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Who’s the Boss?
L. J. Martin
A Manual for those Interested in Success
Who is the boss?
Let’s see…is it the guy who owns the company? Is it the company president? Is it the department manager? Is it your immediate shift manager? Is it the guy or gal who signs your check?
You’ll soon learn it’s none of those.
And, right after that mysterious ‘who,’ it’s you who are the most important cog in the business wheel.
This may come as a surprise to you, but YOU are the foundation of your company, and other than the customer, the most important screw or bolt which holds the whole bridge together.
A recent morning’s example is typical of what’s happening in the country.
The hotel dinning room opens at 6:00 AM, or so says the front desk.
What a surprise, no one in the dinning room; clanking coming from the kitchen. If I was truly in a hurry I would have wandered into the kitchen and shouted out, “is anyone awake?” But rather I found a booth, seated myself, and went to work on my laptop. After ten minutes I would have come to a slow boil (no morning coffee = grumpy), but I realized there was free coffee in the lobby, so I fetched a cup and was content until 6:15 when the lady showed up with an “I had some prep to do.” Being an old fashioned boy, I presume the prep would be done BEFORE opening…which is why it’s called, “prep.” As I was in North Dakota when this happened, I was not shocked to receive a seemingly sincere apology from the lady. Had I been in California….
Later that day my wife witnessed the same waitress try to seat two different pairs of customers at the same table so she wouldn’t have to open another section farther from the kitchen…one of those pairs, obviously having private matters to discuss, huffed away. Lost business, lost revenue, a business just that much closer to closing its doors and throwing two or three dozen folks out of jobs.
To show that I’m not merely a grumpy old fart, I’m happy to report that the following morning, same time, I wandered into the same booth, waited only one minute and while sliding out of my booth to go to the lobby to fetch my own coffee, a very pleasant young lady hurried out of the kitchen and made me feel very welcome. She was not only efficient but when another old fart wandered in and with mouth gaping and turned so far down his false teeth were about to tumble out over his receding chin, ordered a dry bagel and immediately asked very nastily if they charged extra for a pad of butter and a dollop of jelly, then unsatisfied that he hadn’t ruined her morning, asked, “so I suppose you charge for the water?” To my utter surprise and satisfaction the young woman was pleasant no matter how much black paint he tried to pour in her bucket, killing him with kindness.
I later suggested to the restaurant manager that she get a raise.
What got me started on this particular rant?
I think America needs to get back to work, and to do it with the same attention to detail many, most who were successful, did while I was growing up. And all they need to do is to recognize who’s the boss in a free enterprise society.
One of America’s most well run states is Utah. My wife and I drive the length of Utah at least once a year on our way from Spring-Summer-Fall residence in Montana to Winter in California. Utah takes care of business, maybe it’s the wonderful work ethic of the Mormons, but when you go into a gas station mini-market run by some Pakistani gentleman and his wife and four kids, to your great surprise you’ll find the restroom open and CLEAN. In California all restrooms in those establishments are strangely out of order. Pakistani = Out Of Order Restroom. Which is probably just as well as the one out of ten thousand who might be admitted to one reputed be in working order find it to be filthy, and you’d be better off to climb in the half-full dumpster out back of the place to do your business. But I digress….
On one of those recent drives south we stopped at a combination gas station mini-market, and in the market was one of those chain burger joints, or a small version thereof. I seldom waste the calories on fast food, but we were in a hurry, so I approached the counter, the single customer in the place. A young man, hefty in size (saying “fat” is not politically correct), wandered out of the small kitchen area and approached the counter. His bill cap was not turned backward, to his credit, but was pulled so low over his eyes they couldn’t be seen, only half his nose, his pursed lips, and both his chins. Even though I was in a hurry, I decided to have a little fun. He approached the counter, eyes unseen, and took up a position across the counter from me, …and said absolutely nothing. No “hello,” no “welcome to WalMart,” no “may I help you,”…nothing. Sooooo, I said nothing. Having been a salesman most of my life (and a damn good one, I might add) I know the value of silence. Dead, penetrating, attention getting, eventually very irritating, silence. Finally, when I refused to break the silence, he began to fidget, and eventually (I guess he was afraid I was either voice impaired or was about to pull a gat and hold the place up) he raised his cap, stepped back, and eyeballed me, his gaze very suspicious. I managed to keep a straight face, even though I wanted to break out laughing, but rather I gave him as hard a look as I could muster.
Finally, he managed, “You want something?”
I couldn’t help myself, “No, I just came in to stare at you over the counter and see how long it would take to try and discover if I was a customer.”
That, as I might have suspected, was greeted with a, “Uh?”
So I ordered. And watched very carefully to make sure he didn’t do something obscene to the food. He did glance over his shoulder several times to make sure this obviously insane old man didn’t vault the counter and execute a rear attack.
And now, almost every time I deal with a counter person, I notice how poorly trained most counter people (supposedly sales people) are in this free enterprise country of ours, and to decide to try and do my very small part to try and show them the error of their ways, and make them aware of who’s the boss in this great country of ours, and why that concept, observed by past generations, has made her the great country she’s become.
Let me suggest to you that success, no matter how small a success one incident might seem to you, is one of life’s greatest pleasures. It’s one of the things that makes getting up in the morning a pleasure rather than a chore; it’s a precursor to mental and physical health, it’s the essence of a happy existence. It makes work a pleasure.
So let’s investigate a few ways to accomplish that goal, and why we should.
Why should you, as a counter person or sales person, maybe making minimum wage, give a damn who the boss might be?
If you haven’t surmised the answer to that simple question as of yet, the customer is the boss.
The customer is boss.
Please consider that all the money any business accumulates, or doesn’t, comes from the customer. It doesn’t matter if it’s a good or service your selling, the customer is the boss, and if the customer is unhappy, and no longer shows up to buy your good or service, there will be no more money; no more counter person, no more shift manager, no more general manager, no more vice president, no more company president, nor board of directors nor chairman of the board. And that sad process all begins with you and your relationship with the customer.
As said in nearly the first sentence, you are the foundation of your company, and other than the customer, the most important screw or bolt that holds the whole bridge together.
And therein lies the reason that government is perverse. No matter how good, or how poor, the service offered, the check still arrives at the end of the month. It’s the one instance in our economy where the customer is not the boss, at least not in the eyes of the service provider. It’s far to far to reach to understand that his or her paycheck originates with the tax payer. Not that there are not some excellent government employees, some with some personal pride it what they do, but by the nature of “no profit necessary,” they are few and far between.
It’s not only your company that depends upon you, but think of the suppliers who count on your company’s business, on the other employees who depend upon your company for their jobs…for those weekly or monthly checks that pay their rent or house payment and keep their kids in shoes and lunch money. And the landlord who owns the building or buildings your company rents…and the chain goes on and on and on.
Suddenly, you should realize how important you are.
So, don’t let them down, and more importantly, don’t let yourself down. Sure, you might find another job, not so easy as it once was, but they are still out there. But if your company fails, you’ve failed to a certain extent, and, trust me, you don’t want to get in the habit of failing. It’s bad for both your mental and physical health.
So what can you do to help insure your company’s health, and success?
Easy, remember that each and every customer is the boss. Is that any easy chore? Usually it is, however, many times it’s not. As I pointed out in the introduction to this book, some customers are tougher than others. Some are downright obnoxious, and those are the ones who’ll test your resolve to make sure your company is successful. You must approach every customer with an open mind, you must have no preconceived notions about that man or woman across the counter. Don’t judge. You don’t know, for instance, that he or she was not informed that morning that they had terminal cancer. Would you be less than bubbly under that circumstance? Her mother may have died that morning. Or even merely her cat or his dog (more important than mother to some in this perverted society we’ve created). Or it may simply be that they’ve run out of money and this hamburger you’re selling may be the last meal they can afford until day after tomorrow when they get paid again.
Or they may be one of the very few human beings who’s just a smartass or who believes that every glass is half empty rather than half full.
But you’ll never know which customer is which, or why they have the attitude that makes you want to give them less than stellar service.
Your job, one you’ve chosen to take money to perform, is a trust. It’s a trust given to you by your employer, and he, and a lot of others are depending upon you.
Prove yourself worthy.
Strangely enough, your worth is the beginning of the recovery of America.
I’ve never had a book, booklet, pamphlet, or manual, whatever this turns out to be, that had so much material so easily accessed as this “who’s the boss.” All I have to do is walk into almost any business and I’m confronted with material.
Only yesterday, needing a haircut, I called my local beauty shop (boy do I miss barber shops) and made an appointment for 10:30 AM, the earliest she said I could get in. I showed up at 10:05 and the girl was alone in the shop, sitting behind the greeting counter, reading a magazine. I asked, hopefully, if I could get in early. “No,” she said, “I have a ten o’clock.” I glanced at the time, now 10:07. What she should have said is “I have a ten o’clock, and I try and wait ten minutes to give my customers a break, but if she’s not here by 10:10, I’ll be happy take you early and she can take your 10:30.” I don’t have a lot of hair and I’m a fifteen minute cut, at the most. And a customer who’s late should expect to “lose their turn.”
But she didn’t say that.
I will tell you that I’m never late. It’s my belief that folk’s time is important, and if you’re habitually late, what your saying is “my time is more important than yours,” or, otherwise, “I’m more important that you are.” I find it offensive to be late, and only tolerate it in others for a short time.
I walked across the street to grab some breakfast, as I had yet to do so. I rise really early, coffee it up, and usually try and have brunch so I limit the intake to two meals a day.
My morning continued to be more material for “who’s the boss.”
The place was fairly busy, two waitresses for about twenty people. It’s a great breakfast for $3.00, two eggs, bacon or sausage, spuds, and toast, as their intent is to draw in customers for the casino in the next room. I climbed up to the counter and ordered, asking if I could get quick service as I had to be out of there in 25 minutes. To the girls credit she said, “maybe, but we’re really busy.” However, as she was honest, I said, “great, coffee to start.” I waited for a few minutes, and counted, as she picked up the coffee pot and filled those already served four separate times, passing my upturned cup each time. I was six feet from the coffee pot, with an upturned cup waiting, shouting out for attention. I finally walked into the casino section (in Montana half the bars and restaurants have casinos) and offer free coffee while you pump your quarters into the machine. I filled up my own and returned to the counter.
To their credit, I was served quickly. I immediately pulled out my credit card and said “I’d like to pay.” Which was ignored. I was also three feet from the register. Another waitress worked the register and I asked her, “May I pay,” and she replied, “I’ll get your server.” As all I had was a twenty dollar bill, I quickly asked, as she had the register open, “May I have change?” To which she replied, “You bet, in a moment,” but closed the register and walked away.
I sensed a miffed waitress who was not about to help another waitress…to the distress of her customer. No, I was not the customer whom I confronted at the register, in and of itself; she was not my waitress, however any customer in the house is the customer of each and every employee, and if that customer is given reason not to return, then all suffer.
I finished my breakfast and caught my “server,” a term I was beginning to believe a misnomer, and asked, “May I pay.” She said, “you bet,” and informed me it was “three bucks…opp’s, five bucks including the coffee.” She then looked down her nose at me as if I’d committed a crime by going next door and filling my own coffee cup.
She didn’t mention that the coffee was free in the next room, and she had no idea that I hadn’t come into the restaurant from the casino in the first instance. I made no complaint, however, I made no something else as well.
Yesterday was the first time in twenty years that I have not left a tip. It’s been my rule to tip ten percent for lousy service, fifteen percent for average service, and twenty percent for good service. Upon rare occasion for excellent service, over and above, I’ve tipped more. It doesn’t have to be excellent service to get twenty percent, just good service. I figure the Good Lord has been good to me, and I like to pass a little along. But not yesterday.
And the young lady in the hair salon did not get off to the best second-start, as I entered at exactly 10:30, my appointment time, she was talking on the phone, obviously a personal call. She’d already demonstrated that her magazine was more important than her customer, now she was making sure I knew that her phone call was more important.
A person who realized who the boss was would have terminated the call when she saw me coming, which was easy as there’s glass all across the front of the salon, and I’d seen her see me before I reached the door. Nope, four or five sentences later, she said, “I’ve got to go,” with a tone that indicated she had to take care of a pesky customer.
I would have waited another three or four sentences before I excused myself without a tip of the hat, and most certainly without a tip, but she terminated the call.
I did redeem myself with the hair stylist (who’s ten o’clock never showed, by the way) and tipped her (fifteen percent) as she gave me an excellent haircut, if not intelligent service.
The crux of this article is your customer owes you nothing, he owes your business nothing, unless you’re unique in what you offer, he can easily go elsewhere.
You owe him/her everything.
You would not receive a paycheck were it not for your customer. Your company’s landlord, suppliers, vendors, and others who depend upon some payment from your company/business, would not be paid, and consequently their suppliers, etc., and employees, would not be paid, were it not for your customer.
The customer is the boss.
If you’re wise, you’ll not expect to be given the benefit of the doubt by your customer, and you’ll always extend that courtesy to him.
He, after all, is the boss.
L. J. Martin is the author of 30 fiction and non-fiction works, and dozens of nationally published articles. He and his wife, internationally published romantic suspense author Kat Martin, live in Montana and winter in California. For more on the Martin’s see
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