Below is a column that I first wrote while working for Morris Workman at the Mesquite Local Journal. Not surprisingly the small business, whose proprietor pushed my hot button by whining is no longer in business here in Mesquite. However, I’ve recently encountered this person’s clone at a local business and it prompted me to dig out the old column, polish it up a bit and rerun it.
I’ve Had Too Much Whine (circa 2008):
I admit it, whining pushes the hottest of my hot buttons and always has. My kids learned early in life that the more they whined the less likely I was to give them whatever produced the whining. Over the years, I have tried, with limited success, to gain more control of my hot buttons.
I manage to retain my composure when reading newspaper accounts of whining and negative business owners who feel put upon; I grit my teeth, bite my tongue, and keep my annoyance to myself while listening to this same type of whining on TV and radio. BUT, I continue to walk out the door - empty handed - of any business whose proprietor or employees whine to me.
Recently I entered a local small business where the proprietor was leaning on the counter talking with someone. He acknowledged my arrival with a smile and called out, “I’ll be with you in a couple of minutes.” No problem; I waved, smiled back at the proprietor, and began browsing.
Remember, I said the business was small. Therefore, it was impossible to avoid hearing the conversation of the proprietor as I browsed. He alternated between whining and ranting as he expounded on how useless city officials are and how they don’t support local business people.
He complained that big box stores just love killing off the little guys. He saved the most unflattering names for disloyal customers who have stopped shopping at his business. Finally, he began a rant about customers who don’t appreciate the fact that his business was here long before most of the other damned businesses in town.
My reaction to this was- OOPS! Hot button activated. I shot out of that business like a scalded cat. I understood why he was losing customers. I had heard all the whining that I wanted to hear.
Not all business owners in Mesquite whine to their customers; I do business with some of those who don’t. The folks at Ace Hardware are always friendly, up-beat, and helpful to me. Bella’s serves delicious, top quality Italian food and wonderful cheeseburgers. Plus they make me feel very welcome every time I go there. City Shoppes has great service, and good products. Being given a smile, a “Thank You” and a rose by a polite lady is always a treat.
Unfortunately, some local business people would rather whine than face the facts.
Fact 1: Change happens. You can try fighting change if you want to, but it is going to happen.
Fact 2: Even in the best economy, some businesses will thrive and others will whither and die.
Fact 3: Beyond what is required by law, City officials are not obligated to support your business. These officials have an agenda and, don’t delude yourself, anytime that your (real or perceived) business needs differ from that agenda - you’ll be odd man out and SOL.
Fact 4: Most big box businesses began small. At some point, their owners realized that they needed to grow into a big fish or be eaten by one. The primary goal of these businesses is growth, increasing market share, and becoming more profitable. Running you out of business is not something they love. Truth is, they don’t love or hate your business. They give your business little or no thought at all.
Fact 5: Customers don’t owe you loyalty. It is your responsibility to earn their loyalty and keep earning it with each transaction. Yep, I know that taking responsibility for your actions is not in fashion right now; but, it is smart business. Don’t waste time blaming others for your problems – City officials, big box stores, even their customers. You need to wake up and smell the coffee Mr./Ms. Business Owner. Your former customers may be staying away because you make them uncomfortable by attempting to lay a guilt trip on them.
Fact 6: Attitude matters. I won’t argue that keeping a positive attitude is easy and I sure do understand that business owners need to vent occasionally. But, venting in your place of business is just plain dumb. You don’t need to be a Pollyanna or to play ostrich. Consider the wisdom of expressing your views, positive or negative, in a factual, reasonable and professional manner when speaking in a public forum. But, do your venting in private to trusted friends.
The state of the economy, increased competition, lack of specific skills and neglect are all factors which contribute to business downturns. Another major contributor is your customer service attitude.
Many business owners are prone to disregard the need for regularly studying, organizing, planning, and personally overseeing the operation of their business once it is established. If you want your business to succeed, you can’t afford to neglect the need to make your customers welcome, provide what they want/need, when they want/need it, and do so in a manner that pleases them.
You will never turn 100 percent of your potential customers into actual customers. Some people have no need for your product or service, others simply can’t afford it, and still others just don’t want what you are offering. Also, sad but true, some people just don’t appreciate (or even want) quality. That is their choice and you aren’t likely to change it.
Yes, we are in a recession. But, recessions come and go. How they affect your business is greatly determined by you, the business owner. So…. manage your attitude, sharpen your business skills, stop whining, and get off your pity pot.
Focus on your business; focus on new products, new technology and bettering your relationships with your customer base. Accept that while you are having a tough time right now, this slump will end - sooner or later - and you need to position your business to take advantage of it.
Stop whining for sympathy - that dog just don’t hunt anymore.