy is working.

What's in a name? Everything. Maybe you should change yours.


JOHN: The weird thing is, I mean, I'm looking at myself in the mirror, saying, `I'm gonna tell the guys I went to business school with that I'm in charge of Cloud 9?' And I thought, `They're just gonna laugh me out of the park.' But then we went to the other end of the...

HATTIE: They all want to come to Cloud 9.

JOHN: No, but we went to the other end of the spectrum, you know, because people laughed at Disney when he started. `You're gonna create a feature-length cartoon, "Snow White"?' The rest is history.

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