Business wisdom found in Grandma’s words

My family has always had creative ways of saying things. Sometimes, when one of their sayings comes out of my mouth, and my friends and co-workers look at me like I’m on fire and they don’t have an extinguisher, I realize, “Oh, that must be one grandma made up.” One of the things my grandmother used to say was, “Sometimes it’s hard to remember what color your house is if you never go outside.”

I think her saying speaks well to small and mid-size businesses. They get so engrained in what they’re doing that they don’t realize they may be standing in their own way.

For instance, if a business owner sees his company has gotten less-than-favorable reviews on a website such as Yelp, some may think the quickest way to fix the problem is to send their employees out in droves, with fake email addresses or user names, to counteract the negative publicity with nice, and obviously biased, comments. Aside from being dishonest, does that really fix the problem? No. It’s a Band-Aid fix for the lack of customer service.

Sure, it may not be the easiest or quickest fix, but improving customer service would help create positive comments for years to come instead of just a few fake comments to balance out the pool right now.

A situation such as this may be a case of the business owner not stepping “outside” his business and looking at it with a clean vision. It’s human nature to dig down deep and hunker down, especially in the recent economy. At the same time, the owners who do this, and forget what color their “house” is, stand in the way of the business’ success.

Successful business owners I’ve known have always been able to admit their mistakes or shortcomings, set their egos aside and correct what’s necessary to ensure success. It’s when egos get in the way, and people don’t stop to step outside, that things begin to slide; before they know it, it’s the last minutes of the Titanic and it’s too late to save the company.

At the same time, when an owner doesn’t know what color the “house” is, the employees usually don’t either. This leads to low morale and general employee unhappiness.

Stepping outside isn’t a weakness. It’s a gut check to make sure the business is moving along a successful path. Like any journey, trails deviate, but it never hurts to see how to get it back on track.

Although my grandmother wasn’t officially the owner of a company, she raised three young daughters virtually alone as my grandfather drove trucks to make ends meet. She set aside her mistakes and shortcomings to make sure her family had food on the table, her daughters went to school and her husband had a home to come home to – all while she held down her own job. She definitely knew what color her house was because she looked at it almost every day.

Tiffannie Bond is a media relations specialist at Imagine Communications. Email Tiffannie at tbond@weareimagine.com.

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