I was driving by a convenience store in my neighborhood the other day and noticed a large banner on the front door declaring, “Under New Management!” What could that mean? Brand new décor, perhaps? Free samples? An espresso bar? Of course not! This is an American convenience store. It’s not a New Zealand mini-mart, where you can purchase delicious meat (or veggie) pies from a glass case. Nor is it a Thai 7-Eleven where you can buy the BEST Thai ice tea from a large dispenser. American convenience stores, by contrast, are remarkably – and consistently – mundane. Here you can find coffee, sodas, beef jerky, canned nuts, shoe laces, motor oil and if you’re lucky, a rotisserie hot dog from the 1980s. That’s about it. “Under new management” generally means, “NOSOC” — “new ownership, same old crap.”

No so for Japanese convenience stores, nicknamed “conbinis.” More than just light snacks and drinks, the ever-present conbinis offer a large variety of quality items and services. They’re sort of a one-stop shop for everything you need, whether it’s bento lunches, snacks, desserts or magazines. Need a concert ticket? You can buy it here. How about shipping your luggage to the airport? You friendly conbini clerk can make that happen! A typical conbini visit for me looks like this: 1) Use the clean, available restroom (with heated toilet seat), because public lavatories are scarce in Japan 2) Get some local currency from the always-functional ATM, because Japan is a cash-heavy culture and you can always use a few more yen in your pocket 3) Head to the grab-n-go food corner and stock up on onigiri rice balls, which come in a vast variety of types and flavors. Is there a better healthy snack in the world than a rice ball stuffed with mushrooms and seaweed? (Tastes may differ.) I’ve found hot, steaming sweet potatoes at a Japanese conbini. Fresh edamame. Salads. Pastas. Sandwiches. And of course, let’s not forget the drinks in a can, like BOSS coffee (one of my favorites) – served hot – or a cold can of Pocari Sweat. (Again, tastes may differ.) Conbinis are awesome, inexpensive, and inevitably staffed by a neat professional clerk who delivers services with a smile, and a bow. If I see a conbini with a banner declaring “under new management,” I can be sure that it’ll be “NOSOW” – new ownership, same old wonderfulness.”

(Marketing guru Seth Godin recently said in an interview, “Authenticity is over-rated. If you want to build trust, just be consistently excellent.” He was, of course, talking about leadership and the recent emphasis on authenticity, which Godin describes as “often an excuse to be rude, ” ie. “Hey, don’t get angry with me. I’m just sharing my authentic opinion.” Myself, I prefer vulnerability to authenticity. But my point is, consistency is a huge key to building trust. It’s showing up every day and doing quality work. It’s writing a blog 3 times a week, no matter what your schedule throws at you. It’s keeping your promise to yourself to hit the gym every other day, regardless of how you feel. You can always count on a Japanese conbini to be clean, friendly and well stocked. What are YOU doing consistently to exceed expectations?)