Years later, I have looked with envy on the most successful proponents of this habit – many women among them, Jo Malone, Kelly Hoppen, Kath Kidson being just three examples.
Business icons, huge brands and undoubtedly examples to aim for emulating. Dreams of global branding become easy to imagine. There is no arguing that they have achieved it – but there are huge problems to be encountered along the way.
1. Dealing with customers personally
Most business owners have gone through the transition from every customer being personally known and dealt with by them in person. New customers usually accept the status quo of having an account manager but the old ones still want your direct line and are personally insulted at the idea of anyone less.
However, having achieved that, if your name is personally on the door, bigger customers will still perceive they buy your personal time along with the deal, irrespective of the size of business that you are trying to run.
2. The blame lies on you
When things go wrong, and of course for all of us they do, they will not easily be content with being dealt with by a manager – they know of your existence and want your personal attention, irrespective of whether you are the best person to deal with it.
I had a situation recently where I was in hospital, the customer was told this to which the answer came back – “ I don’t care. Get her on the phone”. It is easy to become part of the goods that are for sale, and with no time at all to concentrate on the big picture that actually makes the place run.
3. Working for an individual vs a company
I have learned that there is another less obvious problem. In the same way as the customers, the staff do not perceive they are working for a company, but they are working for an individual. Of course we are all taught to be inspirational leaders of our companies and to set the style and the ethos.
This, however, is entirely different. As opposed to a business partnership, it becomes one between two people, and when dealing with people, you are dealing with emotions. The praise, the criticism are all taken personally, with the resultant backlash being personal and the chances of calm, measured professional relationships being a great deal lower.
4. Twice as hard
When success comes, everyone tells you quite rightly that you are the brand. Great stuff. You have arrived. But the problem is that you are what is valuable about your business – staff and customers feel abandoned if you don’t deal with them personally.
You are working twice as hard as ever to keep them all appeased. It is twice as hard to step back in anyway shape or form, and if the business is still that reliant on you – what do you have? A business that is running at high risk and is ultimately unsellable should you ever decide to do it.
Jan Cavelle is founder of the Jan Cavelle Furniture Company.
Related: 7 tips for choosing a business name
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