Before you post that scathing review… Part 2

In my last post, I talked about customers who seem to want to exact revenge on what was probably a minor inconvenience at a local business. In today’s post, I want to show you what life is like as a business owner–by “walking a mile in their shoes”.

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After working for “the man” for what seems like an eternity, you decide to launch a business. It is culmination of countless dreams you’ve had for years, of finally working for yourself. You have a product that you feel will make customers happy, or at least put a smile on their face. You scratch together every ounce of savings, credit, home equity in order to start up the business and to  make up for any losses incurred in the first 6 months or so in order  to keep it running. Your spouse continues to work to pay  bills until the business can provide.

Organizing your business entity,  stressing over trying to find the right location, sorting through the 30 page commercial lease, are just a few of the countless things you do for the first time. Once you sign you realize every day you aren’t open, you are losing money–and work around the clock to open.

Once you open, customers trickle in, mostly supportive friends and family. You are excited to get your first “regular”, and you are even more thrilled when someone says “I heard about this place from _____”, because word is spreading. You are working harder for your own business than you ever did for someone else’s, and even though you aren’t paying yourself yet, feel far more fulfilled. Your customer base starts to grow.

But some nights you lose sleep over the fact that the bank account continues to dwindle–even supplemented by personal income from your spouse’s job. How are we going to make it?  You ask yourself secretly, deep in your heart of hearts–afraid to admit to anyone. You feel stretched, and pulled in every direction far more  than any other activity ever has. If you have a weakness for numbers, organization, or anything else, it is exposed and laid raw–because operating a business places those weaknesses under an enormous magnifying glass.

Friends and family approach you and say, “what you REALLY need is….”  thinking they are being helpful. You politely thank them, but secretly wish they would just offer you a congratulations, because you feel like you had committed a massive miracle just opening the store.

You slowly grow, and eventually hire employees, which feels like turning your first born over to a babysitter you just met. You give them training, stressing customer service, above all. But you keep working several shifts in order to keep expenses low.

After months of being open, the business still isn’t profitable. There are countless unforeseen expenses. And just when you feel like you are getting a little bit ahead, you need inventory, packaging, or  something repaired. Then you are hit with  tax payments, insurance, merchant account fees, payroll, or your monthly lease payment.

EVERYONE is getting paid except you.

You hire a book keeper, which cuts into your profits, but gives you a better feel for the financial status. Even though you feel like your business is on an upward trend, you constantly deal with curve balls. Vendors not showing up when you need new inventory, an electrician accidentally cuts power to your electric sign, the tenant next door decides to shut off the water main, the printer makes mistakes on your price sheets. You deal with these issues in stride, while also running counter service.

Each day vendors stroll through the door, all smiles, launching into a presentation that would most definitely boost your company’s profitability, for only a few hundred dollars a month. You act polite, after all, they could potentially become a customer, but inside you want to scream because you have a million things you need to be doing, and they didn’t give any warning before stopping in and taking your time.

Later, you sort through the calls you missed. Some were urgent calls you return, some were from people and organizations asking for donations. You wish you could donate to every cause, but you can’t. You’d go bankrupt.  Because of interruptions, impromptu training, and other unseen obstacles, you have only accomplished half the work you needed to. You try to tackle the rest of it from home, affecting your personal life, and cutting your sleep in half. Your stress affects your spouse’s mood, who still needs to do well at work so you can survive. You experience a different kind of tension than you’ve ever felt before, and your relationship feels strained.

You have no money for marketing, so you decide to engage in social media–but due to all of the time demands, you are unable to as much as you’d like. You keep putting it off.  Luckily, some local bloggers discover your shop, see its potential, and give it some attention–immediately spiking revenue and providing relief. You then realize your website is filled with outdated information–because you haven’t had the resources or time to hire a webmaster to make changes.  You wonder how many people turn away from your business because the first impression they gained from your website.

Then a competitor opens up close to your shop, which brings a new worry. Will that affect business?

You decide to check how your business is doing on yelp or your google business page–pretty much the only free-advertising you have going for you.  Your heart sinks. You read a negative review that feels like a punch in the gut.  After all that you have put into your business, with the dream of providing great service and a great product, a few dissatisfied customers have posted scathing reviews ripping your business to shreds–one of which mentions you by name, who must have caught you on a rushed or stressful day.

You try to say to yourself, “well, you can’t please everyone…” but in reality, you have worked your fingers to the bone trying to provide a good business to do just that… please everyone. It hurts your pride and maybe your feelings, and you worry about the negative press getting out.

You’ve given it your all. You’ve given it everything you’ve got. And after endlessly feeling you are “turning the corner” you now wonder when you actually will.

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Though not every part of the aforementioned applies to every business model, that really is what small business ownership can be like. I don’t intend to be depressing, but I do want to illustrate that small businesses are not just faceless entities, but rather a few people just like you, who are trying as hard as they can to make it work. It’s not easy, but it is a journey that is worth the growth and development.

In my next post, I’ll give my suggestions on what is a helpful review–not only to those reading, but to the business owner as well.

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