My Library and Courses
Last Update: Tuesday June 18, 2019

Key Idea: Mother Your Customers

Marlene McAdam and her partner were Girl Scouts leaders; and in business they are still dishing out what Moms know best how to do.

Key Question:


Make customers feel special, nurtured and coddled.

Q:  Why did Marlene say they "mother" their customers?

A: That is how she describes they way they interact with customers. Even the environment is conducive to this. They have people as guests in their "home." This is a bed and breakfast and lots of moms would describe their home as a bed and breakfast. The mom does the laundry, the cleaning and the cooking and even the gardening. Well, it's the same at the Inn on Mount Ada.

But, beyond the obvious, there's a warm concern for the guest's comfort and an excellent style of softly questioning what they can do for a guest. The customer I met said, "Marlene takes care of everything." Staying at the Inn on Mount Ada means for people who have many responsibilities and lead hectic lives, they can come to Marlene's "house" and Marlene is the responsible person. You leave your cares behind you and let Marlene take over.

This is the type of relaxing environment that so many crave today. And, since 60% of the business is repeat, you don't have to ask if "Mothering" customers works. All of the business owners in this program know that Catalina is one of the most beautiful places in the world and it is easily accessible to the heavily populated Southern California. But, profits are made on repeat business and people don't make return trips for the scenery, they come back for the service. 

Think about it

What can you do to make your customers feel warm and cozy?

Clip from: Small Is Big On Catalina

Avalon, Catalina Island, California:  With a population of about 3200, small business is all there is on this island. Yet, with over 14 million people just 22 miles away in the greater Los Angeles area, this quiet little paradise on earth is no secret!

To get out to the island, we first meet Greg Bombard, the founder and owner of the Catalina Express. Greg's high-speed catamarans -- we were on the Starship Express -- leave from San Pedro across from Long Beach.  Other people arrive by private boats, airplanes and even helicopter.  Avalon Harbor (above) is just magnificent. 

Our first stop off the boat is Brown's Bikes.  Gary Brown, who passed away since this interview, was the island's premier ambassador and a person of profound goodwill. He speaks with great affection about his cherished town.

Even though all the businesses we visited on Catalina Island are different, they are all clearly in the same business -- the business of pleasing people. When you make people happy, they come back; and over time, you will build a business and a following.

Go to all the Key Ideas and Videos from this episode...
Go to homepage of this episode of the show...

Inn on Mount Ada

Marlene Mc Adam and Susie Griffin, Innkeepers

Visit our web site:

Business Classification:

Year Founded:

Mother Your Customers

HATTIE: You have six rooms. And you are 91 percent occupied.

MARLENE: Approximately, yes.

HATTIE: That is a lot of success. Why do you think that's happening?

MARLENE: I wish I could tell you what the answer is, because we're not sure ourselves. We really try our best to make this a service-oriented inn. Our guests, luckily, come back year after year; tell their friends, tell their neighbors and we treat them well I hope.

HATTIE: As inns go, is this on the high-end of the inns of America, or the middle?

MARLENE: It's probably toward the high-end pricewise.

HATTIE: And did you decide that on Catalina, that would be your niche?

MARLENE: No. We really didn't. It just happened.

HATTIE: But it is your niche.

MARLENE: It is, but not because we decided that. You know, some things you just grow into.

We had no conception at all of what we were doing. I mean, we were brand new at this. Our only background is we were each mothers, so we knew how to mother people. And that's exactly what it is.

It's making people feel at home, mothering them. You're not allowed to give them a time out. That's against the law, and you can't send them to their room.

HATTIE: `I'm paying $600 a night. I get to do what I want to do.'

MARLENE: That's right. And you can't send anybody to their room, but other than that, that's exactly what it is. `What do you need? What can I do?' `How would I make you feel more comfortable?' And that's all it is. And remembering people. You know, talking to them, remembering them, spending some personal time without hovering so that they feel that this is their home as well.

And that's what the idea is.

Unidentified Woman: I've been coming to the inn since 1985. It was so warm and homey and the innkeepers, Susie and Marlene, were so wonderful to be with that we kept coming back. And I come every year, have every year since then. And when you come here, they say, `Just relax. We'll take care of everything.' Your every need is taken care of. You never make a bed or worry about how the dishes are going to get cleaned up, and you always have a beautiful view.

HATTIE: So repeat business is a part of the success...

MARLENE: It's probably 60 percent of our business today, repeat business.

We let our staff know that our guests are always right. We never hesitate to refund money if something is a problem. And we try our very best to solve every problem that comes up.


HATTIE: Even though each of the businesses we've looked at today does something completely different, they're all clearly in the same business. And that is the business of pleasing people. When you make people happy, they come back. And over time, you'll build a business.

Not a member yet? Learn!  Be empowered! Join us!