If You Were a Customer-Would You Buy From You?

It is no secret that small business owners work hard and work often. For most of us the investment in our business is total. When we talk about investment the first one that usually comes to mind is the financial one.However, often the biggest investments are not even viewed as investments, such as: our creativity, our dedication, our time, our risk, our dream, our livelihood, our sense of self-worth and last but not least, our legacy.  Another issue for us is  that we often perform many of the key functions of our business, monitoring our financials, sales and marketing, employee management, etc. Because of that overload, we sometimes lose our focus and sometimes even more disastrous, our way.

A few nights ago, I was flipping through the channels and stopped on one of those restaurant makeover shows.  It highlighted a wonderful couple who had owed their restaurant for over 30 years.  However, the last 5 years had been very bad and they now found themselves within months of losing the business. The owners worked extremely hard, that was not the problem.  The problem was easy to diagnose.  The sign outside was old and shabby.  The decor was extremely dated and tacky (a way over-the-top western theme), they had over 7 different menus and an owner (the husband) who could not let go and delegate responsibly. Over time the owners had become oblivious to all of these things.

They were committing a FATAL ERROR – They no longer saw their restaurant, their business through their customers’ eyes. They had assumed that the customers’ eyes were the same as theirs.

We all get stuck.  The Definition of Insanity fits here-“Doing the same thing over and over again, expecting different results.” In the above situation, the owner spent all of his time IN his business instead of LOOKING AFTER his business. He held fast to the following beliefs:

  • He just had to work harder and the customers would not only come, but come back.
  • No one could do it better in the kitchen than him.
  • If he created just one more dish the customers would not only come, but come back.
  • He had designed the western decor 30 years ago and it still worked.
  • Presentation was not important.
  • Decision-making belonged only to him.
  • The restaurant and he were the same. Criticism hurt his heart.
  • Because he worked hard, people would find out about the restaurant and want to come.

Because of the desperate situation, he was now forced to open his eyes, his ears and his heart to criticism and change.

Within a few days, the old decor and carpet were gone or re-utilized. The interior was bright and inviting.   The dinnerware was white and shiny. The sign outside was new and modern. There was only one menu listing dishes with  an updated Western taste  and look.  Not only was the menu fresh, but he no longer bought food he did not use or need. He had delegated the cooking to his employees (some had been with him for 25 years).  He was not in the kitchen, he was on the floor building new customer relationships. But most importantly the owner’s vision had changed.  He now saw his restaurant through his customers’ eyes.

Is there a lesson in this for us? I think so.   We may not own a restaurant, but we own a business.  Have we got stuck? Are we focusing on what will really make a difference in our company or just the current crisis.

STOP, LOOK AND LISTEN   You probably learned that rule as a child.  Follow the same rule to look at your business.

    • Do a customer survey.  Ask them how you could improve your product or service. Then be prepared to listen to the answers.
    • Create your own mystery shopper.  Create an evaluation form. Ask a friend to send a friend (someone you do not know) to call your office or go to your store or even website and complete the evaluation.
    • Give yourself permission to forget the past and move forward.
    • Check out new trends and new technology that might help you move forward or do a task more efficiently.
    • Ask your employees how they see the business.

Albert Einstein
“The significant problems we face cannot be solved at the same level of thinking we were at when we created them.”


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