Seeing Your Business in a Whole New Light

Today was a glorious round of multi-tasking: exercise, personal business (apartment shopping and a product return), and thinking. Sometimes, the best work you can do in your business is to leave it alone for a few hours while your brain takes a mini-vacation.

It was rainy and grey, the Phoenix equivalent of a dark and snowy afternoon. On my way to Walgreens, I saw one other person tentatively picking their way through small puddles, holding an umbrella over her head to keep off the rain slanting sideways-like. (Think Braveheart.) Inside, I was bouncing around in the messy, messy rain puddles, grinning like a goon. Since I’m an adult female, I allowed myself a partial grin and a reassuring grip on heavy items in my purse.

The walk was longer than I thought, so I arrived – slightly disheveled – at the Walgreens. I got a suspicious look from the front-counter employee taking care of an irascible gentleman, because my return item was in its original rain-drenched bag, inside of a cardboard box. I’m sure that she thought I was an online shoplifter, or at the very least a Returns thief, but there was no need to be so obvious about it. Then I got helped by a fuzzy-headed older gentleman who had just arrived for work. When his register refused to work, he immediately but genially muttered “I should have taken today off sick, right?” I had to clearly state some personal information in full hearing of other customers, to satisfy the requirements of the store system, and by the time I got the Walgreens credit applied to a separate card, I almost didn’t want it. Again, I probably looked like a Returns thief, walking immediately out into a rainy day after getting what I wanted.

Like me, most customers don’t want to be told how hard the employees’ day was, or wait for anything. Consumers are quite selfish. I had to move out of my comfort zone by going to a store to return an item, and they made it fairly easy, and all I could think about were the things that were slightly difficult or taxing. As a micro-business owner, it’s easy to get wrapped up in how busy MY days are and what effort I put forth for my clients, and how they ought to appreciate it….while they’re only thinking about their own needs. Mental note: remember to look at my performance from their perspective.

On my way back home, in between admiring small rain-dimpled ponds and quail scuttling through underbrush, I stopped in at four different complexes:

1. Glorified Motel

The receptionist clearly displayed a bored “I don’t care tone”, gave no eye contact, and was more preoccupied with a down-at-heel resident’s issues than any potential new business. After I asked for the two-bedroom prices, she pointed me toward The One and Only Pricing Sheet, so I had to write down the information on the back of the apartment’s business card.

2. Upwardly Mobile Motel

The male office manager with painted nails was kind enough to offer a handout of floor space, and handwrite the web address, mentioning that price changes would be updated online. I was followed by a resident led by a seeing-eye dog, who addressed him by first name in affectionate tones. The manager’s good attention to customer service left a positive impression, even though the apartment layout was quite similar to the previous complex, and only the exterior aesthetics really stood out as an upgrade.

3. Laid-Back Motel

Another kindly resident, walking his small and friendly dog (not obnoxious), pointed me toward the office area near the pool and vending machine. As I walked up the sidewalk, I saw handwritten notes to the residents on a cork board, and the manager was already in an open-door, Spanish-only meeting with a resident (or maintenance man). This place didn’t match my marketing niche (i.e. a little more security), but if our marketing stars had aligned, I would happily take a tour around this place, where people obviously kept their patios clean and neat.

4. Self-Sufficient Condo

After wandering around looking for an office, I asked for directions from residents who’d just returned from a shopping trip. While one of the men kindly pointed me toward the maintenance man for information, one of the ladies told me exactly what I wanted to know: there weren’t any available openings, and the condo didn’t have an on-site office. Most of the time, your clients or customers give out real information about your business, so make sure it’s positive.

Having left work behind for some fresh air and exercise, I’m now able to tackle it with a better perspective.

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