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With A Small Business, Everything Is Personal

Updated on March 19, 2010

When Everything Is Personal, It's Scary

 Two years ago, my then fiance asked for my support emotionally in opening up his motorcycle service station.  After having seen him work, and having faith in him personally, I readily agreed.  The service station was doing too well.  He was backed up beyond what was reasonable but could not yet afford to leave his day job.  We scaled back our incoming in order to catch up and keep up.

Last autumn we realized that even after two years, many people did not know we were around due to our location.  We were off the highway but still back off the road too far for passerbys to notice.  We decided that we were either going to close our doors or try moving into town.  At about that time a previously abandoned strip mall reopened and rent was reasonable.  We moved in.  Within the first month we tripled our retail sales!  It gave us the hope we needed to get through a very slow January.  February picked up and March is looking good.  Good enough that we sprung for a larger unit.

Then it happened.  One of our local representatives for a distrubutor has been 'helping' us which ended up hurting us.  Our products come from the nearest warehouse, which makes sense.  The problem is when he rearranges the shipment plan in an effort to save us any cod fees that we may incur.  While that is appreciated, it has caused us to have to have the not so enviable task of explaining to our customers where their parts are. 

Regardless of how honest we are about this, it does not make the parts appear.  This does not look good on us and we have had a long talk with our representative explaining to him how his actions and poor communication with us have effected our business.  We thought we had the situation resolved.  The next time he wanted to consolidate our shipments, he called, we agreed as the parts that would be delayed would not negatively affect anyone.

The shipment arrived at all once and we were happy.  Until we noticed that several items we had ordered did not make it to us.  Evidently in the swapping process he overlooked a few parts.  This has caused a very understandable albeit upseting turn of events.  We have made every effort possible to make things right with our customers, including personally delivering the missing product to a customer who has driven over an hour to do business with us.

While these efforts may have soothed things over for some at this moment, we are very acutely aware of how this affects our future.  This includes the loss of a previously loyal customer.  While a big corporation may not want any customers to cease doing business with them, they do not lament it the way we do.  My husband is visibly upset, something he does not do often, and my stomach is in knots and my heart is very heavy. 

Yes, his loss of business will affect us financially, I would be lying if I tried to say different.  More importantly, losing him means so much more.  It means one of our neighbors was hurt.  It means he was disappointed in us.  It means we let him down.  These are unforgivable things and we will grieve his leaving.  While some may say that this experience should make us more appreciative of our existing customers, we do not see it that way.  We honestly appreciate every single customer who walks through our door, even if they do not spend money.  How we treat them determines if they will come back, if at all.

In our eyes, we are nothing if our word means nothing.  It is imperative that our customers be able to trust us.  That means that when we tell our customers that their part will be here on this day, then we need to know that our distributors are going to stand by their words as well.  When they do not, we cannot and surely cannot afford the bad name that gets associated with businesses that are incapable of managing their affairs properly.  The bottom line is that every mistake, no matter how innocent, takes a very personal toll on small businesses.



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    • minesgm profile image


      8 years ago from Texas

      In starting a business you need guts and running it, is a continuous experiment & learning of how to make it better, and from that mistakes you would know what to do next time.. Big business ventures do not rely on that experiment they really have the feasibility study to know the pros and cons of every decision to make but still they do make mistake, how much more small businesses.

      Goodluck to that business you have and cheers! Mimi

    • maggs224 profile image


      8 years ago from Sunny Spain

      We have a small bar with most of our seating outside, and we have just endured over seven months where our outside looked and felt like a bombsite. Our outside seating was reduced to just two and half tables, which were set underneath the scaffolding poles and tarpaulins not very conducive to relaxing and enjoying a drink and a chat.

      The Scaffolding, dust noise and workmen made it almost impossible for us to carry on our normal trading. But like you said in the title of this hub, 'With a small business, everything is personal, and we have just thrown a small party for those friends and customers whose personal loyalty kept us afloat during this very trying time.

      We have seen many business like our close even without the added trauma of scaffolding and workmen, such is the recession here in Spain, but we have found that when we give our best that is just what we get back. Good luck with your business

    • prettydarkhorse profile image


      8 years ago from US

      very personal account and nice share of ideas helpful, Maita

    • ohox profile image


      8 years ago from Bandung, Indonesia

      wow! awesome hub! i always want to start my own business and when i read your hub i really encouraged to own small business and going further step by step. however i am still studying in college so i must finish my study first.

      i cannot say much but in my courses, i always reminded that every plan must have backup. so it will be plan A,then there is plan B, and so on. maybe you should have backup plans too (in this case, another supplier).

      really nice hub, btw. i'll keep on contact with you chaotic chica..

    • mod2vint profile image


      8 years ago from Sunny Florida

      I know exactly how you feel. In my business I take everything that goes wrong personal. Its a struggle and sometimes I question if its worth it. But everyday I go back this is what I know, This is what I do.

    • Paradise7 profile image


      8 years ago from Upstate New York

      How true! You guys do everything you can to help your customer and give him honest and important service...that's the way to run the show, it pays over time, I'm sure things will come right for you if you persist in this honest business philosophy. Of course, sometimes unavoidable things happen that are outside your control. This happens in every business.

    • Chaotic Chica profile imageAUTHOR

      Chaotic Chica 

      8 years ago

      Austinstar, that's where we're at right now. It has always been our credo if you will that no matter what happens, we will always do everything we can to make it right. It's just bothersome when the thing that went wrong is not accident based but human error, that is sometimes harder to correct.

    • Austinstar profile image


      8 years ago from Somewhere near the center of Texas

      I would suggest that you can not keep making promises based on the word of others. Simply say that unexpected things do happen, but you will GUARANTEE to make things right! Make it your motto.

      Running a business is hard and I salute you! Keep up the good work.

    • Chaotic Chica profile imageAUTHOR

      Chaotic Chica 

      8 years ago

      Thank you, Pamela99, I appreciate your kind and honest words. You are right, but it doesn't make me feel any better! I think only time can do that.

    • Pamela99 profile image

      Pamela Oglesby 

      8 years ago from Sunny Florida

      There is no way to undo what has already occurred. You've made amends and all you can do is try to start anew. Sometimes when things don't go right, another door opens that is better than you expected. I wish you all the best in this difficult time.


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