Time Is Everything image And then, my banker said to me…

For All Owners: Your Presence is Needed

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Being able to meet and interact with the owner of an independent business might not seem like a big deal to you, but to many customers, your presence has power.  You physically being in your business, talking to customers, helping them solve their problems, and listening to their issues, is one of the joys that a customer feels when they get to interact with the actual owner of a business.

Let me give you an example of how making yourself visible can have a big impact on your bottom line:

Last year, my wife and I took a trip to California, and went to visit some wineries near Sonoma.  We had never been to any of their wineries before, and we soon learned it’s a pretty big event to tour these places.  People from all over the world come to California to taste and critique their wines.

If you ever go to California’s wine country, the whole wine tasting experience is overwhelming.  We stayed in a little city where there were over 40 wineries within 5 miles of our hotel.  So, upon our arrival, the first thing we did was ask the concierge at the hotel to give us some recommendations on where to go.  Then, armed with our list of recommendations, we were ready to start the next day, checking them off one at a time.

But we soon learned that going to each winery on our narrowed-down list was still a daunting task.  The first day we headed out, we started at the top of the list.  We were at the first winery when it opened at 10:00 a.m.  I don’t know if you’ve ever sampled wine not long after breakfast, but it didn’t take too much time before my taste-buds were numb, my mind was a little loopy, and all the while the winery people are talking about the aroma of chocolate and cherries and spices we were supposed to be tasting in our mouths as we sampled the wine.  I tasted none of this.  By noon, I was ready to head back to the hotel and take a nap.

On the second day, we changed our strategy.  We decided to just hit the wineries that our friends had recommended to us.  One of the wines on our “primo list” was named after two partners who had started the winery (for the sake of not incriminating them, let’s call it the “Michael-Joseph Winery”).

When we arrived at Michael-Joseph’s, the place was a palace.  There was an immaculate garden and a spectacular view of the vineyards from the main tasting area.  We walked in, and were the only ones there.  We were greeted by a nice woman who seated us at a private table.  She started taking us through the different upscale wines created there, and during our tasting, she started telling us the story of how Michael and Joseph had started the winery from scratch.  She told the story of how they had built it up, and the trials and effort they had both gone through.  She then told us how they had won all these wine awards, and finally, how Joseph had purchased Michael’s half of the winery from him, becoming the sole owner.  Her whole story was very inspirational.  You really appreciated the hard work that these owners had gone through to create the wine we were sampling.

Not long after she had told us this story, a guy walks through the tasting room with his dog.  The dog comes over to us, and the woman pouring wine for us makes a comment to the man walking through.  He responds, and walks into an adjacent room with a huge desk.  The dog sat down with us.  The guy looked like he knew his way around the place, so I asked her if this was Joseph, the owner of the winery.  “Yes, that’s him,” she said.  Joseph continued to stroll in and out of the far corner of the room as we continued tasting wine, and the woman and he would talk back and forth, carrying on a dialogue, while we were sitting there.

Now, maybe it’s just my fascination with how entrepreneurs become successful, or maybe it was a case of being a little star-struck because I’ve never met someone whose name is on a bottle, but I started thinking how cool it was that this guy is the one who built this whole thing from the ground up, and how cool it was that he’s right here, walking around with his dog, and about the time I’m thinking it would be pretty neat to talk to him, he disappears.

Just gone.  And he doesn’t come back.  And soon, we’re done with the wine.

When we left the winery and we were both driving in the car, when I turned and said, “Wouldn’t it have been cool if the owner had just come over and said something to us?”

And right then, we both realized that if this owner had taken just a minute or two to say hello, and take the time to introduce himself to us, the whole winery experience we were having would have been so much more memorable.  It could have only been a moment, but we would have probably bought a whole lot more wine, and we certainly would have talked about the experience of meeting Joseph, the winery owner, to all of our friends.

Now, relate this to your business:  If you build your Destination business correctly, there will be two aspects of it that will become famous:  Your business and you.  Yes, I know some of you are uncomfortable being in the spotlight, but I’d suggest you get over this stage fright because when you build a successful Destination Business, the curtain on your stage will inevitably rise.

There is a fine line between being the celebrity-owner and saying hello to customers, and spending all your time gabbing with them, and getting nothing else done.  It’s a balancing act, but rehearsing your brief interaction helps:  “Hello, nice to see you, thank you for coming in, oh, yes, we are glad you read about us in that magazine, and again, thank you for coming in, it’s a pleasure to meet you, here’s my card, and now, I have a meeting to go to, goodbye.”

Get comfortable being the Expert in your business and using your “celebrity” status to your advantage.  Most of the time, it won’t take much to have a big impact on your customers.

About Jon Schallert
Jon Schallert is the only business consultant in the world teaching businesses and communities how to reinvent themselves into Consumer Destinations. Jon speaks to thousands annually on his 14-step “Destination Business” process, which he developed over the course of nearly 30 years interviewing over 10,000 business owners in over 500 communities. When Jon is not speaking around the country, he conducts his 2½ day Destination Business BootCamps in Longmont, Colorado, and oversees his company’s online training network, Destination University.
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4 comments
  • Rebecca Maalouf

    Thank you not only for this article, but for the story of how the owner interaction felt to you as a client of the business. I have struggled with the idea of introducing myself to my clients as the owner of my own business, although I do think that many of my customers do get a small thrill from working with me. I’ve had the good fortune to have a monthly television spot on a local news channel, as a result some people seem a little “star struck” when they see me in my store. My first inclination is to be humble and act like it’s no big deal, mostly for fear of being seen as arrogant. Thank you for giving me an example of a client/owner interaction that would be painless for me as an owner, and satisfying for my clients. Telling us to do something is one thing, showing us how to do it…now that’s value!

  • Lynn Ferda

    I agree with you on this! There is a locally-owned restaurant that we go to every so often– good food, nice atmosphere. When the owner is there, he works the room, greeting the customers, asking about their dinners, but he makes it look like he enjoys the interaction. It really does make us feel special when he takes the time to talk with us. And so we’ve come to understand that it’s important for us to do with our customers as well.

  • Stacey Blacker

    Great story — and oh so true. Even in my tiny business I notice a decline in sales when I’m not there — people always want to interact with the owner. Love your story but honestly — don’t go to wine country w/o contacting me!

  • Traci Bratton

    It’s a running joke in my store, as my ever so patient help tell me on a weekly basis “THEY didn’t want to talk to me, THEY wanted to talk to you” When we purchased this business 9 years ago “it” was the previous owners business, I had to build the customers trust and earn their friendships. After 9 years I’ve graduated from the “young lady” that bought a business to an “entrepeneur” that finally has the earned respect that I hoped one day I would have. And now after 9 years I feel comfortable enough telling the story of how we bought this business, the ups and downs we’ve experienced and suddenly in others eyes it all makes sense.
    So yes, your story is worth every blood, sweat and tear that went into it’s creation.

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