As a business owner/manager, I guess most of us – if not all – are let down one way or another at times. Should we feel people have let us down – customers, suppliers, contacts or colleagues? Should we expect it and accept it, or just work through it?
Just recently, I have seen a tweet that reminded us that the customer comes first
– as they should if you provide a product or service to help them, which is what businesses do, and we, as owners, aim to do for people. Another business owner I was buying from commented “So you know what hard work is then” when I told her that I was a small business owner too. And didn’t sound too happy with this, hence I recognise others find it difficult too.
So how do you manage this?
Do you feel let down? Doubt yourself and your processes? Or simply accept that it happens and not feel anything towards the situation (especially after years in the business maybe)? Move on regardless or change procedures to improve things next time?
I think one of the hardest things business owners cope with is their customers – getting it right for them, individual needs and expectations outside the norm and regular clientele perhaps.
And rightly, we need to meet the needs of our customers. But the other way round, should they also consider our needs? Or should we just create tighter business structures to meet our needs too?
I have found too, that suppliers don’t always consider and therefore meet their customers needs, and maybe think from the perception of their own needs? Now this one I find interesting. Why would you expect customers to meet your needs without you meeting theirs? Surely, they are your bread and butter, your raison d’etre, and how you keep afloat. It’s fine having a stereotypical ‘ideal client or customer’ but as a people focused business – individuality, uniqueness, needs to be met etc – I wonder if thought and understanding has really gone into this?
This goes for all relationships perhaps. Something I’ve come to realise. And no doubt, I have a place in here sometimes too, with some people (but not my customers I hope), especially family and partners.
Why? Because ‘blood is thicker than water’ or because we don’t believe they will or can leave us?
What I’m asking really relates to emotional intelligence understanding people and their needs – thoughts, emotions, reasons and expectations. We are all people, yet we often forget this and look from inside out – but sometimes maybe we should stop and look outside in too! As a business, or as a family or friend too.
There is a way to communicate your needs and expectations – as a customer, as a friend, as a provider or business, or simply just person to person in everyday life. Like politely asking to pass someone in a store or on the street when they are standing chatting but blocking the way; you dont need to barge past them but simply point out they are blocking the way for you and others no doubt, so they can move to the side. Most people don’t realise their behaviour or actions will impact on someone else until it is pointed out to them.
So rather than take offence, can we (you, I and the world) accept that we have learned something from the point being made to us, and not feel defensive about it and react defensively with anger, frustration at not being heard or seen, or considered, or feeling hurt that we have been ‘pulled up’ and not perfect?
We aren’t perfect. I have clients who expect they should be and beat themselves up when they can’t meet other’s needs (often rather than their own), or be happy with their relationships. Like business, relationships are hard work! In fact, business is all about relationships so we should expect it.
I have met business peers and colleagues who treat me in a way that aims to meet their needs, not considering what mine might be too. Only taking what I give, without giving back – mutual benefit is what business is about – or should be about, anyway. Provider to customer, customer to seller, business to business, peer to peer and collaborations too.
Photo by Stuart Miles
Too often in the past and again lately, it feels like people have taken advantage of me or disrespect who I am and what I offer. And what happens them? Business relationships fail, both parties might lose out but often one does. Boundaries are the answer here.
How far will you go? What limits will you accept – from suppliers, customers, colleagues, government, friends or family? Once you know this you are on your way. And sometimes, if these boundaries are pushed to far or too often recognise that it’s time to reinforce them again, or strengthen them perhaps or even change them altogether. Maybe this mean setting them up/changing them/modifying them into what you need now – because everything changes. It develops, people grow, learn and experience which changes their perception, feelings and behaviours – so in turn, we too need to adapt and change with the prevailing winds too!
Treat others with respect, the way you would like to be treated. If not, you can expect back what you give, and in business, that can be a dangerous thing if done too often.
But generally, I would prefer people to tell me (reflect back to me) what my behaviour and actions mean for them, and if I feel it’s appropriate I can then modify it e.g. move out of the way, let go of what I expect and decide if I can take what they can offer me.
If not, the choice remains on either side – to move on, let the relationship go, keep trying for so long, but the need here is to communicate these things. To reflect back to each other. I believe it is everyone’s responsibility to help others see themselves, develop and grow into the person they want to be/need to be for a happy, healthy person – and society! But this reflection, feedback, explanation needs to be done respectfully, care-fully and for the right reasons. But similarly, not denying your feelings but simply managing them – sometimes, only as best you can – and that will be good enough, for now, at least!
I wrote this on 3.10.13 when a client/network contact cancelled 3 appointments, each on the day; two other clients just didn’t turn up with no messages; family members demanded attention but lacked consideration for my commitments and needs; others expected my input on tasks but didn’t come up with the goods themselves as promised.
But it applies to all of us at sometime, and we need to learn from the frustration and anger and develop effective boundaries for ourselves – what we will accept once, but not again or let people (family especially) know what we expect too, or what we can offer them.