Thursday 21 August 2014

How to Run a Successful Business

It's people skills, is it not? OK, granted I know next to nothing about the money side of running a business — or about the money side of my own life, for that matter — but I'd still bet big bucks that the ability to interact with people in a positive, respectful manner and to manage conflicts effectively is at least as important as balancing the books, knowing your stuff, and delivering a quality product. I wouldn't be shocked if people skills trump those other things, but I'll leave it to the bonafide entrepreneurs to weigh in on that topic.

And what, you might ask, brings me to this particular topic? Well, this past week, I've had exchanges with representatives from two different Vancouver businesses occupying, respectively, the extreme ends of the people skills continuum. Both experiences have a dog connection. Let's start with the You-really-need-to-find-another-job end: customer "service" at Modo the Car Co-op.

The Bridge at Bridgman Park, North Vancouver

(This is an outing we normally do with Leah & pups, but poor Kali-bear 
cut her paw on a broken beer bottle and is thus out of commission. :-( )

Most of the photos in this post come from a Car2Go outing that I tracked, cost-wise, in order to figure out whether or not it would be more economical to use Modo (whose vehicles, unlike C2G's, need to be returned to their home base at the end of trip) for certain excursions with Freddie. I worked out that a Modo "casual membership" would indeed be cheaper (so I guess my math skills aren't completely hopeless), not to mention more flexible for trips outside of C2G's city limits. I went to their website, where I discovered, among other things, that pets need to be crated while inside Modo vehicles.

 OK, Freddie, stay there 
and we'll pose for a photo.

Now, C2G doesn't allow pets in their cars at all (though I frequently notice fur in the back hatch!), but when I asked them about service dogs, they said No problem. Freddie could ride either in the hatch or in the passenger seat. With this bit of context in mind, I called up Modo, anticipating a similar response — or perhaps some version of "Oh, this is the first time I've had that question; let me check with my supervisor," which would have been fine.

Freddie ... can't you wait to say hi? Paul hasn't taken the picture yet.

What I did get was the snarkiest customer service I've had in a long time ... maybe ever. I don't know if the person I spoke to ever registered the fact that I was asking about a service dog. She just kept repeating the crate policy (reading from a cheat sheet?) and became more and more testy with each repetition.

When she started not-so-subtly implying that I was failing to respect their current members (I pictured her with clenched teeth and bulging eyes at this point), I ended the call and said I'd be taking my concerns to the Modo management.

OK, all three of you come over here and sit pretty ... Good dogs.

And that's what I did. A letter to the CEO is on its way (and, yeah, my own teeth were clenched while I wrote it). In it I gave the details of the exchange and asked for a reply, as well as a statement of Modo's service dog policy. We'll see what happens. It wouldn't take a whole lot to win me back over — maybe that particular rep was having a particularly bad day/week/life — but just now I'm not feeling especially keen to give Modo my business!

Freddie! Paul hasn't taken the picture yet!

And now for the other end of the continuum ...

Remember the bite on the bum that Freddie received and that I wrote about here? Well, after we got home, I thought it might be a good idea — since there had been blood involved — to let the dog-walking company know what had happened. So I sent an email to the folks at Release the Hounds, the business in question. Nothing grouchy or accusatory — just an FYI kind of thing. (And I'm really not a chronic letter writer; two in one week is a record for me!)

Down to the River ...

Very soon after, I received a very gracious reply from RTH President, James. He thanked me for my message, enquired after the state of Freddie's backside, and asked me to please let them know how he was doing. He said the walker who'd been with the dogs was very concerned. Later, I received an equally solicitous follow-up message from their Customer Care guy. In short, Release the Hounds done good with their business communications, and if ever I'm in need of walking assistance for Freddie, I won't hesitate to call them up!

The River

Stick Fetching

Flip-flop Fetching

Riverbank Shrine to Pups Who've Loved This Place
(a little creepy but also kind of groovy)

Textural Camouflage!

Driving Home (in a Car2Go!), Terminal Avenue

I suspect running a successful business is a complex and difficult balancing act. To all the customer/eco/community/pet-friendly ventures out there, especially the little ones ... this chair's for you!

Happy Weekend, Everyone!


  1. Great post, but I loved the chair picture the best! And yes, customer service/owning a business is difficult. People assume you always have the answer, but in reality, we're all just people getting by the best we can. Good job with your letters!

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