Unsung Victories

girl-woo-hooI’m sure that for every braggadocios posting in Facebook that veritably screams at the reader, “Hey! Look at what I did today!” there must be hundreds, even thousands of other people who never utter a single word about the amazing feats they’ve managed to accomplish in the run of their average, everyday life.

Like the person who’s been struggling to lose weight and finally saw the numbers go down on her scale this morning, even if it was only by a half kilogram. Or the person who has been trying to cut salt out of their diet to help lower their blood pressure and their doctor has finally taken them off medication. Or what about those quiet, caring people who look after sick loved ones, day after exhausting day, without so much as a word in social media about how ‘brave’ they’re being doing what they feel in their heart that they must do for those who are fading away from this earth. Or what about the people who routinely do what to others may seem like small, insignificant advances towards becoming a better all-round, caring human being?

I have more respect for people who DON’T say anything about their small, unsung victories than I do for the thousands who feel compelled to regal us all with their tales of heroic (or stoic) behavior. Don’t get me wrong here, folks. I’m very glad that we have enthusiastic volunteers who do a myriad of things for others, and yes, they should be applauded for their efforts. Yet I am more in awe of the silent warriors who wage personal wars in their world every single day and win.

I believe that it’s those unsung victories that add a wealth of ‘feel good’ moments into our lives. It’s that little voice inside ourselves that says ‘Holy crap! I didn’t think I could do that… but I did. Yay for me!’ and then we go about our daily tasks.

So if any of you reading this blog post experienced a teeny, tiny, ‘woo hoo’ happening today that you’ve not bragged about, I applaud you. May those little victories keep adding up in your heart until it’s overflowing with love and gratitude for the small things that make a life whole and rewarding.

Cultivate the ‘Service’ in Customer Service

satisfaction survey showing marketing concept to improve sales

Lately I’ve seen some posts on social media sites where people are complaining about receiving poor customer service at all types of businesses. The list runs the gamut from receiving terrible food at restaurants, retailers whose sales people never make a move to help a customer out – you name it, the complaints are there for all to see.

So what’s happened to the word ‘service’ in customer service?

From the first day I went into business, I realized that if I were to make sales and achieve repeat customers, I had to first earn their trust and treat them as I liked to be treated when shopping. It doesn’t matter if you’re searching for a new vehicle or a new pair of running shoes – the basics of solid customer service is the same. And I believe that principle starts with one thing: respect.

If you can’t show respect for another person’s wishes and requests, then you shouldn’t be in sales. Most everyone I know works hard for their dollars, and if they decide they want to spend their money at your establishment, they deserve the undivided attention of your sales people.

Here are three key elements that I’ve found to be invaluable in running my business:

  1. Listen carefully to what the customer says. If Ms. ‘X’ says that she want an 8 ounce rib-eye steak, done medium rare, and charred on both sides, then be sure that’s what you serve her. If you fail to take note of the customer’s preferences and then offer them something that is totally different than what they’ve asked for, they’re not going to be happy campers. And unhappy customers are not repeat customers.
  2. Ask relevant questions. Failing to ask the right question of your client will give you incomplete information as to their expectations from you. This step also falls into the category of ‘assuming’ that you know what someone wants before they ever open their mouth to speak. Always ask the customer what they desire from your business. And if you can’t provide what they’re looking for, move on to step # 3.
  3. Be honest – always. No wants to be talked down to or made to feel as if they’re being pressured to settle for less than what they desire. If you haven’t got exactly what they want, by all means suggest an alternative, but don’t try to force something that is totally the opposite of what they want down their throat. Trust me. If the buyer wants a half-ton truck and I try to convince him to buy a two-door sedan, do you really think he’s going to make a sale with me? Nope.

It really doesn’t take much effort to offer good, solid, customer service. In fact, some businesses get by with providing the bare minimum in courtesy and haphazard goods. But wouldn’t you rather be known as the company that actually cares about their customers and goes just a little bit further in the sales process?

Cultivating loyal customers is crucial if you want to ensure that they’re repeat customers.

Carry a Bag, Doofwad!

Max with bowl July 16 12 adjHey you! Yeah, you. The guy who walks by my house every day with that cute little white-haired doggie. YOU, sir, are the reason why dog owners who walk their precious pooches get a bad rap!

This past Saturday, I saw you walk by my house on the opposite side of the street with your dog. Said dog walked up on the neighbour’s lawn, did the usual ‘circle’ dance, and then proceeded to do a #2 business. Now that in itself isn’t unusual because when you gotta go, you gotta go, right? It’s what happened next that made me want to reach out and smack you – the owner, not the dog!

Did you calmly reach into your jeans pocket to retrieve a doggie doo-doo bag? No… Were you carrying a left-over grocery store bag or perhaps even a sandwich bag with which to collect the afore-mentioned # 2 drop? No… You just calmly kept walking with Fido after he/she/it was finished. I mean, what the hell dude?

Then, to make matters worse, you walked to the top of the street and then came back down on MY side of it. My friend and I were standing in my garage when you and your pooch paused at the end of my driveway. She, being more vocal than myself (yes, folks it IS possible that someone is more outspoken than I am!), hollered out to you, “Hey buddy! Would you like a bag so you can go pick up your dog’s crap on the lawn across the street?” You never even acknowledged her – just kept your head down and walked away.

This morning as I was taking my fur-baby out for our morning saunter, guess who is stopped at the end of my driveway? Yup, you guessed it – Mr. “I-don’t-pick-up-dog-crap” and his pooch. I turned to my own dog and said, “Think we’ll wait a few minutes before walking today, Maxster” and you heard my voice as you looked right at me. (Actually I think you were glaring at me but I wasn’t 100% awake so really couldn’t tell for sure.)

I gave you a good five minute head start, but you and your dog were only about 5 cement walk blocks ahead of me when we set out. And did I see any type of bag in your hands? Nope. Hanging perhaps out of the back pocket of your jeans? Nada.

It’s people like YOU, dipstick, that give dog owners like ME a bad reputation!

I know that Mercury is going into retrograde as of today and perhaps that’s why I’m so ticked off at this common occurrence, but seriously, people. If you’re going to take Fifi or Fido out for a walk, be considerate enough to carry a plastic bag of some sort with you in case nature calls so you don’t have to leave an unwanted ‘gift’ on someone else’s property.

Arrgghh…  Some people’s children…

Here’s to You, Mrs. Karen Robinson!

KarenRobinson2016.jpegBack in 2006, shortly after opening my doors for business, I was invited to attend a networking event sponsored by the Community Business Development Corporation (CBDC) Westmorland Albert, located in Shediac, NB. The hostess of that event was their Executive Director, a vibrant lady by the name of Karen Robinson. I, being the shy and retiring type of gal I am (NOT!) struck up a conversation with her where she asked me tons of questions about what a “Virtual Assistant” was and the type of services I had to offer to the public.

I was still fine-tuning my offerings as it were, and happened to mention to her that I loved to help other entrepreneurs promote their businesses by writing articles for them to include in their newsletters/ezines, or for publication on the web. Before she walked away, she told me that she’d give me a ring in a couple of weeks as she had an idea in mind of how she’d like to promote the CBDC and thought I might be able to help her out.

Sure enough. Shortly after our first meeting, Karen called me and invited me to come out to the CBDCs office to get together with her and some of her staff to brainstorm some ideas.

And so began an almost ten year work relationship between myself, Karen, and the team of wonderful people at CBDC Westmorland Albert.

Over the years, that initial meeting between Karen and me has morphed into a combination of part business and part friendship, with healthy doses of laughter always included in our conversations and dealings. I’ve watched this dynamo of a lady work tirelessly championing causes for rural entrepreneurs, always believing in that every business owner is capable of success if they have the right tools and training.

Today, July 29th, 2016, at 4:30 pm, Karen is “hanging up her hat” as the saying goes and retiring from her position at the CBDC. I hesitated typing that word “retiring” as that is not a word anyone would associate with this lady.

I’d like to tell her to relax, read some good books at the beach, and enjoy an occasional glass of wine, but something tells me she’s not quite finished with her desire to help others. I highly doubt she’s going to quietly fade into the sunset, never to be heard from again as that’s just not her style.

I do, however, know I’m going to miss her ongoing presence in my life, as will so many others.

So….

“And here’s to you, Mrs. Robinson,
Jesus loves you more than you will know.
God bless you, please Mrs. Robinson.
Heaven holds a place for those who pray,
Hey, hey, hey
Hey, hey, hey.”*

Enjoy your “time off” Mrs. Karen. You deserve it!

*Lyrics from the song, Mrs. Robinson, copyright 1967, “Bookends” by Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9C1BCAgu2I8

Digging Up Plants With Ms. Daisy

Remember my blog post from a week or so ago titled “Driving With Ms. Daisy?”

Well, here’s another one because if I don’t write down these stories as they happen, I’ll forget them, and they’re just too damned funny not to share.

 

Euphorbia-milii-plant
Ms. V had decided that she wanted to plant some “flerers” (flowers) in the back of her ground floor condo because “That thare gravel jest don’t look right.” During this past winter, the gentleman who owned a condo three or four doors down from her had passed, and his beautiful red and yellow Crown of Thorns bushes were being neglected. She’d checked with the person who was looking after the condo and asked if she could transplant them into her own garden. Ms. V got the go ahead and was waiting for the perfect day to move them over to her place. After all, she’d already told me “Heck, I might as wall (well) take ‘em cause he ain’t gonna be using ‘em anymore!”
Good point… I guess.
Well, Tuesday was that day.

 
I’m not quite sure if it was the fact she woke up earlier than usual (around 5:30 am), or if she thought that doing hard physical labor in 80F degree heat with a Humidex rating of 90% would somehow help her lose 5 pounds from digging those plants out were the cause of her decision to do it that particular morning.

 
When I finally saw her text to me that morning about potentially going shopping, (that’s a whole other story for another day), I responded saying I’d love to go out with her, but I didn’t get an answer. So I took a stroll out by her place only to find her digging up the plants wearing a lovely white blue tank top, white capris… and glittery blue rhinestone encrusted flip flops. Oh, and using ONE work glove she’d found on the sidewalk. (When asked about her Michael Jackson impersonation of wearing one glove, she replied “I kin’t (can’t) but haul on only one piece of plant at a time!”)

 
Keep in mind here that this Crown of Thorns plant has ½” spikes sticking out all over its stem which if touched will cause you to bleed faster than water running out of a busted water pipe.

 
Ms. V is in pretty good shape, but I’d worked up a light sweat just walking the 200’ to where these plants were located, and you could cut the humidity with a knife it was so thick. Me, being slightly crazy and not really awake, decided to go give her a hand.
So back I go to Ms. Ohio’s place, (I just call the people here by the state they’re originally from – easier to remember them that way), ask her if I can borrow one of her old t-shirts and heavy work gloves, and off I go to give Ms. V a hand.

 
By the time I get back to her, she’s got one of the spikes dug out lying on the ground. Wielding that pitchfork l

ike she was stabbing the very Devil to death, she was trying to dislodge the main plant which was about 8” around and I’m sure, buried at least two feet deep. The conversation went something like this:
“Ms. V, don’t you have a shovel?” said I, seeing that the plant wasn’t budging an inch no matter how hard she was leaning on that pitchfork.
“’Yars’ (yes) I do, but I done left it up at my condo. It’s “learning” (leaning) on the perch (porch) wall and I’m too lazy to go git it.”

 

I retrace my steps, get the hoe, and go back to the scene of the grime, I mean crime. (Ms. V was now sporting some mud on those bright, shiny blue flip flops.)
“You move over to the side and I’ll start digging to see if I can’t get some of the soil to move around the base of this plant” I said, proceeding to dig away.

 
Dear lord in heaven, I swear the ground surrounding that plant had been baking in the Florida heat for 30 years! It was harder than cement and the size of the shovel base was about the equivalent to a large garden spade. I wasn’t making much of a difference. (I think Jimmy Hoffa might be in there somewhere!) At this point I felt sweat starting to build up at the back of my neck.

 
“Pass me the pitchfork, Ms. V, and let me try moving it with that.”
“Hare you go,” she said, passing me the tool. She then proceed to literally bend over and haul one of the smaller shoots out by hand, saying “If I a wanna somethin’ done it’s gonna git done, one way or ta other!”

 
Whoosh! Out comes that Crown of Thorns so fast it almost hit me. I’d switched to the shovel thinking I could make better headway and laid down the pitchfork on the ground close to Ms. V. When I saw that huge stem popping out, I turned around fast to avoid the thorns and stepped on the pitchfork handle. You know what? Those cartoons where they show the doofus being hit in the head because they stepped on the handle of a pitchfork are totally correct! Thankfully I dodged the upcoming handle and avoided being knocked out cold.

 
I picked up the @#*! pitchfork, drove it into the cement-like ground with every ounce of strength I had, and started digging.
An hour later, after I had sweat so much I could have wrung out a gallon of water from my bra, we’d relocated “them thare” plants which were now transplanted at the back of Ms. V’s lanai. She wanted me to place some of the shoots over to the side, pointing to the middle of the space saying “Jest dig a hole thare. I think a piece of two of them would look right nice thare, don’t you?” I shoved that pitchfork into the spot she indicated and it fetched up against something solid. That’s when I noticed what was either an electrical box or sprinkler system sticking out of the ground about a foot a way and called a halt to further excavation.

 
I’m now officially toast.

I can not move a muscle, I stink to the high heavens, have dirt all down my legs and arms, yet other than muddy blue rhinestone studded flip flops, Ms. V, always the Southern genteel lady, looks like she’s just gone for a stroll in the park.

 
Moral of this story? Never, ever underestimate the stamina or strength of a Southern belle because she’ll beat you into the ground every time.

 
And after seeing Ms. V drive that pitchfork into that almost solid rockbed, I hope I never, ever piss her off.
PS – I told Ms. V that after going through all that trouble to transplant those “flerers” I expect to get pictures sent to me via email every six months on the progress of our work. Those suckers had better live!

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