Since moving away from the Gold Coast a few years ago I have been missing my daily beach walks. So at the start of this year (actually, at the very end of last year) I decided that I would start driving to the beach for walks much more often.
New Year’s Day was going to be my first day doing this. I planned a 10km beach walk and was looking forward to some solitude and nothing but the sound of the ocean and its natural surrounds, with the occasional passing beach-walker along the way.
So I drove to the beach.
What was I thinking?
A glorious summer’s day in Queensland – a public holiday at that – and I expected the beach to be quiet? Yeah, right!
Okay, so perhaps I had been blinded to logic by the visions of my great dream.
But I was determined. I was going to walk 5kms along the beach then another 5kms back again.
I set out, through the crowds, dodging fishing lines, footballs, dogs, frisbees and children dragging their boogie boards with parents chasing after them with bottles of sunscreen.
Because I had wanted solitude and was getting annoyed by having to zig-zag through all these people and all the noise.
When could I zone out and get lost in my thoughts? This isn’t what I came here for and now I just wanted to turn around and go home.
But no … I had committed to walking along the beach more, beginning with a 10km walk TODAY. If I couldn’t keep that commitment for 1 day, how was I going to make this a long-term habit again?
So on I walked, 1km, 2km … I lost count of how many times it wasn’t fun and I wanted to go home. But I stuck with it. I was so close to turning around so many times!
All of a sudden, the people began thinning out. This was a part of the beach that wasn’t near any carparks, so the only way to get to it was a long, hot trudge through the crowds. For the majority of people, this walk was too hard so they didn’t venture this far. They were happy to stay with the main crowd.
I kept walking and after a total of 3.2kms finally … solitude. The image below is what I could see from this point.
Yes, I continued to walk for 5kms (and then some) then sat to enjoy the peacefulness for a while, reflecting on this beach journey.
I couldn’t believe I had almost given up and gone home, without being able to enjoy this experience and was so grateful I stuck it out.
It occurred to me that this was just what “life” gets like at times. All too often we set our goals, but then want to give up when it gets too hard.
This is especially true in business. I have seen so many people start out with bold dreams, but give up when it gets tough.
Yet for those who stick with it and make it through the challenges, the rewards are there and are so worthwhile. It’s such a shame so many give up, often when they’re oh so close!
I’ve been running my business for nearly two decades and I am so happy with how it’s turned out. Believe me, there were plenty of struggles along the way and times when I considered getting a “normal” job. But all in all, I couldn’t imagine having to work a “normal” job ever again.
Whenever you’re doing something worthwhile, chances are there will be times when it gets too hard and you’ll be wondering if it’s worth it. If you truly want to outcome, those struggles may definitely be worthwhile. Only you will know.
Personally, I have printed a copy of my beach photo above and look at it daily. This is my reminder that when things get tough and I want to give up, I need to decide how much I want to achieve the end goal and to do what it takes to keep going.
No matter how long you’ve been in business you’ve no doubt heard sayings such as, “The customer is always right.” And perhaps you have bent over backwards to keep some customers happy, no matter what.
But can you go too far? Absolutely!
Providing excellent customer service is extremely important for a successful business, there’s no doubt about that, and it can often be something that sets you apart from your competitors. But at some point you’ve probably had a particular customer or client whom you wish would shop elsewhere. You know the ones … no matter what you do they will find something to complain about. Or they love your work (or product or service) and praise you openly, but then pressure you to give them extra or to do the work faster to meet their urgent deadline and may become quite unreasonable when you explain why you can’t accommodate their requests.
So many small business owners are keen to keep all customers and prospective customers happy that they sometimes forget to set their own boundaries and policies. While keeping your customers happy, it should not be to the detriment of other customers or yourself, your family or staff members.
I recall a few years ago when myself and a colleague made a similar request to a third party. We both had our requests denied on what seemed to be reasonable grounds. However my colleague jumped up and down and would abuse them and call them all sorts of names on the phone until eventually the third party gave in and gave them what they asked for. When I explained my disappointment and asked why they gave in to my colleague but denied me the same request the reply I received was, “I’m very sorry. I don’t think it’s fair at all but sadly, sometimes you have to give the best oil to the squeakiest wheel to keep them quiet.”
Needless to say I was very upset by this situation and although it was 16 years ago, it’s stayed with me all these years. But I use it now as a reminder that I don’t want to be like that company. I don’t agree that those who cause the most trouble should be rewarded with services, products or prices that your best customers can’t have. Doesn’t it make more sense to reward the good customers rather than those who cause trouble?
Of course, if the complaints are justified then that’s different. If you’ve made a mistake or provided an unsatisfactory product or service then you should make amends and go above and beyond to apologise for the mistake.
It’s also quite reasonable for you to go above and beyond for customers, over-delivering and doing or giving ‘a little bit more’.
But in the general sense, it’s important to have clear boundaries and policies around how you work, what you provide and how much you charge and stick to them. If someone is making unreasonable demands upon you, don’t give in and provide something that you wouldn’t offer to every other customer. Perhaps they are not actually the right customer for you … perhaps there are other businesses that can provide what they’re looking for as a standard service, in which case it’s better for them to go to that store or service provider.
Next time a customer is placing unreasonable demands upon you, before giving in stop and ask yourself if you’re rewarding their bad behaviour.
Yesterday I had the sheer pleasure of attending a presentation by James McNamara of the Impact Factory, at the Brisbane Business Growth Session. I have to say, James’ presentation on How to Have a Life and a Successful Business was awesome! He shared so much valuable information, including several simple strategies to ensure that your business is built on strong foundations. If you ever have the opportunity to hear James speak I urge you to take it. In the meantime, visit the Impact Factory website to read James’ 7 Proven Principles of Business Success. Here’s to your success in business, Donna-Marie