Be ready

Opening a new business means being ready to go from the day before you start. 

In restaurants, that goes double. The moment you open you are up for assessment. And in the social media world, that means immediately.

Train the staff. As in, not just table numbers and how to carry three plates without going arse-up, but in hospitality. When people walk in – greet them. They’ll have questions. Listen closely and reply clearly. If you don’t know, admit as much, let them know you’ll find out and do so quickly.

Know the terminology on the menu. Know how to recognise it when enunciated. Know the restaurant layout and how it best works. If one bit of the room is too hot/cold/noisy, know where to guide people to be most comfortable. Don’t send them to an empty space in another room that is not set up. Be helpful. Wait upon them. They are here for a service, a meal, a drink. They might be scoping the next venue to host ongoing corporate events. Or the best place to dine solo regularly and be content. They might be a one off. They might just be wanting another glass of wine…

But you don’t know what they are. Being precise in your offering is knowing that every minute of their time with you counts. 

Forgetting someone after their main has been cleared. Not offering coffee, tea, dessert, a digestif? Is money lost. In no small part due to the fact that they will feel ignored. And people who feel ignored don’t come back. 

Most people have a budget to spend out in the world. Enabling them to spend more of it with you – and to be happy about that – is the gold standard.

Restaurants are a tricky business. Being prepared, and training your people, knowing where queries might arise and having answers ready? KEY. 

Kinda like knowing what the fish of the day actually is some time before 1pm…

Taking the communication out of telcos

A slight diversion. Many of us have telco issues, particularly in regional areas. We kinda live with it because there is little to be done other than to rant and rave. They own the market. They dictate terms. 

And those terms are designed to minimise contact with their customers, and to make actual complaints borderline impossible. 

With Telco 1, I wished to end my contract. Multiple issues. No clarity. Continual connection issues and the “help” avenues were anything but. 

I changed to Telco 2, who this morning inferred that I was fibbing about the outage I was experiencing, needed to switch it off and on again, and that there was no outage because no one else had reported one yet.

I tried social media as I couldn’t find another channel to actually just NOTIFY the supplier that there was an issue they might like to address. I was told there were no outages, before acknowledging that outages only show up if a significant volume of calls/alerts are received. That wasn’t helpful. They told me to call the nbn. Because not ENOUGH people had reported an outage. 

Which is possibly because there is no avenue other than physically calling the nbn people (not the supplier – they bill me but are a different office and they can’t refer calls or issues or anything). I was cut off multiple times as wait times turned – in theory – to connections. I tried the website. The live chat option. Which also cut me off but I persisted. They again inferred I was fibbing or just stupid enough to be wrong. 

So that was fun. After banging my head against these particular brick walls trying to do the right thing and let my supplier know there was an issue, I cracked it. A teensy bit. 

I did kinda insist that I wasn’t incompetent and had a general dislike of being treated as such. Via the live chat facility. Which does not resolve properly for mobiles, leading to typos and a conversation that was slightly nuts. 

He apologised. I asked how to report an issue. He said he couldn’t. I got cranky. He told me to make calls to get it resolved because the nbn live chat (no link to that anywhere on the telco site) was busy? Or not working? Or something? But go on. Try it now anyway. 

Was disconnected when I gave up and called again. 

Dear telcos: make it EASY for us to report a fault. Have a clear form on your site. Then we are done. We’ve informed you. You know there is an issue and can deploy techs/engineers/fix-it-types straight away. Simple. 

Otherwise we get cranky at your inability to know about issues, let alone to address them. 

So far today I’ve been told that I’m wrong (or fibbing) multiple times. That I need to “cycle” the nbn unit countless times. I’ve been apologised to multiple times by people who couldn’t know what it was for which they proffered apology, and to zero result. 

Let us register a fault. Enter an email address for updates. And go on our way. Fobbing us off and telling us that as customers we have to either live chat with someone who cannot possibly help; or check earlier fora because I’m sure that will help with my current clear outage; or my personal favourite: send a letter by post – NONE OF THESE are an effective use of anyone’s time. And it makes us angry. Frustrated. And looking for options. We might request recompense. We might tie up employee time dealing with our frustrations. We might just get snarky on social media. 

This is simply avoided. Accept that you have some responsibility for the service you purport to provide. Allow us to simply register faults (with some way of determining the veracity of such). Don’t treat us like braindead hedgehogs. And work to fix the issue.

This would actually save time on SO MANY LEVELS. And time is money. So you are welcome, telcos. I’ve just fixed stuff for you. 

Where do I send the bill?

Finding value

I started my business to work with people I liked, who make vino I like drinking. Simple, no?

I didn’t want to deal with the industry twerps who engage in belittling reps for fun. Or with wineries who changed the rules on their staff half way through the game. Good vino. Good people. Good sales. 

And essentially I want these businesses around me to succeed. So yes. On occasion – or, if I’m honest, as a rule – I give extra to my tasks. I conduct tastings on my own time at no cost to the wineries. I provide advice to many at little to no charge. I let many pick my brain without a fee. Because I want them to succeed. 

And to date, there have been only a couple of moments wherein I have felt the need to terminate an agreement, or switch things up. 

I’ve been lucky that way. 

But perhaps the word has escaped that I let my brain be picked. Or maybe I am just a teensy bit nervous. Because I have – both personally and through friends in the game – begun to see a rise in businesses forgetting that it takes time, energy and money to generate sales and to market themselves. 

For the most part, it is businesses who have done some degree of this work themselves in the past. And have not accounted for this time as a cost to generating business. Because it’s just their time. 

Sure. If you see your time as having zero value…

As a small business, we should all put a solid value on our time and our input into said business. As a writer, we would count in words. As a seamstress, in stitches. As boot maker, in, well, boots. Whether it is the ephemeral – words – or the literal and solid – boots – the work and the time invested in it has value. 

For a sales person, much of that value is in the contacts. The relationships. The knowing which venue and when, and which ones are tottering. That can take time to relate to sales but it ALL has value. Whether that sales person is a big company rep, an agent or a winemaker spruiking their own wares is irrelevant. The investment of time, the accumulation of contacts and knowledge, the cognisance involved in successfully matching wine with venue? Has value. 

Our experience has value. The knack of adapting accounting software to the wine industry. Of how to set up effective social media. Of event management. Of media management. Of wine list training. Of good sales practice. 

And things of value, should be accordingly given a price. Anything we do as a small business should be accorded a value. Then whether we pass on that value as a cost becomes a separate decision. 

As an exercise, I totted up a basic cost for an imaginary client – an amalgam of several clients over several months. I gave each task a fair cost, and worked out exact hours spent, billable time, expenses. And looked at what I had actually billed for those tasks. 

I have fallen, to a smaller extent, into the same hole I advise against above. Doing the job because it is there and needs doing without actually reporting or billing my time. Like a winery who does not account for their time managing sales, I’ve been nice about getting stuff done because I want people to succeed. Letting people get away with picking my brain as if it had no value to me. 

But it does. So: new rules. I value my time. It is my business. 

Any small business should be accounting for billable hours. Expenses. Experience. 

A butcher does not give away the bacon once it is cured. An accountant does not hand out free, professional advice. A vet cares for our pets but bills us for their expertise and tonics. As they should. 

Small businesses – and especially wineries – are no different. Samples should be counted, and accounted for as a part of the business. Expenses incurred generating sales – from petrol to parking to snacks to delivery costs to time spent – must be a part of our business model. 

Spend money to make money. But know exactly where it goes…