Jan 21, 2008

“Professionalism: It's NOT the job you DO, It's HOW you DO the job.”

This weekend we had a conversation at ScrapBiz about professionalism. It reminded me of one of my industry pet-peeves - TMI aka "Too Much Information".

Many businesses in this industry are started by moms. And, as most of us know - being a mom is a hard job. Kids get sick. We are taxi drivers (one friend said to me once, "Why am I called a 'stay-at-home-mom' - I'm never there!"). We are volunteers. We are housekeepers. We do it all. And, if we are also business owners, we need to squeeze that in too.

But, when all those things collide and we find our businesses very hard to run for a few days or weeks, how do we react? Do we write a lengthy epistle outlining our tales of woe and email it off to all our customers? Or, do we do the best we can to keep things running smoothly and just tell our customers that shipping or email responses will be delayed. Or, do we ask someone else to help?

One of the big problems in the industry is a lack of a "what if" or contingency plan. What do you do if you hit a rough spot and how do you handle it to keep it smooth for the customer?
  • Do you shut down temporarily and expect your customers to hang around waiting for you to return? You could - and I've seen that done by companies big and small. However, with so many places for them to shop. You will probably find that most wander off and discover someplace better. Sidenote: that's how ScrapBiz started - I wandered off and found something better where I could control what happened.
  • Do you close up shop abruptly (I've seen that done recently, too) and leave customers - some of whom have paid you for products or services already - high and dry wondering what the heck just happened? Often, if there IS an explanation - it's forced by the angry mob and full of "poor me" whining. Not very professional.
  • Do you just ignore your business? That's been done too. If a customer buys something from you, you can't just pretend you didn't notice and keep their money. If you can't fulfill your obligations to them, at least refund the money. You don't have a right to keep it unless you hold up your end of the bargain. I saw one business owner say, "My kids need to eat! You're not getting your money back!" Wow...
  • Do you send long-winded emails to customers detailing all your business or home troubles and threatening to shut down if things don't improve and whining about the death of your dream and how the universe conspired against you to force you to close your business and if customers only bought MORE, you wouldn't have to do this? It's called the "blame everyone else but ME for my failure" letter. And, it's one of the most common ways a scrapbook business closes in this industry. It's so unprofessional that it causes me to gasp each time I see one.
Here's a news-flash. Your customers DON'T CARE about your excuses! They just want what they paid for and if you close - they'll just go find someplace else to shop. Your customers are not going to say, "Oh, I'm sorry. I'll stop scrapbooking if you shut down just to honor you." Or, "Oh, let me come drive your kids to the doctor so you can keep running your business." Or, "I'm such a baaaaad customer. I'll double what I buy this month so you can stay in business." They don't want the gory details. They just want to do business with you and if you aren't around, they'll take their debit card and go find somewhere else to play.

This past summer, my husband became very ill and nearly died. Yes, my business was hard to keep going during that time. But, aside from a couple of mentions here - I never went into great detail for the general public. I never made excuses beyond, "Email response time will be delayed". ScrapBiz members knew what was going on, but I still got the August and September newsletters done as was my job to do. I had people who were able to step in and help, but then, they were already helping so it wasn't that much of a change. New and old members didn't feel the effects of my family issues. They cared about Mark, but only to the point that it didn't affect their businesses. And that was totally appropriate.

So, as the title of this post says, "It's not the job you do, it's how you do the job" - be it running your business or closing your business - a big dose of professional behavior is always in vogue.


Marni said...

Bravo! I am a scrapbook store owner in Minnesota. I've been doing this for four years. I am now in the middle of dissolving my partnership to open my own store. I also believe you should leave your "stuff" at home or in your car or outside. My customers could give a hoot about the issues at the store, they just want to know that I will still be their for them when they need their supplies. My parents taught me to treat others how I want to be treated. I believe that is what has gotten me this far in life and in business.

Remember When Creations said...

Well said, Kim. Too often people want to share all the drama in their life & make excuses. Well, we all have ups & downs and issues to contend with. Check that stuff at the door, put a big cheery smile on your face, think happy thoughts and obey the golden rule, like Marni just said, treat others how you want to be treated!