“It takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it. If you think about that, you’ll do things differently.”  ~ Warren Buffett

You may or may not have visited my website enough to figure out that I have a new quote that is scheduled to post every week.  These are quotes that have inspired me or intrigued me or just ring true.  This particular quote kept ringing in my head this week.  You see, I consider myself a very patient and considerate person in my business as well as in my personal life. Generally, people treat me in kind. Last week I had a blip on my screen.Mitch and I were having trouble with a new water boiler we had just had installed in our 100+year home. We contacted a few local HVAC professionals to talk to them to see if they had experience with this particular boiler set-up. We invited Bill because he was local, and it turns out that he is the nephew of an acquaintance and the cousin of my daughter’s friend. We asked him to please take a look to see if they thought he had the expertise needed to solve the controller issue we were having. After taking a close look at our situation, he assured us that he would be able to rewire the controller to fix the problem. Bill made his adjustments, assured me the problem was fixed and asked me to write a check. I did so, and then we spent a few moments talking about challenges of being a small business owner. I told him that I was the director of a business networking group and how my work in social media offers my members and my clients a broader reach via online presence. I sent him along on his day with some warm banana blueberry muffins we had just baked.

The next day, we figured out that the boiler was not cycling correctly, and that the controller would need an adjustment. Upon calling Bill and asking him to swing by to check on it, he ended up being quite rude to Mitch, indicating that he would not be responsible for any further issues on the boiler. WIth nowhere else to turn, we called the HVAC person we had originally thought we were going to use (until we realized this first guy was local) who came by, fixed the issue in a half hour, no problems since. Sadly, we paid twice to fix the problem once.

That was a long lead-in to the reputation part of this story….. When I contacted Bill via his Facebook business page, trying to persuade him to ‘do the right thing’ , this was the response I received:

reputation gone

I think you might be surprised to know that BIll is actually the owner of this business he is trying to build here in Easton. I should have, but didn’t, check his Yelp reviews before we invited him in to assess our situation. The Yelp reviews were amazingly consistent in that his customers were unsatisfied with the results of his work and very upset about his verbal treatment of them. Sadly for Bill, had he responded to me with patience, had he taken ownership of the challenge that is our old boiler set-up, had he even just admitted to me that this was beyond his capabilities, out of his area of expertise, he could have had a huge fan in me. If you follow me on social media, you know that I am consistently promoting local small business people. Bill chose to shrug off any sense of customer relationship building and went directly to insulting us.

There was no way I was going to engage with the path he was taking in this discussion. When things had cooled a bit, I wrote back:

Bill – My advice – (unsolicited as it is) – as someone who coaches small businesses for a living. Be Kind – when in doubt – Always be Kind. Do the right thing – a reputation takes a lifetime to build and a moment to break down.… Work hard at that and your Yelp reviews will get better – use your reviews as valuable feedback on how to improve your customer satisfaction – it’s not always about the workmanship – it’s about how the customer feels at the end of your interaction. Communicate honestlly – with patience.

I think that Benjamin Franklin must have been the first social marketer. He said: It takes many good deeds to build a good reputation, and only one bad one to lose it.”

Maya Angelou also had something to say on this topic: “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

Jeff Bezos, Founder of Amazon had a similar sentiment, A brand for a company is like a reputation for a person. You earn reputation by trying to do hard things well.”