I don't normally have a difficult time thinking about topics for this column. I am inspired every day by my experiences within our community. My biggest challenge is finding time to write in between work and kids and other life activities. But today's topic has been on my mind for quite a while and it's been tough to get it out on paper.
It hasn't been tough because I don't know what to say. It's been tough because it's not my normal sunshine and rainbows perspective. Even though this topic isn't necessarily a ray of sunshine, I feel like a certain behavior is happening way too often in our community and somehow needs to be addressed.
When I visit a business, whether it be a restaurant, retail store or service provider, I don't want to hear negative comments about perceived competitors. The first rule of business is to do what you do best and do it well. The second is to promote what makes you unique. The third is to add value to your customer's day. I could go on and on but I'm pretty sure that nowhere in the rule book of running a successful business will you find a rule that says speak badly about other people.
It is really discouraging to have my wallet out on the counter, ready to hand over a fistful of cash, and then hear a comment from an employee about how awful the product at store XYZ is; or to hear how incompetent the employees at store XYZ are; or to be directly informed that store XYZ couldn't possibly fulfill expectations even though the talents of store XYZ are unfamiliar to the person who is delivering this message to me.
This behavior doesn't cause me to avoid store XYZ, on the contrary, it causes me to want to avoid the negative energy of the establishment that created the negative comments. Circulating negativity doesn't build a better business and it certainly doesn't build a strong community. I know it's a tough market out there and we're only just now starting to crawl out of the economic slump. I understand that marketing your business is often a thankless job. I know, I've been doing it for various organizations for almost two decades. I also understand the thought that you have to do whatever you can to gain more market share. But at the end of the day one constant remains - negativity never wins.
I'm not oblivious to the way the world operates. I know some businesses really do provide a substandard product or service. However, there are better ways of letting people know this than flat out negative comments at the point of purchase with your customers; especially when there is absolutely no need to be commenting on such things.
We all have rough days so if a bummer of a statement squeaks out once in a while it's not really a big deal. But when I hear repeated negativity from the same establishment I have to start wondering what kind of water is coming out of their sink, which in turn makes me want to avoid the place.
So I'm issuing a challenge to all local businesses in Northeast Michigan. Banish negativity from your organization. Business owners, take an introspective look at yourself and see if the seed of negativity within your workplace is fueled by your own attitude and/or comments. Employees, remind your bosses, supervisors, and fellow peers that you are only hurting your own paychecks when you share negativity with your customers. Come together and get on the same page about what your business does really, really well and brainstorm how you can add value to your customer's lives. Share this message.
It can be done. Dave Ramsey, a multi-millionaire entrepreneur who has helped millions of people across the nation regain financial peace within their personal lives and within their businesses, has a no gossip policy within his own company. Ramsey built his multi-million dollar corporation from the depths of personal bankruptcy. He is a case study and a success story all rolled into one. He is successful today due in large part to focusing on positive, valuable interactions with his customers. Not only do people follow his no gossip policy, but applicants line up every time there is a new job opening because who wouldn't want to work in a positive uplifting environment?!
For the rest of us who would be considered customers, think about what kind of customer experience you would like. Do you want to go to a store and hear about all the things store XYZ is doing wrong in comparison? I don't. Therefore I will be avoiding stores that breed unnecessary negativity within our community. Vote with your dollar and help create a positive, uplifting business culture within our community.
Mary Beth Stutzman's Inspiring A-Town runs bi-weekly on Tuesdays. Follow Mary Beth on Twitter @mbstutz.