They Drive Us Away

The other day I had a lot of writing to do at home. I skipped breakfast and went to work in my study. About eleven o’clock I realized I was hungry, got in the car, and drove to a very attractive restaurant in the neighborhood; it’s new. Once inside, I stood for about five minutes waiting to be shown to a seat. The place was practically empty, but the wait staff took no notice of me. Finally, a woman who seemed to be in charge told me I could sit anywhere.

I took a seat and started waiting again. Another ten minutes passed, and then a waitress brought me a menu. I told her I just wanted some ham and eggs, since I hadn’t had my breakfast yet. She replied, with a stony face and stare to match, that they only served what was printed on the menu. There was baked ham on the menu, and it would have been a simple matter to fry a couple of eggs – especially since the place was practically deserted – but I didn’t argue with her. I just ordered a cup of coffee, drank it, and left.

This is one of the reasons it’s so easy for the minority of intelligent people to succeed in this country. It’s because the majority of people who go into business know as much about how to run a successful enterprise as Eskimos know about wall-to-wall carpeting.

This restaurant I visited will be sold before too long – if they can find a buyer. The owner will say he was in a bad location, or that the people in the area aren’t any good, or that he had a lot of grouches for customers. He’ll find some kind of convenient alibi on which to hang his failure; but none of them, no matter how many he comes up with, will be true.

He will fail in business, because he doesn’t know who’s in charge of a business. The customer is in charge. And whenever a person walks into a place of business, they should be treated like the President of the United States or the Queen of England. This is the secret – the biggest secret behind the success of a business.

If a waitress is surly, unsmiling, and rude, it is the fault of the owner. He should train her, or fire her; but it’s his fault.

And you can usually tell a lot about the kind of management a business has by studying the employees. Contrary to popular opinion, morale is not raised – it filters down from the top. And if you’ve got a nonentity running a business, it will be reflected all the way down to the janitor.

The owner of the restaurant I visited – and this is only one of thousands that go out of business every month in the country – the owner had never called his employees together for weekly meetings and told them how you treat the King, the customer. He had never told them that attitudes are contagious, and if an employee has a bad attitude, it will give the customer a bad attitude. It is not the job of the customer to cheer up employees. After all, the customer pays their wages, their rent, their clothing bills, sends their kids to school and buys their food. It’s up to the employee to demonstrate his thanks by going out of his way, by knocking himself out, being helpful, courteous and cheerful. In this way, and in this way only, will a business succeed. All the employees of the other businesses will be fired, eventually – not by the boss, but by the customer.

It is always a source of amazement to me that in the light of overwhelming evidence and information on what you must do to succeed in life, the great majority refuses – adamantly and perversely refuses – to learn.

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