I recently came across this clip of Steve Jobs’s response to an attack on one of his programs, and his overall work ethic/existence/etc. As a business owner, it struck a nerve with me for numerous reasons. His response touched on several aspects of what makes running a business tough, but satisfying:
Most criticisms you encounter are correct. This is tough to take, especially when you pour every aspect of your life into a project, only to have someone say that you did a terrible job. Trying to open a world-class cocktail bar with a very limited budget in a town that had little experience with craft cocktails was a terrifying and daunting experience. The overwhelmingly positive response we got was totally overshadowed by the 1% who hated us. It was all I could focus on, but slowly I learned that some of the criticisms were because we made mistakes, and others were simply people who didn’t like our concept. We chose to stay true to our original plan while making tweaks along the way to fix inefficiencies and to do a better job expressing why we think our concept has value in the most hospitable way possible. Everyone at The Oakland has a very strong work ethic and is proud of what we do here; every negative review we get hurts.
The customer experience outweighs everything. This is one of the hardest things to bear in mind. So many times we’ve been excited about a gizmo or idea that sounds amazing to us, but ends up either not turning out the way we hoped or isn’t as well received by guests as it was by us. Great service industry people don’t allow themselves to get attached to ideas that might be great but don’t work in the real world. We’ve been most successful when we start with what we know our guests like and move backward from there.
Guests shouldn’t focus on the small and the negative. This one is the trickiest of all. Though this statement is obvious, it’s our job (not the guest’s) to disarm negative customers and show them our positive attributes. This often works well for us, especially at the door. So many people are turned off by our wait times on the weekend (our seating capacity set by the Ferndale Fire Marshall is equal to the number of seats in the entire establishment). To combat this, we offer call-ahead seating, which often eliminates wait times altogether. We also take cellphone numbers so that guests don’t have to wait outside, and can drink in a nearby bar while they’re waiting for us to call them when their name comes up in line. When we’re able to make guests see that we do these things specifically to help them have a better time with us, they appreciate it.