Say Yes to the Dress

Working from home. Ahh, don’t you love the sound of it? If you’ve never done it, my guess is you have this romantic vision in your head of a nice cup of coffee, the television on your favorite show or some nice music playing with your laptop where it was designed, on your lap, with your feet up on the couch sporting the new slippers you purchased in honor of being “virtual.” The day I started my business and began working from home, I too romanticized it. No makeup, doing laundry during the day, PJs until noon, being available for my kids at all hours of the day? Sign me up!

The first couple of weeks were amazing. I was able to go to my daughter’s Halloween Party at school, my house was spotless, I had everything prepared for when I got my first client and I had great ideas for the layout of my website. There was one major problem; I had no clients. As the days wore on I became increasingly less motivated, spent more time watching television, baking and other things and found I wasn’t even getting dressed or taking a shower until it was time to pick up my daughter from school. I got to a point where I was about to lose my drive when I heard about this little thing called networking.

Networking was everything I didn’t want which is why I started my own business; waking up at O’dark thirty, getting all dressed up to go to a meeting where you give a 30 second presentation, hand out some business cards and make plans for lunches to meet other people. This sounded like everything I was trying to get away from by creating a virtual environment, but I didn’t want to go back into the corporate world, so I gave it a shot. After the first meeting I had my first interested client… SCORE! I went home only to find I was more motivated than ever and began knocking things out and making calls left and right. I think someone spiked the punch.

Networking quickly became my addiction, it was my drug of choice. It didn’t matter if I had only 3 hours of sleep, only 5 people showed up, no one talked to me, the food was terrible or I didn’t get a single new business card. Every time I went to a meeting I came home with a renewed sense of purpose. But after two years of chasing that first high and drinking the Kool-Aid, time began to ware on me and I was back in PJs, lacking motivation.

During my slump I went to my husband, who had been working with his business from home for 10 years, sat in a chair in his office, with my PJs and slippers and started to cry my eyes out. I wanted to quit. I couldn’t get motivated and didn’t know how to move on. He reminded me of his advice when this all stared; “get up in the morning and go to work as if you were going to work”. When he said it, it all came to me. The reason I was so successful when I was networking had everything to do with the way I approached my day; getting dressed and preparing to give my best.

Now I get up every morning, take a shower, do my hair and put on make-up as if I’m headed into the office. I began to notice when my employees were feeling down, getting stressed, being unproductive or just “not in it” they typically were lounging in their PJs answering phones. When we implemented a policy for everyone to be dressed as if coming to the office, we not only noticed a change in productivity but a boost in moral. They were genuinely happier. Although I still have my occasional lazy Saturdays where I’ll lounge around until late morning or early afternoon, especially in the middle of winter, I always feel more productive and happier when I awake with a plan and a purpose.

Save the American Dream

There is a picture on my desk which reads “Discovery: A company that will go to the ends of the earth for its people will find that it can hire them for about 10% of the cost of Americans.” As a stateside call center, we are always competing with offshore (overseas) alternatives with respect to cost, but the only reason they are so inexpensive is because no one is holding them accountable to pay fair wages to their workers. When companies don’t treat their employees with dignity and respect, the employees feel devalued which is reflected in their work.  The sad thing is this isn’t just happening in call centers, it’s happening all over the country in every service business.

The other day I was talking to a friend of mine who owns a small business and we both came to the agreement that while corporate America has some perks, it’s equally killing the American dream. When was the last time you drove down a street somewhere and didn’t see a name you were familiar with? How often do you attempt to shop local over the big box store? While it may appear big box stores can be great for innovators who create new products, what about service businesses?

Each one of you has had a negative customer service experience with a chain store. We’ve all done it, threatened, even if it was internally, to “never come back to this store again” only to return a couple days, weeks or months later because there either wasn’t another option or the other option was “too expensive.” It’s the American way of giving in. We’ve given up making big businesses work for our dollar and given into the idea that price is more important than anything else. We’ve gotten to the point in our culture that service has lost its value but it’s all we complain about. You can scour the internet for reviews of just about anything, from restaurants to car repair shops and the biggest complaint you’ll see is in regards to service. You’ll also notice, in general, the local shops have better reviews regarding service, they work for each dollar they earn through providing the best experience possible.

What’s the big deal? If we can get things cheaper, we’ll deal with a bad experience, right? The bigger picture is, what’s more important. Every day businesses shut their doors because they couldn’t afford to service their customers. Without local businesses, the major chains and big box stores no longer have to provide their customers with an engaging and positive experience. There is no accountability where there is no competition. Case in point, in many areas of our country there is only one internet provider to chose from and when you call their customer support, it’s usually not met with a happy voice ready to serve you. Why not? Because there’s no reason for that company to spend the time and money on your experience when they know they’re going to retain you as a customer anyway.

So, the next time you’re ready to spend money you worked hard to earn, ensure you’re spending that money on the companies who are working equally hard to earn it. Life is all about enjoying the ride, so don’t continue to settle for negative experiences, voice your concerns and spend your money elsewhere.