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Entrepreneur

Who You Are When You Wished Nobody Was Watching

By Tom Irmen

We were visiting with a neighbor recently and, not surprisingly, our conversation drifted to a variety of topics. One in particular stood out.


Our neighbor was sharing an experience she had previously with a local health care provider. She described the opportunity she had to discuss her small business with this physician who had inquired about the products and services she offered. Much to her surprise, this doctor treated her in a very unprofessional manner that she regarded as outright rude. Some time later this same health care provider was recommended to her and her husband, and predictably, they went elsewhere. Further, they have shared this same story countless times with many others.

Another local business owner just recently told of an area husband and wife team who own a local restaurant that has earned a reputation for service and quality but who have also earned a reputation as overly aggressive negotiators when dealing with other area business owners. What’s most interesting is that this couple, who demands the lowest possible prices from others, does not discount their restaurant’s menu prices. The stories of their behavior are repeatedly shared with others in the community, all at the expense of this couple’s business.

It’s difficult to understand how small business owners can exhibit such contrasting personalities; one when they’re with customers and an altogether different one when they think no one is watching. But one thing is very clear – people talk, negative stories take on a life of their own, and these same business owners later suffer financially from their self-inflicted wounds.

I can share dozens of stories of individuals who avoid certain small businesses like the plague. Sadly, these same stories are shared far more often than the positive stories.

Is there a lesson here? Not if you don’t care how people view you or your business. But if you do care, remember that how you conduct yourself outside of your brick and mortar establishment has consequences. If you sell at list price but demand deep discounts from your vendors, who might also be your customers, be prepared to see them and the people they network with less often or perhaps not at all. If you have earned a reputation for rudeness outside your office, be prepared to experience a high customer turnover rate. And just when you thought nobody was watching!

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