This is a story that I originally wrote on Viralnomics about my encounter with a metal spoon.

Obviously, there’s a very special significance to this metal spoon, and one that’s transformed the way I do and view businesses.

The story of this metal spoon took place years ago.

My wife and I had just finished a workout. She trained hard and beat the heck out of the workout equipment in the dingy gym we were in. I worked out, too, of course--if you would call it that. In between stealing quick glances at my strong, beautiful wife, I also lifted some weight and put it back down a couple of times.

By the end, we were so famished that we felt we could have crushed enough food to feed an entire rugby team. Anything and everything sounded delightful.

As we walked down the street, figuring out what to eat, we passed by a green sign. In front of it stood two girls, whose age hovered in the early 20s. They were dressed in black slacks and a white button-up shirt. What drew me to them, though, wasn’t their nice smiles or anything of that nature.

I was more so paying attention to the tray they were holding.

You see, on the tray was a collection of tiny paper cups, the kind that businesses generally use to offer free samples of food.

Being in our current state of hunger, we perked up at the idea of trying whatever they had. Free food, you say? Yes, please.

As we approached, one of the girls either muttered “tiramisu” or “eat my shoe”--I couldn’t tell, what with my stomach grumbling like a bear.

My wife and I both grabbed a paper cup, eager to dive in, but soon realized it wasn’t finger food. We needed a utensil.

As if reading our minds, one girl smirked and asked, “Want a spoon?” She showed us a collection of spoons they had prepared.

I picked up a metal spoon, thinking nothing of it, and started to walk away, but suddenly I stopped. I held in my hand a metal spoon that the restaurant owned and I couldn’t walk away with it.

They got me. I was trapped.

We all know that the goal of giving away free samples is to let a passerby try your food and, ideally, capitalize on the opportunity to speak with them about the sample. If she had given me a plastic spoon instead, I would have walked away without even getting the name of the restaurant.

Because the spoon was not easily disposable and common sense told me not to toss the metal spoon like a jerk, I was forced to return the metal spoon to the girl upon finishing. And the polite thing to do when somebody gives you a free treat is to ask them about it. Without knowing exactly what came over me at the time, I asked, “So, what’s this place about?”

She told me that it was a vegan, gluten-free Italian restaurant that had just opened.

As a side note, vegan, gluten-free food should not be a thing. Gnocci doesn’t mean lentils wrapped in lettuce. Sorry.

As much as my wife and I weren’t into the idea of meatless Italian food, we felt we had already committed, not to mention hungry, so we walked in and became patrons.

A lunch of cardboard food and $34 later, we waved goodbye to the girls outside. I secretly thought to myself, I’d been had. Well played, blouses, well played.

The moral of the story? Well, let me ask you:

What is the “metal spoon” of your business?

Put it another way, what is the one thing you can do today that will result in a disproportionately large benefit in response to the time or money invested?

Everybody else gives away plastic spoons because that’s the common practice, but these guys distinguished themselves immediately and gave metal spoons. Because of their giving away samples with a metal spoon, it had a disproportionately larger effect for the time and money invested.

Once you start to look for the metal spoons in businesses--either in your own or others--you’ll begin to see those disproportionate effects that set a business apart and make your experience as a customer special.

So, think about it and tell me again: What is the “metal spoon” of your business?