By Susana Fonticoba, certified business growth strategist with Pumpkin Plan Your Business at Clear Path Strategy LLC and member of NAWBO New Jersey
Imagine for a moment:
- You’re browsing through your local Costco and decide to swipe your arm across an entire shelf of products, knocking them all to the ground.
- You’re banging at the door of your favorite lunch restaurant at 9 a.m., demanding to be let in because you want a salad right now.
- You barge into your doctor’s waiting room, ignore those waiting their turn, and push your way into the exam rooms because you want to be seen now, without an appointment.
Great Companies Deal With Rule Breakers
How far do you think you’ll get in each of those scenarios? While imagining them may sound fun while many of us still shelter at home, in reality, we know we’d get into a heap of trouble.
Why? Because each successful company has its operating rules, and typically there is zero tolerance for rule breakers.
That restaurant will not seat you at 9 a.m. because you demand a salad outside of their normal hours. And Costco will firmly escort you to the security office after sweeping those products to the ground. No ma’am, they don’t let you have your way no matter how much you think you deserve it.
The Customer Is NOT Always Right
Entrepreneurs, focused on making money by making customers happy, often forget to address and enforce operating rules. They think their business exists to do whatever a customer wants. The customer, regardless of what you were taught, is NOT always right. Sometimes they are rude and thoughtless. And you don’t have to tolerate that.
So, when well-behaved and pleasant clients ask you:
- for services you don’t provide
- for payment extensions you don’t offer
- for extra sessions you can’t give for free
How do you respond? What are your operating rules?
Establish a New Mindset Around Protecting Your Operations
If you don’t have any rules, or they are in your head, embrace this new mindset. You are a professional company, an entity. Every company has rules, processes, systems and guidelines for acceptable behavior from company employees and from customers. You may want to be the nicest person in the world, and become known for great customer service, but NOT to the detriment of the success of your company.
Your Company Depends on You For Survival
Your company is an entity that cannot survive unless you protect and nurture it. When you let bad customers dictate the rules, you are allowing your company to be abused.
Harsh words? It’s the truth.
- If you have operating rules, take them out, review them and update them TODAY.
- If you do not yet have operating rules, sit down and write them out TODAY.
Share and discuss openly with your team. And most importantly, have it visible and upfront, posted on your wall and clearly in your mind.
When customers attempt to get around them, respectfully but firmly let them know, “This is not the way we operate.”
Take Active Care and Nourish Your Company
If it helps to compare your company to a plant that needs air and light and good soil and water, then go with it. Set a plant on your desk where you can look at it every day. If this is your company, you will not let it go without watering. You’ll move it into the sunny spot, and check the leaves. Tend to your company the same way.
Take care of the health of your company so that you can serve all of your top clients, which is your mission.
Need Help? Seek Support
If you need help with toxic customers or establishing rules and boundaries, it’s time to get to work—with the help of a coach, consultant, strategist, mentor or peer group. Working with someone else will always improve the business growth journey.