So very true. Relationships are key, even if not ongoing. You never know when your paths shall cross again!
You Are Your Brand: How Being a Lousy Criminal Can Be Good for Business
We are our brands. So how does that play out in our daily lives?
Yes, being a lousy criminal can be good for our business. Let me explain.
We are our brands. As entrepreneurs, as people living our daily lives, everything we do reflects on our business, good, bad, or indifferent. It makes a difference. So how do we make that difference a good one?
By always thinking about how we build relationships, from our business to our personal and community lives. Because it always matters, no matter the task.
With the media spotlight on 24/7, we notice this on a large scale every day. What we don’t always consider is the small scale, where most of us live. How does our own behavior affect not just our business but our community?
Impressions stick, to our brands and to us. They affect what people think about our business and about us, what we think about ourselves, and, because I work as an intuitive, what our businesses think about themselves.
It’s not hard to be nice, but is it a winning strategy? Well, are you in it for the long haul, to both build a great business and contribute to your community, or are you planning to move to Mars?
Great businesses depend on developing—and keeping—good relationships. Especially when you goof up. How quick are you to recognize a problem and try to solve it so everyone benefits?
Here’s an example.
I’ve been going to Barnecut’s in West Seattle for over 20 years: I gas up my car, get flats repaired, get air for my tires. I value their friendly, concerned service.
Then came the day I stole gas from them. It was an accident. Honest. I slipped my card in the slot, pumped gas, wrote it down in my gas log, and drove off.
A few months later I drove up to get gas and the owner came out, smiling, saying: “Robyn, did you come to pay for your gas?”
Puzzled, I said: “Sure, but I have to pump it first.”
“No,” he said, “this was a few months ago.”
Puzzled, I followed him inside. A young attendant waited behind the counter, shaking in righteous excitement. “It’s her,” he said. “I recognize her and the car. She did it.”
I stared at him. He was stunned that he’d ID’d a criminal. Me. He held up a receipt they’d taped to the counter, convinced that I’d pumped $23.03 in gas and driven off without paying. They’d been keeping an eye out for me for two months, but apparently not a keen one, since I stop regularly.
I looked at the receipt. “Well, I see the name, Robin,” spelled wrong, as usual, “but I don’t have a Camry.”
“But it’s you, I recognize you,” he insisted. “And your car.”
Okay, this was getting tense. I went for humor. “So why didn’t you have me arrested?”
Well, they’d known me for 20 years, like you know a lot of people you bump into or buy things from, but they didn’t actually know how to find me. Arresting seemed extreme (and difficult). So they waited to get lucky.
What was hilarious and absurd was now serious. A long-term customer relationship was hanging. The owner was smiling, but tense. The young attendant was uncertain about pushing it. And I was what we all sometimes are: confused.
I hesitated. I could have a temper tantrum and walk out, upsetting all of us and ruining my reputation, and everybody’s day. Or I could calmly try to figure this out.
“Well,” I said. “I am clearly the worst criminal in the world. Not only did I have no idea I’d stolen anything, but I clearly didn’t get away with it.”
They cracked up and the tension immediately evaporated.
“So, would someone fill my tank for me while we figure this out?” I asked.
Another attendant ran to do that while I retrieved my gas log and we matched records. Sure enough, I’d written it down but there was a glitch in the pump system, so it had allowed me to pump gas without recording my card.
“Criminy,” I said to the owner. “People must drive off all the time without paying.”
“No,” he said, grinning. “Just you.”
We promptly settled up and I left. The next time I got gas, the young attendant who’d ‘caught’ me came rushing out to help me.
I laughed. “You’re never gonna let me pump gas again, are you?”
“No, ma’am,” he said. Then laughed.
So here’s the thing. Barnecut’s and I both had proof that I was an accidental crook, a lousy criminal. What would I have done without proof? Pay up. Why?
Because I believe in their brand. And they believed in mine enough to hang onto a receipt until the next time they noticed me come in.
A year later I’m still buying gas from Barnecut’s, and they still tease that I can get free gas any time I want: after all, I’d been coming back for 20 years. But for a few minutes that day, a relationship and a reputation hung in the balance: theirs and mine. I chose to be a customer who listened to a business’s complaint and tried to resolve it. The same way I would if the situation were reversed. That was good for both our businesses and for me. It boosted my brand because I am my brand.
So how do you react when things go wrong? Do you figure out and and resolve the problem, or do you sever relationships and move on?
Business or customer, are you your brand?
Learn more about the author, Robyn M Fritz MA MBA.
Comment on this article
Posted by Sandra Watson, Seattle, Washington |
Jan 13, 2011
Posted by Paul Carr, Seattle, Washington |
Jan 13, 2011
Great relationship example of turning a "right/wrong" or "win/lose" into a win-win, as well as the value in keeping a sense of humor in a tense situation. Thanks.
Posted by Karen Floyd, Seattle, Washington |
Feb 03, 2011
what a great story robYn
My degree of defensiveness when things happen that feel unfair tells me how in touch with my calm-aware self I am.
If I find myself defending myself or feeling the temptation to I take a couple of breaths and, like you, open my ears and relax.
I've learned that there is no such thing as a win/lose there's only win/win because if either loses everyone has lost. Your story is an excellent example of this!
Posted by Robyn M Fritz MA MBA, Seattle, Washington |
Feb 03, 2011
It does help to take a deep breath, doesn't it? And have your sense of humor ready!
- business relations
- brand development