Posts tagged mistakes
I was duped.
I thought that after many years, an issue had been resolved. Finally, once and for all, not to be an issue again.
You see, I was told from a very young age that if you could not add to something through monetary means, you needed to work your hardest, do your best and show whoever was “in charge” of you, that you were of value – hard-working, never backing down from a challenge, getting the job done. My family instilled this in me, and I always believed it to be true. It had served me well all my life; I was always considered to be a great worker and as my experience grew, one with leadership qualities and a fine work ethic.
When that mixes with a supervisor/boss who is a narcissist; one who has a truly fragile ego and must be the star of the show, you will have a toxic workplace. Nervously being at work every day – never knowing when you would be called to the “principal’s office” to be chastised and for what. The smallest incidents would blow up without warning, resulting in mayhem when it was least needed. In fact, I have been in this position several times throughout my careers.
When I say that I thought the issue has been resolved, I meant my internal issues. I was raised to be respectful. Yes, I am sarcastic with my humor, when I am comfortable with someone, I will share many laughs and comments, but I never want to be disrespectful – any one of my relatives would have eagerly given me a swift kick in the pants if I behaved badly. But my issue is truly wrapped around the respect I have for myself.
When I say I was duped, I did it to myself. My younger self did not possess respect for me to allow getting out of that situation quickly. Somehow, I continued to put myself in similar situations – a narcissistic boss who cannot handle someone who does what they say they have come to do, working well with people, and getting the job done. I finally realize that I need to respect the value I bring to the table, stand my ground and stop being disrespectful to myself.
And in that respect for me, I will not make apologies to the way I have worked, nor how easily I work anyone else, and the results achieved. Whether it is a 97% passing rate amongst my students on a final exam or completion of a business plan to help a startup, teaching business foundations to my balloon decorating competitors or becoming a published author, I will not allow someone to diminish me and everything I can do.
The old saying of “Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me” is to be considered at its face value – it will not happen again. For that, you can be sure!
By now, most people (at least those in the Northeast) are familiar with the commercials featuring the jingle, “Cause we’re stronger than the storm”. Running on both TV and radio, the driving rythmn of this promotion makes you stop and take note.
The Jersey shore is back as they boast in the commercial – even Governor Chris Christie and his family appear, the state’s biggest cheerleaders, reiterating the jingle – not even a storm can hold back the spirit of the Jersey-ites! But let’s be honest here, stronger? It sounds nice, positive, and downright optimistic. However, for most homeowners, small business owners and people who just happen to be in the wrong place at the wrong time last October, the word “stronger” brings more sarcastic humor to the table than anything else.
My scorecard from Superstorm Sandy?
Three cousins with completely destroyed basements – every momento, appliance, and memory – gone in an instant. One cousin’s house was almost completely destroyed by the Atlantic Ocean. Over one dozen cars, both personal and those used for business – flooded. A 105 year old business flooded – its first and basement floors rendered useless. The business my partner and I put every ounce of our effort into for 20 years, gone along with every piece of equipment. Buildings so damaged that going back down to brick was the only solution.
Now after most of the repairs have been done, let’s talk about how the government sponsored programs have worked for us “victims”.
There was a tremendous amount of money “set aside” by the Federal government for people that were the latest victims of Mother Nature’s wrath. The United States Senate passed a $50.5 billion aid package and a $9.7 billion increase in national flood insurance in early January. Sandy victims were told that $60.2 billion was indeed set aside for them and financial rescue would be on its way. Then the rejection letters started piling in.
Any program, whether on the state level or the Federal level came with it a huge amount of paperwork. Funny how in the first few days, the paperwork was downplayed and every FEMA/SBA worker, every NYCEDC staffer, Congressmen, City Council Members and any other dignitary who was around at that time, reassured the “victims” that they would indeed be “there for all of you”. The money was allocated and once approved, we would be able to come back “stronger than before”, kind of like the jingle says.
People who open a small business are told that most businesses fail within the first year or two. I have watched businesses that were “in business” for 3, 5, 10, 20 years or more struggle over the last few years – from terrorist attacks to economic downturn to the “bubble of the week” that burst and now, a 100 year storm. A good number of these businesses tried every way to get approval from whatever agency would listen. A lot just never reopened. The required paperwork assumes that every person in a small business has enough time in the course of their day to be completely caught up with their record keeping, invoicing and debt totals and the ability to continue a clean-up, the likes of which most people should never have to see in their lifetime’s while trying to maintain their business footing in a very competitive market during “iffy” economic times and corral the required financial paperwork. And to boot, a lot of businesses have all their property on one level – so most paperwork, financials, computers and more were swept out with the tide, making compliance almost impossible. In Coney Island, 98 “micro businesses” came back after the Superstorm – over 75% of those businesses footing their own bill – no help, no loans, no grants (save for a $500 dollar grant from the Alliance for Coney Island).
The point of this article is not to cry over what has happened. The purpose of this article is to warn small and microbusiness owners. The days of the pizza man with his receipts in a shoe box are not ever going to go away – let’s face it, some businesses are just that small and although most people couldn’t live without their computers, there are still many people in business that rely on support staff or other professionals to pull it all together once or twice a year. Even so, accounting software, tax laws, credit applications and government filings are a daunting process. Stay on top of your business’ “business” – know when too much is just that – too much. Small business is a gamble even in the best of times.
Second opinions make sense when dealing with health issues; second opinions should matter where the health of your business is concerned also. Take yearly inventory or your insurance policies – liability, property, general, umbrella and don’t forget Worker’s Compensation and Disability. Make sure employee numbers and equipment purchases are noted and updated whenever they change. Make sure you “self-insure” for those things that are never supposed to happen but do. It may not be a lot that you can put away, but the rainy day can come sooner than you ever expect and 3, 5, 10 or 20 years seem like a blink of the eye.
Regardless of what other community based businesses or organizations tell you, ALWAYS get involved with the community you are in. The particular industry our business has been involved in has always stressed community involvement and activism in order to spread the word about our products and services. Many years ago, we spoke to business owner’s in our community about going to Community Board meetings and Chamber of Commerce meetings – we were told that “those people” were shady and crooked and you “really didn’t want to get involved with that sort of thing”. Funny thing about that is the same people who told us not to get involved with the local groups are now “in tight” with them and (surprisingly, or not) are receiving media attention and (funnier) money. Go to those meetings, network, network, NETWORK!!! It is the key to knowing what is going on, how you can be involved and most importantly, regardless of the size of your business, you will never be “too small to be forgotten” in the eyes of your community.
One question still remains, and that would be where all the Federal Aid promised is going. New programs seem to be cropping up constantly as the money allotted still sits in Federal coffers. Hopefully, the “right thing” will be done (eventually) and sometime before the micro businesses go under for the last time (pardon the pun), help will truly arrive.
I think that this picture says it all.
Over the last 20 years, we have built a strong business presence – following all the marketing, business and promotion advice given to use especially from the Balloon Industry but also every seminar, workshop, class, roundtable and more.
“Be professional” – “Uniforms for employees” – “Procedures, Guidelines and Protocols”
“Write everything down” – “Everything in writing” – “Accountability” – “Transparency”
Blah, blah, blah!!!
Well it appears that we were one of the few companies that listened.
Our employees are consistently mistaken for staff at whatever venue we are in as they all have embroidered uniform shirts, black pants and sneakers. Aprons with our logo, paperwork for each detail of an installation, storage bins to carry equipment, toolboxes, and a vehicle that looks good when we pull up to a site. We have in place procedures for bouquet deliveries, decor installation and breakdowns. We have guidelines in place for alternatives to “regular” deliveries – something goes wrong, we have a quick fix or someone to speak to to get a change accomplished.
And yet, this week, we are once again sabotaged by those who have nothing to do with our company or the deliveries we go on.
A doorman or two think taking the enclosure card off a bouquet is the thing to do after they deliver the balloons to our recipient. Here’s my problem with that – on two levels: one, do they even look at the inside of a folded card to see that there is a sentiment written to go along with the balloon bouquet?? Our national partner can’t imagine how this happens and we end up paying for it in the end – we can say that the card is on the piece, we can take pictures of the card on the piece, we can even take a picture with the doorman smiling in it, holding the balloons while showing the card and it still doesn’t prove the card was attached when it got to the recipient – which brings out the second level here – my employees don’t get to the recipient, they don’t get the tip that the doormen pocket and that is really not fair. On top of which, our company gets fined because the customer states the card was not present – naturally, it has to be our omission – no one else on this supply chain could possibly be responsible.
We have had pieces that were left in mail rooms, perfectly arranged when we leave, yet get to the customer with broken even missing balloons. Who pays for that? We do.
For further sabotaging this week, my partner and I have both been chewed out on the phone for missing deliveries of balloons. We immediately check our database, all paperwork including credit card charge reports. Customers calling have been irate – stating that we have “no right to charge for something we had no intention of showing up with” and “I’ll sue you for screwing up my order”.
As I always say, you would think we delivered kidneys! People get very irate over balloons, more so than you would ever think. That warm fuzzy feeling you get when you see a balloon dissipates quickly when you have paid for something and not received what you think you were getting.
The really funny part of this venting blog is this – following our procedures, we ask the customer for their name and order number. After they give us a name, the usual response is then, “I don’t have an order number”. Then we ask the $50,000 question, “Did you receive a confirmation with the order number when you placed the order?” The response? “No.” Every …… single ……. time!!!!
Our orders are processed and regardless of the form of payment you choose to use, we issue you a contract/order number for every single order placed. No ifs, no ands, and no buts. We state this to the irate customer who suddenly says, “Wait isn’t this XYZ Balloons?” To which we answer, “No – you are calling the NY Balloon & Basket Company.”
“Aren’t you located in Somewhere, NY?”
“No, we are located in Coney Island, Brooklyn.”
Here’s how the rest of the conversation usually goes:
“Oh my god – I can’t believe it! I called the wrong company! Are you sure this is not XYZ Balloons? I’m so sorry! What should I so now?”
We usually tell the customer to find out what company they did use, call them and complain and if that doesn’t work, we remind them that they did use a credit card and the credit card companies will gladly put a stop on the charge.
But here’s what I want to say to all my Balloon Industry Colleagues out there in Heliumville –
GET YOUR ACT TOGETHER!
TAKE SOME PRIDE IN WHAT YOU DO!
VALUE YOUR CUSTOMER!
You make the rest of us look bad. But here’s the biggest irony of all – you keep right on doing what you do, XYZ Balloon company because one good thing comes from your horrible customer service, irresponsibility, and lack of value for the clients you had –
The last thing those irate customers usually say before they hang up is, “Thank you so much – I will keep your company’s number for the next time I need balloons – I’m sorry I was so mad – Thank you again!”
That’s the one thing my partner, my staff and I absolutely love – YOUR customers become OURS!!!