Mar 14, 2009

Business is business until it gets personal

I have an RSS feed coming into the ScrapBiz members-only site from Seth Godin's blog. He's one of my favorite business guru's. His post the other day really made a good point (although I missed it the first read-through) LINK. We have a very personal business as scrapbook retailers. Most of us are also friends or at least very friendly with our customers if we have face to face contact with them. It IS true that those who know you best will protect you and do much for you vs. the casual, anonymous person who doesn't know you. It's much easier to rant against Micheal's than it is your local scrapbook store if you frequently shop there and know the owner. We tend to give people we know personally a "pass" at times when it comes to their foibles (to a point).

But, I also maintain that you can take the personal relationship a bit to far and it can come back and bite you as many "scrap celebrities" in our industry have found out. There are people and groups willing to use any bit of information against you if they get something in their craw about you.

Therefore, here is my cardinal rule of getting personal in business. Never say anything that would emotionally wound you if it got thrown back in your face in a mocking or "mean girl" kind of way. That means, it's okay to talk about how lame your computer or gardening skills are. Or, how you don't like cats or can't stand pizza. If someone mocked you for those "qualities", who cares? But, what if you dump your soul about your fertility problems or weight issues? If people turned on you about those topics, it would cut like a knife and hurt very bad. There are plenty of people ready and willing to do that - especially on the internet where anonymity is acceptable.

Therefore, be careful about what you tell people - especially in blog posts or on message boards. "Copy and paste" can spread your information and the attending "mean girl" comments far and wide. A friend of mine has a 6th grade daughter who learned this the hard way - she dumped about a friend in a text message and guess where it ended up? And guess what happened to her? She ended up crying in her room for days over what happened. It was a very hard lesson.

Be friends with your customers and share with them, but also, be careful about WHAT you share. Some will care and want to help, some won't care and be turned off by your personal information and a small percentage will "file" it away and use it against you in the future.

My second rule is to grow a tough skin because no matter what you do, there will always be people who disagree - and that's okay.

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