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  • Writer's pictureDevin Lee

Treat Your Contractors like Customers

I am both grateful for as well as horrified by the years I spent in the service industry. I spent a year as a cashier at an upscale grocery store and several years in various restaurants - diners, fine dining, pizza joints, etc. Working in the service industry taught me a lot of important lessons about humans. A big one is that when people feel stupid, they get mean and mad - at you. I still haven't figured out why, but gosh ain't it the truth?!

My favorite example of this was from my cashier days. A woman had just finished checking out of my line. She was a pretty typical customer - white, middle-aged, upper class. She had just spent probably over $400 on groceries. After I handed her her receipt, she looked up at me and, in a shocked voice said "YOU FORGOT MY COUPON!!"

So I politely asked her...

"what coupon?"

And I shit you not, this woman reached into her back pocket and pulled out a coupon that she clearly never handed me. Instead of apologizing for the mistake, THIS LADY DOUBLE DOWNED.

"THIS ONE!" She declared. This heated conversation continued until she let me know she was going to speak to my manager (OK Karen). This really delighted me - I knew my manager would get a kick out of this one! And believe you me, he did.

Anyone who has been a server, a cashier, a bank teller, etc, will have hours of stories of customers being rude, entitled, and emotionally abusive. We are told that the customer is always right and are forced to defer to them at all times. And look - I get it. Customer service and all that. Totally!

But I also thought... what if every time you were an asshole to the barista, they could refuse to serve you? And then told OTHER coffee shops about what a jerk you were? And then all of a sudden it was hard for you to get your hands on a latte? I bet everyone would think twice about how they treated baristas. Caffeine, man!

Moving from the service industry to being my own boss meant that I could finally make this a reality. Portland, where I am based, is one of the cities where everyone someone seems to know everyone no matter how big it gets. Business owners and vendors typically know each other - and if someone is difficult to work with, the word certainly gets around.

One of my secrets to success? I only work with clients that I actually like.

Sometimes I don't work with clients because I simply can't meet their needs, their budget, or other external factors.

But sometimes I don't work with a potential client because they are straight-up rude, demanding, and/or don't respect my boundaries.

And SOMETIMES I don't work with a potential client because someone else told me that they were difficult to work with.

Thanks to a helpful book I read before I ever opened my first business as a Professional Organizer, from day one I did my best to only work with clients that directly aligned with me. That includes being a good, kind, and respectful person.

Now that I have worked with quite a few business owners, I have noticed these boundaries expressed in other successful businesses as well. Smart business owners simply won't take on a client that isn't a good fit.

If you haven't already guessed: being a huge jerk is a one-way ticket to the "not a good fit" category - and it's hard to get a return ticket.

On the flip side - I am sometimes amazed as I watched certain people bend over backward for their own customers, but then treat their contractors like garbage, or emotionally dump on them in one way or another.

So I ask: What if you treated your vendors like you treated your customers?

The reason I bring this up is not just because it's the right thing to do. It's because you will get to work with better vendors, which in turn will allow you to grow your business!

Not only that, when your vendor trusts you and feels mutual respect, they are more likely to be flexible when you are in need.

The second I feel someone encroaching on my boundaries, I have learned the hard way to make them even firmer.

However, once a client and I have established trust, I feel safe to be flexible, to go above and beyond, to give them a preferred price on my packages, and to truly give them the best of myself and my services.

So - can we just throw the customer is always right straight into the trash can? And then light that trash can on fire? We should be grateful to our vendors and service providers. We should treat them with respect. Many of the vendors I work with have a full schedule and I am beyond honored that they squeeze me in when I need them. Our vendors choose us as much as we choose them.

Speaking of vendors.... are you looking for someone like me in your business? Apply to work with me!

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