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A Tale of Two Business Owners

I love watching other business owners in action. There is always something to be learned through the power of observation. In the last month, I witnessed two different business owners take a challenging situation and respond to it. Their responses could not have been more different.

Not Owning It

The setting: A well-known café in town that is known for some of the best French pastries to be had for miles (and miles). It was a busy Friday morning, but pretty typical for this location.

The situation: While busy, it seemed that the service was having a harder time than usual with keeping up with orders and latte making. Perhaps someone had called in sick. Despite some of the delays, customers didn’t seem to be making a fuss (me included). But what happened next changed my good opinion pretty immediately

The owner and the response: I recognized the owner as he brought over two employees to the end of the communal table I was sitting at. Things had calmed down somewhat, and I guess he wanted to chat with them. He proceeded to verbally lambaste them—profanity included—in front of me and the other customers at the table. When we all went quiet with our conversations, he looked up and realized what he had done. He quickly mumbled an apology to all of us and hastened away with the employees, leaving us all to uncomfortably return to our croissants and coffees. I haven’t been back since.

Owning It

The setting: When I was in the midst of launching my new business, I reached out to a local print provider for business cards and stationery (I’ve got a stationery and paper obsession, as those who know me well are fully aware). “Buying Local” is something I attempt to do whenever it is possible (and fiscally responsible).

The situation: I visited the owner at her store for a quick chat and we agreed I’d email files over (which I did). And then nothing, as in no response. I left a voicemail. Still nothing. Figuring they had their hands full, and were not in need of new business, I ended up going with an online print provider. Once in a while, I’d still wonder whatever happened with the local printer.

The owner and the response: Several weeks later, I received a deeply apologetic email from the owner. She was completely embarrassed that my order request had fallen through the cracks. It was a busy few weeks for them, but as she said in her message, “that was no excuse.” She pledged to make it up on any future business needs from my end. While I haven’t taken her up on her offer as yet, I was impressed by her honesty, her willingness to “own it” and to make it right. I will be back in her shop at some point.

So, two very different responses to customer service issues. The first compounded the original issue by double (in my books), and the second ensured that the door to new business was cracked back open. I know which kind of owner I want to be, and I’m guessing you do too.